WASHINGTON, D.C. — In the wake of the tragic killing of the Honduran environmental and indigenous leader Berta Cáceres on March 2, Reps. Hank Johnson (GA-04) and Keith Ellison (MN-05), together with 60 House colleagues, today sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew requesting their support in combating human rights violations and rampant impunity in Honduras.
In the letter, members of Congress call for an independent, international investigation into the murder of Cáceres with backing from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The letter was signed just hours before the murder of Berta Cáceres’ colleague and fellow activist, Nelson García, further highlighting the ongoing nature of these crimes and the need for urgent action.
In addition, the letter calls for the full implementation of IACHR precautionary measures for Berta Cáceres’ family, COPINH and key witness Gustavo Castro and the immediate institution of an effective system of protection for Honduran social activists, human rights defenders and members of the political opposition.
The letter urges the State Department and Treasury to carry out a review of the scheduled increase in security funding to Honduras and of U.S. support for multilateral loans to private-sector projects in Honduras.
“The U.S. provides millions of dollars of security assistance to Honduras and yet frequent attacks and killings of environmental activists like Cáceres continue without any effective response from the authorities,” said Rep. Johnson. “It’s time for our government to leverage security assistance and multilateral loans so as to put real and lasting pressure on the Honduran government to protect its activists and pursue those responsible for these hideous crimes.”
“Peaceful activists should be able to speak out without living in fear, or being killed for their work. Berta Cáceres and Nelson García were courageous and extraordinary leaders who fought for Honduras’ indigenous community despite ongoing threats. We’ve waited too long for action already – the U.S. government should pressure the Honduran government to make sure those responsible for these horrific crimes are held responsible,” said Rep. Ellison.
Berta Cáceres – co-founder of the indigenous rights organization COPINH and winner of last year’s Goldman Environmental Prize and one of Honduras’ most prominent activists – was shot by an unknown gunman on March 2 at her home in La Esperanza. She had received numerous threats as a result of the campaign she and her colleagues at COPINH have been waging against the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam project in the Rio Blanco Lenca indigenous community. Four other COPINH members have been murdered over the last few years.
International Environmental NGO Global Witness reports that Honduras is the most dangerous place in the world for people engaged in environmental activism with 109 environmental activists killed between 2010 and 2015. In recent years, Honduras has also been identified as one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists, legal professionals and LGBTI activists.
See full text of letter here.