• Increase font size
  • Decrease font size
  • Default font size
Berta Cáceres, ¡Presente! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brigitte   
Wednesday, 09 March 2016 20:29
When Berta Cáceres Flores was assassinated in a political murder on March 2, she was in the midst of an intense struggle in defense of the Gualcarque River, a sacred river for the Lenca people. She and the Lenca people of Rio Blanco had already blocked the Agua Zarca Dam from being built on the Gualcarque River one time, in 2013-2014 and now DESA was making a second attempt. During the 2013 struggle against the Agua Zarca Dam, Indigenous leader Tomas Garcia was murdered by the Honduran military, other Lenca leaders were attacked, Berta received numerous death threats, and the military detained Berta on trumped up charges. Soon a second set of charges followed, and Berta was ordered to jail. She went underground, and after months international outcry, the charges were eventually dismissed. However, DESA, the company trying to build the dam, appealed and requested the charges against Berta and two other COPINH leaders be reinstated.

In approximately August of 2015, DESA began attempting a second time to build the Agua Zarca Dam, this time accessing the Gualcarque River from the opposite side of the river in San Francisco de Ojuera. Berta and many Lenca people again mobilized to defend the Gualcarque River and their ancestral territory.  As they organized to stop the dam, the situation again began to intensify.

On November 4, 2015, when Berta was not home, an unknown man took a laptop with significant COPINH information from her home.

On the night of November 6, 2015, three shots were fired towards Berta as she driving to Rio Blanco.

On November 24, 2015, Tomas Gomez, another COPINH leader, received a phone call from a man known to be a supporter of the dam company, who informed Tomas that they were going to fix things with Berta Cáceres for better or for worse, "a buenas o a malas."

On November 30, 2015, Berta Cáceres and other COPINH leaders were traveling to request a meeting with the Mayor of San Francisco de Ojuera, who had authorized the dam, when the Honduran police detained their vehicles. While they were detained, machinery dug huge holes across the public roads to prevent COPINH from passing. After Berta and the rest of the COPINH members finally reached San Francisco de Ojuera, municipal employees began to throw rocks at them and threaten them, including a threat that Berta was the one "who had to be killed." One of the armed men came close to Berta and almost cut her chest with a machete. All of this occurred as the Honduran police and military watched and did nothing, despite Berta requesting their protection. Finally, Berta called the Minister of Security, Julian Pacheco, and requested he relay orders for the police present to provide protection. Still, the police and military did not respond and the harassment continued.

Then in late December 2015, the Honduran police detained two men for illegal possession of weapons. Berta was informed that one of them is reported to have explained he was contracted by DESA because "the COPINH people were f**ing things up a lot." This man was previously involved in a violent attack on a COPINH member who opposed the dam, and his police files indicate he was involved in a murder. Residents of Rio Blanco report that he had previously stated he was going to kill COPINH members, including Berta and Francisco Javier Sanchez, President of the Indigenous Council of Rio Blanco.  Berta received information that Jorge Avila - the head of security of DESA and former police official - moved money around to secure the release of those detained for illegal possession of weapons despite the murder in police file. Shortly after his release, this man was identified by Rio Blanco residents working with DESA's security team without a uniform. In February 2016, Berta wrote a communique publicly denouncing the money provided for this man's release and stated that there were known paramilitary guards working for DESA who made threats against COPINH members.

Early in February 2016, shots were fired in the vicinity of Berta's home shortly before she arrived.

On February 16, Berta and other COPINH leaders were pursued by armed men as they left Rio Blanco, after visiting with the Lenca people in resistance to the Agua Zarca Dam on the Rio Gualcarque. The armed men pursued Berta's vehicle on the isolated road for at least 20 minutes until Berta reached a town and stopped.

Then on February 20, 2016, as Berta and COPINH members traveled to San Francisco de Ojuera to protest the dam, employees of DESA and the Mayor's office threatened, detained, and harassed them as well as vandalized the vehicles and buses as the police and military looked on. COPINH members report that the Vice Mayor of San Francisco de Ojuera threatened Berta, telling her she would never come back there and that she could be killed.

