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Thread: Environmental activist murders set record as 2015 became deadliest year

  1. #1

    Environmental activist murders set record as 2015 became deadliest year

    Environmental activist murders set record as 2015 became deadliest year

    Global Witness says at least 185 activists were killed and anti-mining activities were the most deadly – with 42 deaths related to protests

    Michelle Campos says her father and grandfather were publicly executed in September 2015 for opposing mining in Mindanao, Philippines. Photograph: Tulda productions
    Oliver Holmes, South-east Asia correspondent
    Monday 20 June 2016 12.45 EDT Last modified on Monday 20 June 2016 13.00 EDT

    At least 185 environmental activists were killed last year, the highest annual death toll on record and close to a 60% increase on the previous year, according to a UK-based watchdog.

    Global Witness documented lethal attacks across 16 countries. Brazil was worst hit with 50 deaths, many of them killings of campaigners who were trying to combat illegal logging in the Amazon. The Philippines was second with 33.

    Colombia had 26 fatal attacks; Peru, 12; Nicaragua, 12; and Democratic Republic of Congo had 11.

    “As demand for products like minerals, timber and palm oil continues, governments, companies and criminal gangs are seizing land in defiance of the people who live on it,” said Billy Kyte, a senior campaigner for Global Witness and author of the report.

    “Communities that take a stand are increasingly finding themselves in the firing line of companies’ private security, state forces and a thriving market for contract killers. For every killing we document, many others go unreported. Governments must urgently intervene to stop this spiraling violence.”

    The most deadly industry to protest against was mining, with 42 deaths in 2015 related to anti-mining activities. Agribusiness, hydroelectric dams and logging were also key drivers of violence, Global Witness found, and many of the murders occurred in remote villages deep within rainforests.

    Dying to save the Amazonian rainforest
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    In Brazil, thousands of illegal logging camps have been set up and are cutting down valuable hardwoods like mahogany, ebony and teak.

    The report said criminal gangs terrorise local populations at the behest of “timber companies and the officials they have corrupted”.

    It is estimated that 80% of timber from Brazil is illegal and accounts for 25% of illegal wood on global markets. Much of this is being sold on to buyers in the UK, US, Europe and China, and is contributing to one of the world’s highest rates of forest loss, the report said.

    The report also focused on the vulnerability of indigenous people, saying they suffer weak land rights and geographic isolation, making them particularly exposed to land grabbing for natural resource exploitation. Almost 40% of last year’s victims were indigenous people.

    Global Witness cited the case of Filipino activist Michelle Campos, a member of the indigenous Lumad people from the southern Philippines. She says her father, a prominent campaigner for the protection of ancestral lands, and grandfather were publicly executed by a paramilitary group in front of the village.

    The region is rich in coal, nickel and gold, and is one of the most dangerous in the world for land and environmental activists, with 25 deaths in 2015 alone, the report said.

    “We know the murderers – they are still walking free in our community. We are dying and our government does nothing to help us,” the report quoted Michelle Campos as saying. Close to 3,000 Lumad villagers fled after the executions.

    “We get threatened, vilified and killed for standing up to the mining companies on our land and the paramilitaries that protect them,” Campos said.

    Filipino president-elect Rodrigo Duterte has spoken out in favour of rights for the Lumad population and called for the military to withdraw from the area so the indigenous people can return. He will take office on 30 June.

    The report called on governments to increase protection for land and environmental activists and investigate crimes. It said authorities should also formally recognise communities’ rights to their land.

    In total, Global Witness has documented 1,176 cases going back to 2002.

    These are not the environmental poseurs from the 'burbs. They fight, and die, for their livelihood, culture, homeland. They fight the capitalist state and capital's thugs.They fight a battle they cannot win by themselves nor with the treacherous 'help' which might come from the 'North'. Their fight is part of our's.
    "We say to the workers: 'You will have to go through fifteen, twenty, fifty years of civil wars and international wars, not only in order to change existing conditions, but also in order to change yourselves and fit yourselves for the exercise of political power."'

    MARX (On the Communist Trial at Cologne, 1851).

  2. #2
    Violent 2015 Sees Record 3 Environmentalists Killed Each Week

    Lumad people protest against the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit on November 19, 2015 | Photo: AFP

    Published 20 June 2016

    More than three people were killed a week in 2015 defending their land, forests and rivers against destructive industries.
    At least 185 activists and Indigenous people fighting environmental pillage were murdered in 2015, the watchdog group Global Witness said on Monday.

    The grisly death toll is the largest recorded — nearly 60 percent more than in 2014 — since the NGO began tracking such violence worldwide in 2002, and is likely to be even higher as many killings go unreported, the group said in its annual report.

    Indigenous Tree Hugger Still Waiting 7 Months in Jail

    Brazil and the Philippines together accounted for nearly a third of the total deaths, followed by Colombia, Peru, Nicaragua and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    More than 40 murders were related to mining operations, according to the report.

    Disputes over agribusiness, logging and dam projects also led to numerous killings.

    "Communities that take a stand are increasingly finding themselves in the firing line of companies' private security, state forces and a thriving market for contract killers," Global Witness campaign leader Billy Kyte said in a statement.

