Nika Knight, Common Dreams | March 17, 2016 9:43 am | Comments
Another member of Berta Cáceres’ Indigenous rights group was brutally murdered by unidentified assailants on Tuesday, following a violent eviction of Indigenous people from their land.
Nelson Garcia, a father of five and community leader, was shot four times in the face—”gunned down in his home,” the Nation reported. His assassination occurred less than two weeks after Cáceres’, and only days following her funeral.
Local reports say that his death occurred shortly after the Honduran government’s dispatching of riot police and bulldozers to evict 150 Indigenous people from their homes in Rio Chiquito, where they had occupied ancestral land for two years in protest of the Agua Zarca megadam project.
“They said that they would be peaceful and they were not going to throw anyone out of their houses, but at midday they started to tear down the houses, they destroyed the maize, the banana trees and the yuca plantations,” said Tomas Gomez, a COPINH coordinator.
“When they finished the eviction, our companion Nelson Garcia went to eat in his house, they were waiting in the zone that the commission of COPINH pass, but it was diverted. Garcia arrived first and they killed him,” he added.
Garcia was a leader in the Rio Chiquito community, all of whom were members of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous organizations of Honduras (COPINH), the Indigenous rights group formed by Cáceres. COPINH has been instrumental in preventing the construction of the Agua Zarca megadam.
The megadam is to be built on the Gualcarque River, ancestral territory of the Lenca tribe—of which Cáceres was a member—and a critical water source for the Indigenous people.
Cáceres’ daughter, Bertha Cáceres, only yesterday told the Guardian in an interview that her mother’s death “is not the first assassination, but one of a series of assassinations of human rights defenders.”
“I don’t want another human rights defender to be assassinated,” Bertha said.
Garcia’s death “brings to 14 the number of COPINH members who have been murdered since the group was founded in 1993,” observed fellow activist Beverly Bell.
A witness to Cáceres’ murder and fellow Indigenous activist Gustavo Castro was blocked by the Honduran government from returning to Mexico last week and he is currently still being held by the Mexican Embassy in Tegucigalpa despite international pleas for the government to allow him to safely leave the country, DemocracyNow reported.
Honduras is suffering under a brutal regime put in place by a U.S.-backed coupsupported by Hillary Clinton during her tenure as secretary of state. Since the coup, the country has maintained the highest murder rate in the world and many environmental and Indigenous rights activists have been killed under the military junta’s rule.
UPDATE March 17, 2016: This week another Honduran environmental activist was tragically murdered. Nelson García worked alongside Berta Caceres trying to stop the disastrous Agua Zarca mega-dam in Honduras.
In the wake of this news and thanks to pressure from over 135,000 SumOfUs members, the FMO Development bank — one of the project’s largest investors — suspended all disbursements into all projects in Honduras, including the Agua Zarca project.
This is huge news — but we haven’t won yet. FMO’s CEO and other executives are due to travel to Honduras to determine whether or not it will continue investing in Agua Zarca. This visit is a unique opportunity to come together and tell FMO do the right thing: pull out of the Agua Zarca dam or face a global public backlash.
Note: An earlier version of this petition that contained some inaccuracies was sent by mistake to our Canadian members. Please find the corrected language below and accept our apologies for any misunderstanding caused as a result.
Today we mourn the tragic assassination of Berta Caceres, a prominent Honduran indigenous rights activist.
Berta stood up to corporations and helped delay the construction of the Agua Zarca dam which, if built, would destroy her community’s land and the Gualcarque River in Honduras. The dam was delayed due to protests for so long that investors started pulling from the project.
As a result, Berta became a target for corporate spying, intimidation, and ultimately murder, simply because money wasn’t being made.
This is why we are calling on the largest remaining investor of the dam, FMO (a Dutch Development bank) to join the Chinese investors Sinohydro and the International Finance Corporation in withdrawing financial support for this project immediately.
Ask the FMO bank to withdraw investment from the Agua Zarca project.
According to FMO’s own website, the bank has a long-standing commitment to environmental and social sustainability. This commitment alone should have led it to stay away from the Agua Zarca dam, proposed to be built in sacred indigenous land and the Gualcarque River, but now FMO is complicit in Berta’s assassination.
51% of FMO’s shares are held by the Dutch government. Unless FMO is prepared to face both a domestic and international outcry, it cannot afford to see through its investment in the Agua Zarca dam.
Let FMO know that its reputation is at stake, and tell it to withdraw its investment from the Agua Zarca dam.
Since the right-wing coup against Manuel Zelaya in 2009, activists have been systematically persecuted by the Honduran government, making Honduras one of the most dangerous places in the world to be an activist or community organiser.
This was certainly true for Berta. Just last year she won the Goldman Environmental award for her successful campaign against the Agua Zarcao dam, and she has now paid with her life.
This isn’t the first time that the SumOfUs community has stood with brave activists defending their homes, lands and livelihoods against corporate giants. Last year, 160,000 of us came together to support Máxima Acuña, the Peruvian anti-mining activist. We were able to send Maxima’s closest allies to Newmont Mining’s HQ, where they forced its CEO to say that the mine will not go ahead without a community consultation.
Berta’s death hurts so many of us who want to see a fair and equitable world. To honour her memory, let’s ensure that resistance to the dam lives on, and forceFMO out of this unethical deal!
Call on FMO to withdraw its investments from the Agua Zarco dam now and protect sacred indigenous land