Honduras: 1 year since Berta Cáceres’ murder – selected materials

March 2017 marks the first anniversary of the assassination of Berta Caceres, a Honduran human rights and environmental rights champion, awarded with the Goldman Prize. Berta defended the rights of the Lenca people that were affected by DESA hydroelectric project. This story gathers media articles, calls for justice, and features an interview BHRRC did with one of her daughters and COPINH member Laura Zúñiga.

This story also includes the latest response received from DESA on criticisms against them over their lawsuit against women's rights defender, Suyapa Martínez, for her pronouncements on the murder of Berta Cáceres (only available in Spanish).


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3 March 2020

Honduras: Attacks in country surge, four years after defender Berta Cáceres was killed for protecting ancestral land from hydroelectric dam project

Author: Global Witness

"Four years since Berta Cáceres’ assassination, Honduran defenders face greater danger than ever", 02 Mar 2020

In many parts of the world, standing up for the environment is a deadly undertaking. Few places are more dangerous than Honduras... A recent report showed that in 2019, Honduran human rights defenders faced the highest number of these threats than anywhere else in the world...It was four years ago today that Honduran activist Berta Cáceres was assassinated for protecting her ancestral land from the construction of a hydroelectric dam… On 2 March 2016, armed men broke into Berta’s home...and shot her dead. She had dedicated several years to protecting her community’s land in Intibucá... from the construction of the dam which threatened a vital and sacred water source for the indigenous Lenca people… Late last year, seven men were sentenced for their part in Berta’s murder. This is a rare outcome in a country where over 90% of human rights violations, including murders of defenders, go unpunished…

It is exactly this impunity from justice that is fuelling the high level of threats against land and environmental defenders in Honduras… These are people that stand up to powerful vested interests in the mining, logging and agribusiness sectors. According to Global Witness data, indigenous groups have been particularly targeted – as businesses turn to extracting resources in evermore remote areas...

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7 November 2017

Dam Violence. The plan that killed Berta Cáceres

Author: Roxanna Altholz, Jorge E. Molano Rodríguez, Dan Saxon, Miguel Ángel Urbina Martínez & Liliana María Uribe Tirado, Grupo Asesor Internacional de Personas Expertas

Nov. 2017

On March 2, 2016, armed men murdered human rights defender Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores, and shot Mexican environmental activist Gustavo Castro Soto in the town of La Esperanza, Department of Intibucá, Honduras…Based on its analysis of the evidence, GAIPE has concluded that Berta Isabel Cáceres’ murder is not an isolated incident. This report demonstrates that shareholders, executives, managers, and employees of Desarrollos Energéticos Sociedad Anónima (DESA), private security companies working for DESA; and public officials and State security agencies implemented different strategies to violate the right to prior, free and informed consultations of the Lenca indigenous people…The information reviewed by GAIPE also demonstrates that DESA lacked sufficient capital to build the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric Project. The company appears to have used funds originating from the financial system to increase the levels of violence in the zone…Based on its analysis, GAIPE has established the willful negligence by financial institutions such as the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI), the Netherlands Development Finance Institution (FMO) and the Finnfund…

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2 November 2017

Honduras: Finnfund & FMO react to new report on Berta Caceres' murder

Author: FMO & Finnfund

"FMO and Finnfund's initial reaction to the Gaipe report", 2 Nov 2017

On 6 July 2017, FMO and Finnfund finalized their exit from the Agua Zarca project in Honduras. Following the murder of Berta Cáceres, a well-respected human rights activist, FMO and Finnfund publicly expressed the deepest sorrow at her violent death. We have called upon the Honduran authorities for a thorough investigation and continue this call to hold those responsible to account...FMO and Finnfund strongly reject any claim of illegality regarding our role in any project... We are development institutions. We partner with others to invest in local prosperity because we care about people... Therefore, FMO and Finnfund condemn all kind of violence, do not tolerate illegal conduct and are serious about respecting human rights.To that end, FMO published its updated human rights position statement as part of its Sustainability Policy, following an internal review and consultation with our stakeholder community. This...statement is a firm commitment to respect human rights. In practice, this means that we explicitly and systematically address human rights in our due diligence and across our investment process. We cannot stress enough that we too want justice to prevail so that those responsible will be held to account through a fair trial.