On February 25, as the police and military evicted about 50 COPINH families from their homes in Jarcia, Guinse, Intibuca, a member of the DGIC harassed Berta and told her the security forces would not respond if something happened to her.

On February 26, at 1:45pm, a new, double-cabin truck with polarized windows drove up the road leading to the COPINH office, stopping before reaching the office. A tall man with a military-style haircut got out and went outside the COPIN office and asked for Berta, while another man stayed in the running vehicle. When informed she was not there, he wanted to know where she was and her phone number. When asked to identify himself, he refused and left.

Despite all of this, and many additional threats, Berta and COPINH continued forward in the struggle to defend the Gualcarque River and all Lenca territory. Berta repeatedly denounced the concession of the Gualcarque River by the Honduran government to DESA in violation of the Lenca people's right to free, prior, and informed consultation. She also spoke against the violence, militarization, hitmen, and repression that DESA and the Honduran state were using to impose the dam. Berta denounced the Dutch Bank FMO and the Finnish Bank Finnfund, majority owned by the Dutch and Finnish governments respectively, for financing DESA for the Agua Zarca Dam project despite having been informed of the human rights violations around the dam. Berta was in the process of planning a trip to Holland and Finland in which she and Rio Blanco Lenca leaders would protest the financing of the dam and request Dutch and Finnish government leaders take action to stop the funding.

On March 2, 2016, DESA's head of security was spotted in a vehicle with about 16-20 people, at the turn off from Honduras' main highway to La Esperanza, where Berta lives.  The men were speaking about Berta.  The vehicle headed toward La Esperanza.

That night, two men forced their way into Berta's home and Berta was assassinated.

Berta was a voice not only for the self-determination of the Lenca people but for all Hondurans. She was a very outspoken leader against the 2009 military coup and the resulting repressive regimes. She led COPINH in supporting numerous Lenca communities struggling against displacement, dams, privatization of their resources, and megaprojects imposed on their territory against their will. She was a national leader in the struggle against the ultra-neoliberal plan being imposed on Honduras, which entails the privatization and exploitation of almost everything possible, and the brutal repression against those who resist. Berta spoke out against the US backed Alliance for Prosperity plan being put in place in Central America, clearly explaining that its militarization and economic privatization and exploitation projects will only bring more destruction and death to Honduras. She was a leader in the Platform of Popular and Social Movements of Honduras, pushing for national articulation of the social movements. She loudly criticized the current regime for its repression of Honduran society, and refused to be silent. No matter how many death threats she received, no matter how many times she was followed, pursued, or threatened, Berta would not be silenced.

And she must not be silenced today. Berta's voice and struggle must continue to be heard. I can hear her right now, asking us to go to Rio Blanco to accompany the Lenca people as they are criminalized and repressed for resisting the dam. I can hear her asking us to organize to pressure FMO and Finnfund to cut their funding to the dam and to demand that the Honduran military and US-backed TIGRES leave Lenca territory. And I can hear her loudly and clearly telling US Congresspeople, just as she did in meetings barely a year ago, to stop supporting the Honduran regime, to cut all Honduran military funding, to end the Alliance for Prosperity. I can hear her voice denouncing international banks and multinational corporations who together with the current Honduran regime and the support of the US plunder the Honduran territory and its people. I can hear her calling for an end to the criminalization of COPINH and for respect for the self-determination of the Lenca people.

More than anything, I can clearly hear Berta saying that the female spirits of the Lenca people live in the Gualcarque River.

Last Updated on Monday, 14 March 2016 17:51
Indigenous Activist Berta Cáceres Assassinated in Honduras PDF Print E-mail
Written by Hendrik Voss   
Thursday, 03 March 2016 12:26
Human Rights Organizations Demand an Investigation of the Circumstances Surrounding the Assassination of Berta Cáceres, the General Coordinator of COPINH

At approximately midnight last night, the General Coordinator of COPINH, Berta Caceres was assassinated in her hometown of La Esperanza, Intibuca. At least two individuals broke down the door of the house where Berta was staying for the evening in the Residencial La Líbano, shot and killed her. COPINH is urgently responding to this tragic situation.

