(Montreal/Toronto/Ottawa) Today, fifty Canadian organizations and networks sent a letter calling on the Canadian Government to pressure Honduran authorities and review Canadian foreign policy after another member of Berta Cáceres’ organization was murdered this week.
On Tuesday, Nelson Noé García Laínez from the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) was murdered in the community of Río Chiquito. The Indigenous leader was on his way home from helping a group of families that government security forces had just violently evicted when he was shot dead in the face by two unknown gunmen.
In the wake of Berta’s murder on March 3rd, which has generated international shock and dismay, organizations from across Canada find it deeply distressing that the people behind these murders unabashedly continue to pursue and kill members of COPINH.
Amnesty International issued an urgent action on Wednesday describing how COPINH leadership, community radio members, people protesting for justice for Berta Cáceres, one of Berta’s daughters and others have been questioned, stalked, photographed and followed during the past week.
European funders of the Agua Zarca dam project, including Dutch Development Bank (FMO) and FinnFund, responded to the violence by suspending all funding activities to Honduras and deciding to send fact-finding missions to the country.
The Mexican Network of Mining Affected Peoples also expressed alarm at Honduran authorities’ inability to protect COPINH and Berta’s family, adding that Gustavo Castro - the key witness to Berta’s murder and also a victim of the attack - faces increasing risk. Gustavo has been prevented from leaving Honduras despite a treaty for mutual cooperation in criminal investigations that would permit him to continue participating in the investigation from Mexico.
In response, Canadian organizations have issued a communiqué calling on the Canadian government to urge Honduran authorities to protect COPINH, Berta’s family and Gustavo Castro; to press Honduras to collaborate with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to involve independent, international experts into the ongoing investigation; to call for Gustavo Castro’s safe and immediate return to Mexico; and that the Lenca people’s right to free, prior and informed consent over mega-projects on their lands be respected.
They also call on the Canadian government to reverse its egregious policy toward Honduras to date. Following the military-backed coup in 2009, Canada helped undermine efforts for the return of the democratically elected government of President Mel Zelaya and was quick to support and do business with repressive post-coup administrations. Since this time, over 100 environmental activists have been murdered with Berta’s assassination becoming the most widely known. Meanwhile, Canadian authorities pushed for a new mining law and signed a free trade agreement with Honduras to benefit Canadian investors.
These organizations insist that parliament should investigate the Canadian government’s role in Honduras during and since the coup, cut off support to the Honduran government and security forces, and ensure that no public support is provided to any infrastructure or mega-project that does not have the free, prior and informed consent of affected Indigenous communities.
A full copy of the letter sent today is available in English, French and Spanish. Additional organizational or network sign-ons are welcome. Individuals are encouraged to respond to an online urgent action to Canadian and Honduran authorities in English/Spanish and French/Spanish. Also urge the safe and immediate return of Gustavo Castro to Mexico using this online action in Spanish.
For more information:
- Amelia Orellana, (CDHAL), (438) 827-0656, solidared(at)cdhal.org
- Jen Moore, MiningWatch Canada, (613) 569-3439, jen(at)miningwatch.ca
- Raul Burbano, Common Frontiers, Program Director, (416) 522-8615, burbano(at)rogers.com