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Company response
12 June 2017

Honduras: Hydroelectric Agua Zarca comments on Guardian's article regarding funding withdrawal's connection to Berta Caceres' murder

Author: Hydroelectric Agua Zarca

Based on the story published by The Guardian on Monday, June 5th, 2017 Hydroelectric Agua Zarca and DESA would like to clarify the following:

1. FMO, FINNFUND and CABEI have suspended their founding to reduce tension in the project area. However, based on what they have informed Agua Zarca, their decision has nothing to do with the unfortunate incident associated with the death of Mrs. Berta Cáceres last year. As a matter of fact, there is no connection between Agua Zarca and the mentioned incident.

2. Hydroelectric Agua Zarca has not been sanctioned by any legal institution in Honduras, and there is no proven evidence that Agua Zarca is linked to any violation of Human Rights. As far as Agua Zarca knows, lenders see the project as a responsible initiative that respects life and the rule of law, and there are four thousand people who support the project in Santa Barbara and Intibuca in Honduras.

3. Hydroelectric Agua Zarca is not an environmentally destructive project, and there is no respected institution that have stated so. Also, the project has never been sanctioned like the article says. As a matter of fact, Agua Zarca conducted a community consultation according to the Honduran law.

4. We encourage The Guardian to investigate how international NGOs, particularly in Europe, are influencing certain decisions in Europe and Honduras.

Best regards, 


5 June 2017

Honduras: Financial institutions could withdraw funding for the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project after investigation into Berta Caceres’ assassination

Author: Nina Lakhani, The Guardian (UK)

“Backers of Honduran dam opposed by murdered activist withdraw funding”, 5 Jun 17

…The international funders behind the hydroelectric dam opposed by murdered Honduran environmentalist Berta Cáceres are withdrawing from the project, the Guardian can reveal…Three financial institutions had pledged loans worth $44m for the Agua Zarca dam on the Gualcarque river, which is considered sacred by the Lenca people and which Caceres campaigned against before her death…Desa secured loans from Dutch bank FMO, Finnish finance company FinnFund and the Central American Bank of Economic Integration (Cabei)…FMO and FinnFund suspended their loans after police arrested a Desa employee in connection with the murder in May 2016…But all three investors have now decided to withdraw completely from the Agua Zarca project…In identical statements, FMO and FinnFund told the Guardian they “intend to exit as soon as possible. However, project financing being a complicated field, many aspects and issues have to be cleared from contractual and responsibility perspectives.”

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10 March 2017

G20 must ensure safe & sustainable infrastructure investment agenda, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says

Author: Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in Miami Herald (USA)

"Human rights trampled in push to build infrastructure", 3 Mar 2017

One year ago, we awoke to the shocking news of the murder in Honduras of Berta Cáceres, recipient of the 2015 Goldman environmental prize, in response to her campaign to stop the Agua Zarca...dam. Cáceres had received more than 30 death threats...Foreign backers of the...dam...suspended lending. But threats to those opposing development projects have never been higher...In addition to murder, the tools of repression include curbs on peaceful assembly, clampdowns on non-governmental organizations, attacks on independent media, draconian anti-terror laws, state-sponsored vilification,...[F]inance ministers of...G20...have been working to increase global investment in mega-infrastructure projects... Infrastructure...is vital for the realisation of many human rights...and for economic growth. Growth, in turn, generates resources which can be harnessed for investments in people and the environment. But [these]...plans are laden with un-assessed human rights risk... In the macho world of mega-infrastructure, success is measured by size and speed, breeding the denial of human rights rather than due diligence... [T]he...narrative seems to be that you need to break a few eggs to make an omelette. [T]he president of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has reportedly described people resisting forced resettlement as “irrational”...The possibility of human-rights-compliant resettlement seems irrelevant to this world view. The G20 and development financing institutions must urgently correct the course. It is time to lift the veil on regional and national infrastructure plans...[and] for a safe [and] sustainable infrastructure investment agenda.

