Honduras: Second member of indigenous group murdered within 2 weeks, Dutch development bank suspends activity

“I cannot freely walk on my territory or swim in the sacred river and I am separated from my children because of the threats. I cannot live in peace, I am always thinking about being killed or kidnapped. But I refuse to go into exile. I am a human rights fighter and I will not give up this fight.” 

Berta Cáceres in a 2013 interview with the Guardian

Photo credit: Goldman Environmental Prize

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre reached out to the companies and funders reportedly involved in the Agua Zarca project for statements on the assassination and on the safety & security of community members and others advocating on the project. We will indicate below any statements we receive.

Entities reportedly involved in financing Agua Zarca dam project:

Companies reportedly involved in project development & implementation:

Note: Sinohydro, a Chinese state-owned hydropower engineering & construction company, cited conflicts between the company (DESA) and local communities for leaving the project in 2013. See statement here. The Intl. Finance Corporation has also been allegedly linked to the project, but it denied its involvement.

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9 March 2016

Finnfund statement

Author: Finnfund

Berta Cáceres, leader of the Council of Indigenous Peoples of Honduras (COPINH) that opposes the Agua Zarca hydroelectric plant project, was murdered in Honduras on 3 March. The project is co-financed by Finnfund. This is a shocking crime strongly condemned by Finnfund...The Honduran company DESA (Desarollos Energéticos, S.A.), developing the Agua Zarca project, has already been publicly accused of Cáceres’ murder. However, based on currently available information, there is no confirmed information on the identity of the murderers. Finnfund expects that they will be brought to justice. Finnfund follows the development of the situation and will react accordingly. As co-financiers, Finnfund and FMO have been able to significantly appease the situation between the project and its critics, and they have also been able to instigate other improvements in the management of project’s social and environmental responsibilities. The relationship between the project and the surrounding communities has improved significantly. A clear majority of the local villages and inhabitants support the project. The supporters for COPINH are primarily found in one village...From the very beginning, the key reason for the participation of Finnfund in the funding of Agua Zarca have been the major development impacts of the project...

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9 March 2016

FMO statement

Author: FMO

FMO deeply regrets the events that took place in Honduras leading to the violent death of Berta Caceres, the coordinator and co-founder of the Council of Indigenous Peoples of Honduras (COPINH) and a well-respected human rights activist. Our thoughts are with her and the ones she leaves behind.We are currently working with our contacts in Honduras to review exactly what has happened.  We will provide additional information as it becomes available.We call for a thorough investigation on the events and to hold those responsible to account. We also call upon the Honduran government to do anything in their power to stop the ongoing violence and killings in their country.FMO gives the highest priority to carefully engage all involved parties in its projects through intensive dialogue and consultation with the local population, to allocate a fair and righteous compensation for people that suffer damage and to make sure that the investments contribute to local job generation. FMO welcomes involvement and input from external stakeholders, including NGOs, to make sure these processes are performed well.

FAQ on Agua Zarca available here

Company response
9 March 2016

Siemens statement

Author: Siemens

Siemens condemns all forms of violence. We are deeply shocked by the news of this death. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the victim. We have reached out immediately to Voith Hydro, who are running the joint venture, to stay on top of things. Voith Hydro is a sub-supplier for the Agua Zarca project. Siemens is not part of the consortium in charge of the water power project. 

Company response
9 March 2016

Voith statement

Author: Voith

Voith condemns any kind of violence and is deeply concerned about the [assassination] of Berta Cáceres. We count on the investigating authorities in Honduras to do everything in order to solve this crime in a comprehensive and fast way.

