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5 March 2016 | | | | | | | | | | |



Thursday, March 3, 2016 - La Esperanza, Intibucá, Honduras

Our friend, Berta Cáceres, founder and General Coordinator of the Council of Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras, COPINH, and Gustavo Castro Soto, of Otros Mundos AC/ Friends of the Earth Mexico, the Mexican Network of People Affected by Mining (REMA) and the Meso American Movement against the Mining Extractive Model (M4) were attacked by gunmen, which caused Berta´s death and seriously injured Gustavo. The assault took place inside Berta’s home. A group of armed men entered through the back door and shot both of our colleagues.

The first bullets struck Berta, causing her death. Gustavo Castro was shot twice; one of the bullets touched his cheek and the other one hit him on his hand. He then stayed quiet on the floor, to make the attackers believe he had been killed. Frightened about the situation, our colleague found refuge in a safe place, where he told people about what had happened and was helped by members of COPINH.

The police and the army arrived between 7:30 and 8:00 am to search her home and verify Berta´s death. Several colleagues, members of her family and friends, witnessed with outrage the arrogance of the experts and authorities there. The chief of investigation arrived at Berta´s home with an aggressive attitude, provoking a verbal confrontation with members of the organization. In the same way, when leaving, the police officers implied that what had happened was a robbery. Berta´s body was wrapped in plastic and put on the back of a gray truck without any official mark; showing no respect for our colleague and the family or friends present.
In the morning, Aureliano Molina Villanueva, of San Francisco Lempira, a grassroots activist member of COPINH, arrived at the scene and was held by the National Police of La Esperanza Intibucá to testify. He was accompanied by his father, Aureliano Molina and his brother-in-law. He then was taken to the Police Station, where he remains as a supposed suspect of the investigation. He has asked about the charges against him, but was told police have 24 hours to hold him without charge.

Berta´s body was transferred to the prosecutor´s office in La Esperanza around 9:00 am, and then moved to Siguapeteque and finally to Tegucigalpa for an autopsy.
Gustavo Castro decided to wait for the ethnicity prosecutor to give his statement. Given the lack of trust in Honduran judicial institutions, he refused to testify before other entities. He wasn´t seen by a doctor until noon. In the afternoon, the ethnicity prosecutor arrived to take his statement. Then he was taken to the public ministry.
Despite the investigation by the prosecutors, COPINH demands a clear investigation, independent from the Honduran State, due to doubts about its credibility.

Members of COPINH stated they were threatened in December by people who claimed to be hitmen hired by the DESA company. In the past six months, we confirmed that Berta had been threatened numerous times, with increasing intensity, including shots fired at her car, direct verbal messages and threats by the army, the police, Mayor Raul Pineda and DESA company.

The National Security Secretariat stated that Berta had been given precautionary measures by the Inter American Court on Human Rights, but they claim the activist had rejected said protection and that at the time of the crime was in a home that was not registered as hers, and therefore couldn´t be protected. In this way, the authorities are stating that they were not obliged to protect Berta from any assault and blame her for her own death. At the same time it is possible to see the strategy of judicial institutions in blaming Aureliano Molina Villanueva of a crime of passion against our colleague, in addition to fabricating evidence to point to other members of COPINH as accomplices.

Right now, COPINH is under a state of alert, and fears for the physical integrity of Gustavo Castro and other members of the organization who are constantly harassed for opposing the looting in their territory. This attack is a clear sign of the escalation of violence against all the people who fight for nature and oppose the transnational companies that plunder Honduras.

We appeal for national and international solidarity to continue taking action to stop and denounce the aggressive State policies, the privatizing strategies of transnational corporations and the systematic violation of the rights of the Lenca people.
We are calling for participation in peaceful but strong mobilizations, based on our self-sufficiency and self-determination. We will continue mobilizing in defense of our common natural resources.

We reaffirm our struggle for Gualcarque River!
We reaffirm our commitment to life!
We demand justice!
We demand an end to impunity!
We demand an independent investigation with international judges and experts!
We demand the immediate exit of the "Los Tigres" paramilitary unit from Rio Blanco!
We demand a stop to paramilitary activities and training in the country, supported by foreign governments!

We demand an end to the persecution of those who defend the rights of the indigenous people and the entire population!
We demand the necessary changes in our country!
We demand respect for life!



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