The Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) condemns the assassination of Honduran Indigenous rights activist Berta Cáceres. Cáceres, co-founder of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) was shot by gunmen who broke into her home in the early morning hours of March 3. A tireless fighter for the rights of the peoples, she was a leader of the Lenca people of the Rio Blanco area of Honduras. Most recently, she was leading the fight against the Honduran government’s violation of Indigenous title and in favour of the requirement to obtain the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples for any proposed new hydroelectric projects on their territories.
CPC(M-L) sends its condolences to Cáceres’ family and comrades in Honduras and to the heroic Honduran people who refuse to submit to the dictate of the private monopolies that have taken over the Honduran government by force. CPC(M-L) places the blame for her murder squarely on the Honduran state and all its backers, including Canada. Following the U.S.-orchestrated coup d’etat in 2009, the Honduran state has operated on behalf of the monopolies, passing laws in their favour and placing its police, military and paramilitary forces at their disposal to repress the people’s resistance with impunity. Canadians have not forgotten that the Canadian state led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper was one of the first to recognize the illegitimate coup government installed after the overthrow of the government of Manuel Zelaya.
Canadian companies are knee deep in such projects and this may be one of the reasons the Trudeau government will avoid any investigation into Canada’s role in Honduras.
Cáceres had received repeated death threats as well as constant judicial and administrative harassment ever since the 2009 military coup, attesting to the state of anarchy and violence the U.S. and the Honduran oligarchy have imposed on the country through the coup. According to Global Witness, Honduras is the most deadly country in the world for land and environmental defenders. It reports that at least 109 people were killed between 2010 and 2015 for taking a stand against destructive dam, mining, logging and agriculture projects. Of the eight victims whose cases were publicly reported in 2015, six were from Indigenous groups. Canadian companies are knee deep in such projects and this may be one of the reasons the Trudeau government will avoid any investigation into Canada’s role in Honduras.
Cáceres’ murder follows the murders of other members of COPINH and community members in areas where COPINH has led the people to affirm their rights. Cáceres in particular was active not only in defence of the rights of Indigenous peoples to say No! to monopolies which have been given a free hand in the exploitation of Honduras’ natural resources and land, but also in the political fight of the people to overturn the coup and take the Honduran state out of the hands of the Honduran oligarchy and their foreign backers.
Cáceres is most well known for leading a successful movement against one of Central America’s biggest hydropower projects, the Agua Zarca cascade of four giant dams in the Gualcarque River basin. As a result of the people’s resistance the project had to be stopped in 2013. However, since that time death threats against Cáceres and others in the Rio Blanco area have been stepped up. The Honduran state intervened directly to have her arrested and imprisoned on bogus charges at a time that members of the community where the dams were to be located were being killed, disappeared or beaten.
In 2014, the Lenca people of Rio Blanco discovered that a new dam project, the Canjel River Hydroelectric Project was being started on their lands without their knowledge or consent. A U.S.-based private equity firm Capital III, together with a Canadian company, Hydrosys Consultants, had begun building the Canjel Dam in violation of International Labour Organization Convention 169, as the Lenca communities in the area were once again never consulted. In September 2014, COPINH filed denunciations with the Special Prosecutor for Indigenous Peoples of Honduras against government officials for failing to consult the Lenca people for a total of 40 dam projects.
Capital III is planning to finance four dams in Honduras, three of which COPINH has denounced. One of the larger ones, the Zompopero Hydroelectric Project, impacts three Honduran states and is a $50-million project.
Additionally, Hydrosys Consultants, the Canadian company in charge of the construction, permits, and engineering of the Canjel Dam, was involved in at least five dam projects in Honduras in 2014.
TeleSUR reported on March 4 that Cáceres made statements last April claiming that “men close to Blue Energy,” or people “close to politicians” and “death squads promoted from government policies” were behind the death threats leveled against her. TeleSUR reported Blue Energy as being “a transnational Canadian company looking to build a dam in the Rio Blanco area in western Honduras.”
Cáceres’ mother and daughter have both said they hold the companies behind the dam projects in Rio Blanco and the Honduran government responsible for her death.
Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernández, whose government was subject to an order issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights requiring it to take special precautions to guarantee the safety of Cáceres, did nothing to inspire confidence that a cover-up would not be the result when he announced that an investigation was currently underway “in coordination with the support of the United States and other countries to find the culprits.”
Cáceres’ family have called on the Honduran government to protect witnesses to the murder and prevent evidence from being contaminated and have joined COPINH in calling for an independent, international investigation not led by the Honduran government, the Organization of American States, or the newly-launched Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras backed by the OAS.
CPC(M-L) calls on the Canadian working class and people to demand justice for the murder of Beta Cáceres and all those murdered in Honduras for affirming their rights and the rights of all!
(With files from TeleSUR, Upside Down World)