Vermont human rights groups call for action following assassination of Honduran Indigenous environmental activist

For Immediate Release: March 15, 2016

Local Contact: Keith Brunner, Vermont Workers’ Center, (802) 363-9615

Expert Contact: Jeff Conant, Friends of the Earth US, (510) 900-0016, jconant@foe.org

Senator Leahy praised, urged to take stronger action following assassination of Honduran Indigenous environmental activist

Today eight Vermont human rights groups sent a letter to Senator Patrick Leahy praising him for his leadership following the assassination of Honduran Indigenous leader Berta Cáceres, and urging the Senator to take further action to ensure the safety of environmental activists in Honduras. 

Cáceres, winner of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, was assassinated in her home on March 3rd, targeted for her decade-long fight against the building of the Agua Zarca dam along the Gualcarque River in Honduras, which is sacred to the Lenca people. Since the murder, thousands have taken action calling on the Honduran government for an independent investigation and to stop the criminalization of environmental and human rights defenders.

The Vermont letter, signed by Peace & Justice Center, Migrant Justice, 350 Vermont, and the Vermont Workers’ Center among others, reads as follows:

“Dear Senator Leahy:

As Vermont-based organizations committed to ensuring human rights here and abroad, we are writing to thank you for your leadership following the assassination of Honduran Indigenous land defender Berta Cáceres on March 3rd.

We support your call for an “independent investigation, prosecution, and punishment of those responsible” for the crime, for the abandonment of the Agua Zarca dam project, and the protection of the Rio Blanco and surrounding territory that Ms. Cáceres and her colleagues have been fighting to defend. [1, 2]

As you may know, Gustavo Castro, coordinator of the environmental justice organization Friends of the Earth Mexico, was also wounded during the attack on Cáceres and is now in the custody of the Honduran authorities. Mr. Castro was a witness to the murder and a growing number of international and Honduran civil society organizations believe he is in imminent danger as long as he remains in Honduras.

We urge you to continue your leadership on this issue by pressing the Honduran government to comply with the precautionary measures granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on March 5 and provide immediate, effective, and carefully consulted protection to Mr. Castro, members of Cáceres’ indigenous rights organization (COPINH), members of Ms. Cáceres’ family, and all witnesses in the case.

We also support the demands elaborated in the March 10th open letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, signed by over 200 civil society organizations, calling for the US government to stand with those who are putting their lives on the line for the protection of human rights and the environment in Honduras. [3]

Thank you for your support.

Signed,

350 Vermont

Institute for Social Ecology

Just Power

Justicia Migrante / Migrant Justice

Peace & Justice Center

Toward Freedom

Vermont Workers’ Center

Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance

1] http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/senator-patrick-leahy-decries-the-assassination-in-honduras-of-berta-caceres-300230540.html

2] https://www.leahy.senate.gov/press/remarks-of-senator-patrick-leahy-on-remembering-berta-caceres

3] http://lawg.org/component/content/article/81/1609