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9 March 2017

How many more deaths? Companies and human rights defenders: some thoughts from Latin America

Author: Karen Hudlet, BHRRC at Equal Times

How many more deaths? Companies and human rights defenders: some thoughts from Latin America

The anniversary of the tragic murder of indigenous rights defender Berta Cáceres was commemorated last week. The highly-regarded, awarded-winning human rights activist from Honduras was working to defend the rights of the Lenca people, who are opposed to the hydroelectric project being developed by the Honduran company DESA (financed by FMO and Finnfund), given the negative impact it would have on their way of life and the failure to respect their right to consultation.In a recent interview, Laura Zúñiga, Cáceres’ daughter, stressed the need for those financing such projects to follow ethical principles by refusing to “finance a project or a company that has a history of human rights violations…listening to the people, always, understanding the contexts, understanding the states in which they are investing…” Our new database documents over 400 attacks perpetrated against human rights defenders working on corporate accountability around the world. Over 52 per cent of these attacks took place in Latin America…

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+ Português - Hide

Author: Movimento dos trabalhadores rurais sem terra/MST (Brasil)

“Berta Cáceres: um ano de impunidade-Reafirmamos nosso compromisso em honrar as mulheres e homens caídos na luta pela defesa da vida”, 3 de março de 2017

Há...um ano, a líder indígena e dirigente do Conselho Cívico de Organizações Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (COPINH), Berta Cáceres, foi brutalmente assassinada dentro de sua própria casa...[em]... Tegucigalpa. Lutadora na resistência contra o golpe de estado que derrubou o ex-presidente de Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, em 2009, Berta ganhou reconhecimento mundial por sua defesa incansável dos direitos humanos e do ambiente...[N]a véspera do seu aniversário de 43 anos, a vencedora do Prêmio Ambiental Goldman, travava uma verdadeira batalha contra a construção de uma barragem em um local sagrado para o povo Lenca. As autoridades hondurenhas já reconheceram a relação direta da luta de Berta Cáceres contra a instalação da barragem. Oito pessoas foram presas, mas até agora nenhuma delas foi condenada...[O]...MST denuncia...a violência e a impunidade contra as trabalhadoras e trabalhadores do campo, em especial contra as mulheres que ousam lutar contra a opressão capitalista...[Q]ue seja realizada...investigação independente com o objetivo de esclarecer as circunstâncias e punir os responsáveis por esse crime...[e]...que o Estado hondurenho garanta a proteção aos familiares de Berta e aos seus companheiros de luta...

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Company response
7 March 2017

DESA response

Author: DESA

First, we must clarify the information in the article. DESA has never filed a civil lawsuit against a person for a particular crime. The lawsuit has been filed before the Honduran justice system for defamation and for blaming irresponsibly a company of a crime they did not commit. These actions, besides being an offence and a calumny in Honduras, represent a tremendous lack of ethic and of trueness. Honduras is a country with important challenges and investment projects, as those of DESA, contribute in creating quality jobs that allow hundreds of families escape poverty and reach a better life...Nevertheless, unfortunately there are people that arduously work to disqualify and destroy  the development opportunities that communities have in Honduras. To say a lie against DESA is to disqualify and to attack the motor of development of hundreds of families that due to these initiatives have found a job that allows them to construct a better future…

[This is a non-official translation by the BHRRC, the complete response is available in Spanish here]

7 March 2017

One year without justice: In-depth interview with Laura Zúñiga, daughter of killed human rights defender Berta Cáceres and COPINH member

In time for the 1st anniversary of the killing of her mother Berta Caceres, the renowned environmental activist, human rights defender of rights of Lenca people, leader of COPINH and known opponent of the Agua Zarca dam in rio Blanco in Honduras, we talk to Laura Zúñiga, a COPINH member and an articulate activist in her own right. She shares her thoughts on the investigation of the murder, on what investors and companies could be doing to prevent and address abuses against human rights defenders, on the proposed law on consultation in Honduras and on how development discourse should change – to protect the defenders and the planet.

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