8 March 2016

CABEI statement

Author: CABEI

The Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) deeply regrets the death of the recognised human rights defender and award winning environmentalist Berta Cáceres…The CABEI, as a co-financer of the hydroelectric project Agua Zarca in Honduras, reiterates that in this operation, as in energy project financed by CABEI, a rigorous process of environmental and social risks with social and environmental due diligence with the best international practices took place. We trust that the events that caused the death of Mrs. Cáceres will be investigated and clarify by the authorities…

[This is a non-official translation of the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre; the original statement is available in Spanish here]

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8 March 2016

USAID statement on murder of Berta Cáceres

On ‪#‎IWD2016, we remember women around the world who fight tirelessly to better their communities, even in the face of great danger -- like Berta Cáceres, an environmental and indigenous peoples’ rights activist in Honduras. Last week, we were heartbroken to learn of her murder. We strongly condemn those who targeted her and call on the Government of Honduras to bring to justice those who are responsible. We mourn the loss of such an amazing and inspirational woman. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and community.

[originally posted on USAID Facebook page]

8 March 2016

Letter by Gustavo Castro, from Berta's heart

Author: TeleSurTV.net

I saw Berta die in my arms, I also saw her heart sown across every act of resistance that COPINH has done, in so many people we had met…The gunmen who assassinated Berta and who tried to assassinate me are still unpunished, while the government tries to undermine the memory of Berta, her honor, and the greatness of COPINH’s resistance over so many years to defend life, land and territories, and human rights… The assassination of Berta could mean give many companies and others the opportunity to advance on their [Lenca peoples’] lands…But COPINH today is stronger than ever and will need the solidarity from all…The gunmen already know I survived and they will certainly want to complete their task. The Mexican consulate has come immediately to my aid and has not left me alone…My declarations My statements are getting in the way of [the Honduran Government's] attempts to blame [members of COPINH for Berta's death], in order to throw them in jail. …the scene of the crime was modified…

This is an unofficial summary translation by Business & Human Right Resource Centre. The complete letter is available here.

Company response
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Copreca lamenta profundamente la muerte de la ambientalista y cofundadora del Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (COPINH) Berta Cáceres, ya que no existe justificación, causa o fin alguno que amerite arrebatarle la vida a ningún ser humano. Por lo tanto condenamos este hecho y todos los asesinatos que se dan en Honduras.

Aunque Copreca no tiene ningún tipo de relación con DESA desde finales del año 2014, tuvimos la oportunidad de conocer el trabajo de la señora Berta Cáceres y darnos cuenta de la voz de todo un pueblo Lenca al que ella representaba dignamente.

Confiamos en la justicia divina para que los responsables de este hecho sean condenados y rogamos para que las autoridades competentes hagan una investigación seria y objetiva para detener tanta violencia, que está empañando a nuestra Honduras.

7 March 2016

Honduras: NGOs call for protection for Gustavo Castro, injured & witness to the assasination of Bertha Cáceres

Author: Otros Mundos & Rights Action

“Urgent action: support needed for Gustavo Castro, victim of and witness to assassination of Berta Caceres in Honduras”, 6 Mar 2016

 The Honduran regime is illegally preventing Gustavo Castro from leaving Honduras, where his safety is at risk, to return home to Mexico…Castro was injured in the attack that killed Berta Cáceres in her home (March 3, 2016) and is therefore a party to and witness in the case.  Despite having given his testimony, the Honduran regime is illegally keeping him in the country.  Please join in efforts to demand that he be allowed to return to Mexico…He is now in the Mexican Embassy with diplomatic protection…


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4 March 2016

Berta Cáceres, Honduran human rights and environment activist, murdered

Author: Jonathan Watts, The Guardian

…Berta Cáceres, the Honduran indigenous and environmental rights campaigner, has been murdered, barely a week after she was threatened for opposing a hydroelectric project. Police told local media the killings occurred during an attempted robbery, but the family said they had no doubt it was an assassination prompted by Cáceres’s high-profile campaigns against dams, illegal loggers and plantation owners..Cáceres had called for other foreign partners, including the Dutch Development Bank, the Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation and German companies Siemens and Voith, to pull out…The United Nations special rapporteur for indigenous rights, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, who met Cáceres last November, said she was “saddened and horrified” by the news…

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