Berta Cáceres is one of the leading indigenous activists in Honduras. She spent her life fighting in defense of indigenous rights, particularly to land and natural resources.

Cáceres, a Lenca woman, grew up during the violence that swept through Central America in the 1980s. Her mother, a midwife and social activist, took in and cared for refugees from El Salvador, teaching her young children the value of standing up for disenfranchised people.

Cáceres grew up to become a student activist and in 1993, she cofounded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) to address the growing threats posed to Lenca communities by illegal logging, fight for their territorial rights and improve their livelihoods.

Berta Cáceres and COPINH have been accompanying various land struggles throughout western Honduras. In the last few weeks, violence and repression towards Berta Cáceres, COPINH, and the communities they support, had escalated. In Rio Blanco on February 20, 2016, Berta Cáceres, COPINH, and the community of Rio Blanco faced threats and repression as they carried out a peaceful action to protect the River Gualcarque against the construction of a hydroelectric dam by the internationally-financed Honduran company DESA. As a result of COPINH's work supporting the Rio Blanco struggle, Berta Cáceres had received countless threats against her life and was granted precautionary measures by the InterAmerican Commission for Human Rights. On February 25, 2016, another Lenca community supported by COPINH in Guise, Intibuca was violently evicted and destroyed.

Since the 2009 military coup, that was carried out by graduates of the U.S. Army School of the Americas, Honduras has witnessed an explosive growth in environmentally destructive megaprojects that would displace indigenous communities. Almost 30 percent of the country's land was earmarked for mining concessions, creating a demand for cheap energy to power future mining operations. To meet this need, the government approved hundreds of dam projects around the country, privatizing rivers, land, and uprooting communities. Repression of social movements and targeted assassinations are rampant. Honduras has the world's highest murder rate. Honduran human rights organizations report there have been over 10,000 human rights violations by state security forces and impunity is the norm - most murders go unpunished. The Associated Press has repeatedly exposed ties between the Honduran police and death squads, while U.S. military training and aid for the Honduran security forces continues.


Last Updated on Thursday, 03 March 2016 12:44
Become a Presente Distributor! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Hendrik Voss   
Friday, 26 February 2016 20:25
The Spring 2016 issue of Presente, the SOA Watch Newspaper, is intended to be a tool for activists and organizers around the country, who are using the paper to build a counter narrative to the racist status quo of US violence and militarization. Are you willing to distribute Presente in your community?

You can order a box with 75 copies for $20, or a box with 150 copies for $28 (the money covers the cost of printing and shipping in the US).

The bilingual Spring 2016 issue of ¡Presente! provides news and updates from throughout the Americas, and is also going to mobilize for the upcoming Spring Days of Action in Washington, DC, as well as for the October 7-10, 2016 Mobilization to the US/Mexico border. Be part of a national network of activists engaged in exposing and fighting the consequences of oppressive US foreign policy:

Click here to sign up to become a Presente distributor in [[City]].

As a grassroots movement without the backing of big foundations, the work of SOA Watch is being largely carried out and financed by volunteer activists and organizers across the Americas.

Click here to order your box of Presente now!

Thank you for your work for justice!

in solidarity,
SOA Watch

Save the Date! SOA Watch's Spring Days of Action April 14 -18, 2016 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Arturo J. Viscarra   
Friday, 12 February 2016 02:49

Save the Date! SOA Watch's Spring Days of Action April 14 -18, 2016 in DC

The refugee crisis, forced migration, mass incarceration, police brutality and militarization at home & abroad, enforced disappearances - so many of the most pressing issues of our time are fueled by the senseless Drug War, yet we have largely failed to build the coalitions to help bring an end to these devastating policies. The Central American refugee crisis and the Ayotzinapa disappearances cannot be fully understood, nor addressed without addressing the Drug War.

