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‘Berta Lives!’ Indigenous Groups March For Justice In Honduras

Above Photo: An Indigenous woman holds a poster with a photograph of Berta Caceres during a march to demand justice in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, March 16, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

Activists from across Honduras have mobilized for two days of action to demand that the murders of Berta Caceres and Nelson Garcia do not go unpunished.

Under the banner “Berta lives, the struggle continues!” Indigenous groups and supporters from across Honduras will march on the capital city Tegucigalpa on Thursday and Friday to demand justice for murdered environmental leader Berta Caceres and an end to repressive mining and dam projects that threaten Indigenous rights across the country.

The mass marches will also protest the recent wave of attacks and harassment against members of Berta Caceres’ Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, or COPINH, including the murder of COPINH member Nelson Garcia on Tuesday, less than two weeks after Caceres’ assassination.

“We know that the best way to respond to this war attack against the people is mobilization and building alternatives to this system of dispossession,” wrote COPINH in a statement calling for national and international solidarity with the days of action for Caceres.

The mobilization also expresses solidarity with Mexican activist Gustavo Castro, witness to Caceres’ murder and victim in the attack. Castro, who fears for his life as the survivor of an assassination attempt, has been barred from leaving Honduras and has been subject to an irregular investigation process that human rights defenders have likened to psychological torture.

Activists have called for authorities to ensure the rights of demonstrators are respected during Thursday’s and Friday’s mobilizations and that activists are not criminalized for speaking out.

But Honduras’ National Network of Human Rights Defenders issued various alerts Thursday morning warning that buses transporting activists to the mobilizations had been stopped. One bus from Rio Blanco, the site of a longstanding COPINH resistance movement against the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project, was reportedly seized by the military with “aggressive and intimidating behaviour,” according to the human rights group. COPINH members reported that the soldiers involved were the same ones that patrol the community, where many activists have suffered threats and harassment. RELATED: Investors of Dam Berta Caceres Fought Against Suspend Support “We demand an end to persecution, harassment, and war against COPINH,” wrote the organization in a statement following the murder of Nelson Garcia. “We demand the Honduran state be accountable for the death of our comrades and that there be no more impunity.” COPINH, Caceres’ family, and other human rights defenders have called for an independent, internationally-led investigation into Caceres’ death and an end to the unwanted hydroelectric project on Lenca land that the activist tirelessly resisted, along with other community members.

In solidarity with COPINH, the Garifuna Afro-Indigenous organization OFRANEH also demanded in a statement on Thursday the end of militarization of Indigenous territories and a guarantee of Indigenous communities’ right to free, prior, and informed consent for all development projects planned for their land.

“We demand an end to persecution, harassment, and war against COPINH.”

The group also called for a review of the US$750 million Alliance for Prosperity U.S. security-focused aid package for Honduras, echoing calls from other human rights defenders for the United States to stop funding repression in the Central American country.

The march comes as COPINH announced the arrival of the International Mission for Justice for Berta Caceres, made up of international delegates from Mexico, Guatemala, Argentina, Europe, and the United States.

The delegation is scheduled to stay in Honduras until March 20 to meet with various social groups and reiterate demands for a thorough and independent investigation and end to corporate projects on Lenca land.

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