the berta cáceres act
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Co-sponsors in Congress
March 2, 2020 marked the four-year anniversary of the assassination of Berta Cáceres, the beloved Honduran Indigenous and environmental rights leader, and the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act was re-introduced to continue the call for justice.
The Berta Cáceres Act is a landmark bill introduced by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA). The Berta Cáceres Act was first introduced in 2016, and it was met with immediate and broad support including endorsements by the AFL-CIO, the Sierra Club, the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), and over a hundred other faith, labor, environmental, and human rights organizations. Berta’s family and organization COPINH immediately applauded the action and praised the leadership of these Members of Congress.
The bill states: “The Honduran police are widely established to be deeply corrupt and to commit human rights abuses, including torture, rape, illegal detention, and murder, with impunity” and that the military has committed violations of human rights. Therefore, the bill asks that the United States suspend all “…security assistance to Honduran military and police until such time as human rights violations by Honduran state security forces cease and their perpetrators are brought to justice.”
The violent crackdown on anti-fraud protesters in the wake of the November 26th, 2017 elections have made the Berta Cáceres Act more urgent than ever. Honduran security forces have been implicated in the deaths of more than 40 people since the elections, as well as systematic torture, forced disappearances, and massive criminalization of the people who are exercising their fundamental rights to free expression and assembly.
That US taxpayer dollars are paying for this brutal repression, and US companies are profiting from it, is unconscionable.
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In June 2009 a coup d’etat overthrew democratically elected Manuel Zelaya. Since the coup, human rights conditions in Honduras have deteriorated. Among those most affected by the post-coup violence are human rights advocates, journalists, women, Black and indigenous populations, and LGBT+ Hondurans.
Immediately following the coup, Hondurans began asking WfP to send delegations to Honduras to document the role of the U.S. in the crisis. We responded, producing a documentary short called Shot in the Back: the Human Impact of the Honduran Coup. Shortly after the coup, Honduras withdrew from ALBA, and attempts have been made to roll back Zelaya’s minimum wage hike, as well as laws proposed to privatize public resources such as rivers for dam projects. The Honduran business elite, which played a key role in instigating and financially maintaining the coup, is intimately tied to U.S. and transnational corporate interests.
The United States considers the Honduran government a reliable ally in the militarized war on drugs, and has engaged in a campaign of militarization that has worsened the human rights crisis in the country. In 2012, DEA agents were present on an operation that killed four civilians, including two pregnant women, in Ahuas, a small community in a remote part of Northern Honduras.
Since the coup, privatization of public lands, the construction of mega-projects on indigenous and campesino land, targeted political repression, and violence have gotten worse. Human rights defenders, environmental activists, and others have been targeted by state repression and violence, including the March 2016 assassination of Berta Cáceres.
In November of 2017, Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernández was reelected with overwhelming evidence of electoral fraud, and in contradiction to the Honduran constitution’s prohibition against multiple terms for presidents. Hundreds of thousands of Hondurans took to the streets to defend their vote and their democracy, and they were met with widespread and systematic human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, forced disappearance, kidnapping, and arbitrary detention. The scale of these abuses, committed by Honduran security forces that receive U.S. training and funding, amounts to crimes against humanity.
Despite the pattern of grave human rights violations and widespread impunity, the U.S. continues to support Honduras both diplomatically and through military aid.
Berta Cáceres Flores was the General Coordinator of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), and one of the country’s leading indigenous activists. She dedicated her life to the defense of land, natural resources and indigenous people’s human rights to their ancestral territories. She received the 2015 Goldman Prize in recognition of her incredible leadership and activism throughout the past three decades.