PBI-Honduras accompanies COPINH, discusses situation for Indigenous people in Honduras
Lenca water protector Berta Cáceres, who co-founded COPINH, was murdered in March 2016 for her opposition to a hydroelectric dam on the Gualcarque River.
On January 21, PBI-Honduras tweeted: “PBI was with @COPINHHONDURAS in La Esperanza [the capital city of the department of Intibucá]. They shared with us their concern about the situation of the indigenous peoples and their commitment to continue fighting for these rights through the proposals presented to the new government and the continuous follow-up that they will give them.”
On Facebook, PBI-Honduras adds to this post: “At PBI we highlight the tireless work of COPINH in favor of the indigenous peoples of Honduras.”
With the swearing in of Xiomara Castro as the new president of Honduras on January 27, the COPINH proposals for a Government of Justice and Life for the Indigenous Peoples of Honduras includes demands such as: “Autonomy and indigenous culture. Recognition of indigenous authorities and their territorial autonomy, including the rights to free, prior and informed consultation and consent.”
The Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) is an Indigenous Lenca organization made up of 200 Lenca communities in western Honduras. Berta Cáceres co-founded COPINH in 1993 when indigenous and popular movements came together to stop logging and advance popular struggles.
In 2006, community members from Rio Blanco came to COPINH asking for help. They had witnessed an influx of machinery and construction equipment coming into their town. They saw this construction as an act of aggression against the Gualcarque River, a place of spiritual importance to the Lenca people.
In April 2013, Cáceres organized a road blockade to prevent access to the dam site by DESA, the company building the dam. For well over a year, the blockade withstood multiple eviction attempts and violent attacks from militarized security contractors and the Honduran armed forces.
During this time, Cáceres also opposed a dam being constructed on Lenca territory by two Canadian companies. In January 2015, COPINH issued a condemnation of a dam being built without Lenca consent on the Canjel River by Montreal-based Hydrosys and Vancouver-based Blue Energy. By April 2015, Cáceres claimed “men close to Blue Energy” were behind death threats against her.
On March 3, 2016, Cáceres was killed by gunmen in her home in La Esperanza. Twelve days later COPINH member Nelson García was also murdered.
In 2018, a Honduran court ruled that DESA executives ordered the killing of Cáceres.
In July 2021, David Castillo, the former president of DESA and a former Honduran army intelligence officer, was found by a court to be a co-collaborator in ordering the murder. He has yet to be sentenced for this crime.
The Peace Brigades International-Honduras Project began to accompany COPINH in May 2016, just a couple months after Berta Cáceres was killed.
In January 2019, Berta’s daughter Bertha Zúñiga Cáceres (standing behind the boy in the blue coat with the raised fist), joined with other members of COPINH to express solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en struggle against Coastal GasLink.