Emergency Appeal For Indigenous Rights in Honduras

Chung-Wha Hong of Grassroots International told the story of Berta Caceres’ struggle at our Building Sustainable Security conference in November 2015.  Listen to Chung-Wha’s talk here.  Following is Grassroots International’s message about Berta Caceres and the movement she led.

Brief background

Berta Cáceres, an internationally renowned indigenous, environmental leader in Honduras, was assassinated in the middle of the night, March 3, 2016 in her home in Honduras.  She had dedicated her life to defending the lives, territories and rights of Lenca People in Honduras and working against the exploitation of Mother Earth internationally.  She co-founded the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), and was the recipient of the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize.  

Since the military coup in 2009, the Honduran government has given out hundreds of “concessions” to corporations for mining, amounting to a third of the country and hundreds more for hydroelectric dams that privatize rivers, steal indigenous people’s lands and exacerbating climate change.  Berta and her organization fought against these and in particular the construction of the Agua Zarca dam to preserve the sacred Gualcarque River.  

Why was she killed?  Because she was organizing and winning.  Under her leadership, COPINH blockaded the path to the river for over a year, while educating and empowering the community.  As a result, they were able to stop the world’s biggest dam construction company, Sinohydro, and forced World Bank to withdraw its financing. But then, other companies came in.

The Intersectionality of This and Other Struggles

Berta’s work is emblematic of a defining frontline struggle of our time — the fight against the most aggressive drivers of the current extractive economy — an economy that has feminized poverty, and racialized inequality on a global scale.  She fearlessly took on the transnational corporations, international financing institutions, corrupt Honduran government, and US military aid and political support — to build a powerful movement for people and the environment.  

Hers is a struggle that has and will continue to inspire many to build an environmental/climate justice, feminist, human rights movement on a global scale.  Her death has sparked profound grief and at the same time, amazing mobilizations, with tens of thousands of people marching in the streets all over the globe, a new level of unity and strength through an Indigenous-Garifuna (Afro-descendent)-Peasant alliance.  They shouted “Berta didn’t die; she multiplied!” 

Due to the burst of activism internationally, three major financiers of the Agua Zarca dam have suspended their funding for the dam so far62 Members of Congress have written to Secretary Kerry, urging full investigation into Berta’s death; and momentum is building in Honduras and worldwide. 

We in the US have a special responsibility because our government’s role was, and continues to be, central to creating the conditions that makes Honduras the most dangerous in the world for environmental activists.  According to Global Witness, 101 have been killed between 2010-2014.  Women especially have been singled out as targets of violence, with 3,300 femicides since 2011 – of which a staggering 94 percent remain unresolved.  

Grassroots International

Grassroots International is a US-based foundation and advocacy organization with a long history of partnership with indigenous groups in Honduras, Central America and around the world. We are not your regular intermediary conduit for funding; we accompany our grantee partners like COPINH through a long-term partnership model, built on trust, mutual learning, solidarity, shared political analysis and joint commitments to long-term movement building. 

Because of our historic relationships with our Honduran partners, we are able to communicate with them about specific emergency needs, coordinate an appropriate response (political and financial) in support, get the money to the right places, and monitor and evaluate the impact. All emergency funds raised by Grassroots go directly to our partners. 

Take Action

Speak out in solidarity!

Support the Honduras social movements’ and Berta’s family’s demands. Join Grassroots International’s e-action re this situation.

This is a movement moment.

We need your financial support.

Social movements on the ground in Honduras do not lack courage, organization or strategy. But they urgently need financial support to implement their mobilizing plans to take advantage of the global momentum following Berta’s assassination. Priority groups who will receive support include: COPINH, and also key partners working closely with them to lead the emergency response on a national and international scale; such as OFRANEH, the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras, who have built a common struggle with COPINH to protect their lands and Mother Earth; and the Via Campesina-Honduras, the local chapter of a 260 million-strong global peasant network, that is engaged in land struggles, agrarian reform and a campaign to end violence against women.

What is the immediate need?

The most immediate, though not exhaustive, list of needs described by the Honduran social movements include:

1.    Security: implementation of an emergency security strategy–upgrading of office construction, like stronger doors, and adding equipment like video cameras, alarms, locks and cell phones (that are being not tapped); personal protection–safe transportation, travel expenses, and emergency housing; and security trainings for community members

2.    Mobilization: Buses, food and lodging, organizers, outreach materials, media packets for demonstrations

3.    Legal Expenses: Currently over 5,000 peasants and indigenous community leaders/members are either in prison or have criminal charges against them for their activism (as did Berta).  Legal representation, know-your-rights education, travel costs to international courts.  $1K covers salary and expenses for a lawyer for 1 month.

4.    International Advocacy and Education: efforts to organize international solidarity (especially in the US), outreach to media outlets, social media and e-actions, delegations, advocacy visits from Honduras to the US.

More information

In addition to the links embedded in this email, a few other very helpful ones are:

1. Must see 5-minute video about Berta, made by the Goldman Environmental Prize: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zh9Sn9oJR94&feature=youtu.be

2. A eulogy: ¡BERTA LIVES! The Life and Legacy of Berta Cáceres


3. Democracy Now- Amy Goodman interview with Berta’s daughter:


4. US Food Sovereignty Alliance press release and call to action, with list of organizations in the US.  http://usfoodsovereigntyalliance.org/press-statement-on-the-assassination-of-berta-caceres-and-call-to-action/

5. National Lawyers Guild Report on the Murder of Berta Caceres, after an investigative delegation to Honduras. March 28, 2016 https://www.nlg.org/news/releases/finding-irregularities-nlg-delegation-calls-independent-investigation-murder-honduran


All funds received from Grassroots International’s Honduras Emergency Appeal, will go towards grants to organizations leading the crisis response.  You can donate online or send a check payable to “Grassroots International” with a note “Honduras Emergency Response” to:

Grassroots International, 179 Boylston Street, 4th Floor, Boston, MA 02476

If you have further questions, contact Chung-Wha Hong, Executive Director, Grassroots International. 617-524-1400. cwhong@grassrootsonline.org