Join us in Washington D.C. this April 14-18 for concert, advocacy training, lobbying, direct action and more, including the next step in our campaign to pressure Vice President Biden for an Executive Order to close the SOA. Stay tuned for more details.

Over the last 18 months, SOA Watch has increased our agitation against the Drug War through protest, popular education, and lobbying efforts. We will continue doing so at the Spring Days of Action, where we will also discuss the 2016 Border/Root Causes of Migration Vigil in Nogales, AZ, and other ways to plug into the work of SOA Watch and the greater solidarity movement. Given the stepped up U.S.-led militarization of not only U.S. borders but also of Mesoamerican borders, most notably Plan Frontera Sur in Mexico, and the recent raids on refugee families inside the U.S., it is an important time to collectively and forcefully respond against these injustices. We need your participation to make change happen!

Last Updated on Friday, 19 February 2016 17:29
SOA Grads Arrested, Face Extradition PDF Print E-mail
Written by Hendrik Voss   
Sunday, 07 February 2016 19:27

School of the Americas Graduates Responsible For 1989 Jesuit Massacre Face Extradition to Spain, Military Officers Arrested in El Salvador

North Carolina/ El Salvador – The 1989 massacre of 16-year-old Celina Ramos, her mother Elba Ramos, and six Jesuit priests at the University of Central America (UCA) in El Salvador, that galvanized opposition to the U.S. relationship with Central American death squads and that sparked the movement to close the U.S. Army School of the Americas, is making headlines again.

On Friday, February 5, 2016, a U.S. judge in North Carolina cleared the way for SOA graduate and retired Salvadoran Colonel, Inocente Orlando Montano, to be extradited to face charges in Spain. Col. Inocente Orlando Montano was trained by the U.S. military at the School of the Americas in 1970.

On Saturday, February 06, 2016, El Salvador's national police force announced that four ex-soldiers, who were also involved in the massacre, were arrested at the behest of Interpol in an operation that began Friday night.

The four former military officers arrested in El Salvador are Col. Guillermo Alfredo Benavides Moreno, Sargent Tomas Zarpate Castillo, Sargent Antonio Avalos Vargas, and Corporal Angel Perez Vasquez. Avalos Vargas and Perez Vasquez attended the Small Unit Training and Management course at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1988 and 1987 respectively, before allegedly participating in the brutal 1989 massacre. El Salvador's Supreme Court is expected to rule on their extraditions to Spain in the coming days. Twelve other former Salvadoran soldiers with international warrants in connection with the UCA massacre remain at large, and it is unknown whether they are in El Salvador or have fled the country.

A United Nations Truth Commission cited 26 Salvadoran officers for the 1989 "execution-style" massacre. Nineteen of those were trained at the School of the Americas, renamed in 2001 the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). After its role in training human rights abusers came to light, Central Americans frequently dubbed the SOA the "School of Assassins.”

The SOA made headlines again in 1996 when the Pentagon released training manuals used at the school that advocated torture, extortion and execution. Despite this shocking admission, and even in the face of hundreds of documented cases of human rights abuses connecting to soldiers trained at the institution, no independent investigation into the training facility has ever taken place.

Protests calling for the closure of the School of the Americas/WHINSEC have taken place around the November 16 anniversary of the San Salvador massacre since 1990. Last year over 2,000 participated in the annual demonstration at the gates of Ft. Benning, Georgia to call for the closure of the military training school, which continues to instruct Latin American soldiers, as well as to demand an end to U.S.-led militarization in the Americas that continues to fuel violence and forced migration. SOA Watch maintains that for justice to prevail, the U.S. officials who are responsible for the training of repressive foreign militaries need to be held accountable as well.

# # #

Last Updated on Tuesday, 09 February 2016 15:37
<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next > End >>

Page 3 of 32

Sign up for action alerts and updates


Contact us

SOA Watch
5525 Illinois Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20011

phone: 202-234-3440
email: info@soaw.org