Berta Cáceres; Photo: Sandra Cuffe
Berta Cáceres; Photo: Sandra Cuffe
Blog Entry

Take Action: Honduran Authorities Should Not Feel Canada's Trust

Jen Moore

Latin America Program Coordinator / Coordinadora del programa para América Latina, 2010-2018.

Join the call for #Justice4Berta/#JusticiaParaBerta, sign and share our petition here.

Seven months have passed since the brutal murder of Indigenous activist Berta Cáceres in Honduras and the attempted murder of Mexican activist Gustavo Castro, and we are still a long way from justice. While several people have been detained for this crime, there is little confidence that the investigation – plagued with irregularities, including that the investigation files have been stolen not just once, but twice – will lead to convictions or that the authors of the crime will be identified. Ms. Cáceres' high profile murder means no activist is safe in Honduras.

Please help us keep up the pressure on the Canadian government to take action and pressure Honduran authorities to accept independent, international expert involvement in the investigation into Berta Cáceres’ murder under the auspices of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Please sign and share this petition, which will remain open until October 12th.

Contrary to standing on the side of justice, Canada has continued to provide support to the Honduras government that seems to be part of what is preventing a truly independent investigation according to the wishes of Berta's family and her organization, the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Peoples of Honduras (COPINH). The Honduran Attorney General’s Office testified to this in an excellent documentary from Al Jazeera released in time for the six month anniversary since Berta’s murder. When Al Jazeera questioned Yuri Mora from the Honduran Attorney General’s Office about why they continue with their own, bungled investigation, he said:

"Many governments do trust the work that we’re doing. The EU trusts us, the US trusts us, Canada trusts us. They’re supporting us in the technical parts of the investigation and with funds. So we believe that if all these governments and agencies believe in us, it’s because we’re doing things well.”

It is unacceptable that the Honduran government should feel Canada's trust, especially considering that there are at least two high level officials in the Attorney General’s Office with connections to the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project, owned by the company DESA, that Berta and COPINH have been fighting against. These include an official who worked with DESA’s attorney in the past, as well as the former Minister of the Environment when the permit for the dam was granted. These people cannot be trusted to ensure justice for Berta, for Gustavo, and for the others who have been killed and threatened in COPINH.

Notably, the repression, threats and attacks against COPINH haven’t stopped since the murder of Berta, rather they have escalated. Nelson García was killed only days after Berta was murdered. Then, on July 6th, Lesbia Yaneth Urquía Urquía was murdered in apparent connection with her opposition to another hydroelectric dam project on Lenca territory, the Aurora I project in the municipality of San José, La Paz.

Canada has a special responsibility to act and call for real justice in this case, especially given how despite the climate of violence and impunity, the Canadian government entered into a free trade agreement with Honduras and lobbied for a mining code that favours companies and puts people and the environment at risk.

DESA continues to insist that the Agua Zarca dam should go ahead, despite lacking the Lenca peoples’ free, prior and informed consent. Canada should follow the lead of the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples who recommended in late September that the Honduran government must give “serious consideration (…) to the revocation of the contract with the DESA company, as well as the licenses and other permits for the Agua Zarca project,” given years of violence against COPINH, the implication of individuals linked with DESA in Berta’s murder, and the lack of prior consultation and consent of the Lenca people.

Please sign and share this e-petition on or before October 12th.

Once closed, the petition will be tabled in parliament, obliging the Canadian government to respond within 45 days. In this petition, we are calling upon the Government of Canada to publicly, and using other channels, urge Honduran authorities to:

1. Agree to an investigation by a group of independent experts under the auspices of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) into the material and intellectual authors of Ms. Cáceres’ murder;

2. Fully implement IACHR precautionary measures to ensure the safety of the Cáceres family and COPINH;

3. Demilitarize Lenca territory;

4. Cancel the Energy Development Company’s (DESA) Agua Zarca hydroelectric project granted without the Lenca peoples' free, prior and informed consent; and

5. To urge that an investigation take place into the Canadian government’s role in Honduras during and since the 2009 coup.

Join the call for #Justice4Berta/#JusticiaParaBerta, sign and share our petition here.