    Indigenous people — nearly 40 percent of the victims — are frequent targets of land and resource grabs, often in collusion with corrupt local officials, he said.

    The area on Mindanao in the Philippines inhabited by the Lumad people, for example, saw 25 killings last year alone, the highest death rate of any region monitored.

    The Lumad homeland is rich in coal, nickel and gold.

    In a particularly brazen attack, the father and grandfather of Filipino activist Michelle Campos were murdered in public for their stand against mining operations, Global Witness reported.

    "We know the murderers — they are still walking free in our community," Campos, who escaped harm, said in a statement.

    In Brazil, the NGO said, the fight to save the Amazon is "increasingly a fight against criminal gangs who terrorize local populations at the behest of timber companies and the officials they have corrupted."

    Thousands of unauthorized logging camps are scattered across Brazil's Amazon basin, where precious hardwoods — mahogany, ebony, teak — are cut and prepared for export.

    Facing Violence, Resistance Is Survival for Indigenous Women

    A 2014 report from Chatham House estimates that 80 percent of timber coming from Brazil is illicit, accounting for a quarter of illegal wood on the global market.

    "The murders that are going unpunished in remote mining villages or deep within rainforests are fuelled by the choices consumers are making on the other side of the world," Kyte said.

    The top markets for precious woods are the United States, China and the European Union.

    In early March this year, two masked men gunned down Indigenous activist Berta Caceres, recipient of a prestigious international environmental prize for fighting a dam project in Honduras.

    Last week, some 500 indigenous Lenca people held a protest in the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa to demand an international probe into the murder.

    One of five people arrested for Caceres' murder is a high-ranking employee of Desarrollos Energeticos (DESA), an electricity company involved in the construction of the hydro-electric dam against which she campaigned.

    Video at link.
    "We say to the workers: 'You will have to go through fifteen, twenty, fifty years of civil wars and international wars, not only in order to change existing conditions, but also in order to change yourselves and fit yourselves for the exercise of political power."'

    MARX (On the Communist Trial at Cologne, 1851).

  3. #3
    In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers

    Less than three months before Lenca leader Berta Cáceres was brutally assassinated, the social arm of Desarollos Energeticos SA (DESA)–the Honduran company leading the Agua Zarca dam project Cáceres was campaigning against–signed a contract with USAID implementing partner Fintrac, a Washington DC based development contracting firm.

    The DESA representative who was present for the public signing of the USAID agreement was none other than Sergio Rodríguez, the company’s Social Investment Manager, who is now accused of Cáceres’ assassination along with another former DESA employee and individuals with military ties. The arrests also included Douglas Geovanny Bustillo, a retired military officer and the former head of DESA’s security detail. The trial against the accused murderers began on Monday.



    Berta Cáceres's name was on Honduran military hitlist, says former soldier

    A unit trained by US special forces was ordered to kill the environmental activist who was slain in March, according to an ex-member who now fears for his life

    One human rights expert said: ‘This … reinforces calls that the US must withdraw military aid from Honduras where there’s been a bloodbath since the 2009 coup.’ Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
    Nina Lakhani in Mexico City
    Tuesday 21 June 2016 05.00 EDT Last modified on Tuesday 21 June 2016 05.57 EDT
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    Berta Cáceres, the murdered environmental campaigner, appeared on a hitlist distributed to US-trained special forces units of the Honduran military months before her death, a former soldier has claimed.

    Lists featuring the names and photographs of dozens of social and environmental activists were given to two elite units, with orders to eliminate each target, according to First Sergeant Rodrigo Cruz, 20.

    Cruz’s unit commander, a 24-year-old lieutenant, deserted rather than comply with the order. Cruz – who asked to be identified by a pseudonym for fear of reprisal – followed suit, and fled to a neighbouring country. Several other members of the unit have disappeared and are feared dead.

    “If I went home, they’d kill me. Ten of my former colleagues are missing. I’m 100% certain that Berta Cáceres was killed by the army,” Cruz told the Guardian.

    Cáceres, an indigenous Lenca leader who won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015 for a campaign against the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam, was shot dead in her home in March 2016. Before her murder, she had reported 33 death threats linked to the campaign and had warned international human rights delegates that her name was on a hitlist.

    Berta Ceaceres, an indigenous Lenca woman, campaigned to preserve her people’s environment, threatened by a hydroelectric project.
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    Berta Ceaceres, an indigenous Lenca woman, campaigned to preserve her people’s environment, threatened by a hydroelectric project. Photograph: Tim Russo
    According to Cruz, Cáceres’s name appeared on a list given to a military police unit in the Inter-institutional Security Force (Fusina), which last summer received training from 300 US marines and FBI agents.

    Five men have been arrested for her murder, including Maj Mariano Díaz Chávez, an active-duty major in the Honduran army. Díaz had previously participated in joint US-Honduran military operations in Iraq, and is reported by local media to be a graduate of the elite Tesón special operations course which is partly taught by US special forces. Diaz was a military police instructor when arrested, but has since been given a dishonourable discharge.

    "We say to the workers: 'You will have to go through fifteen, twenty, fifty years of civil wars and international wars, not only in order to change existing conditions, but also in order to change yourselves and fit yourselves for the exercise of political power."'

    MARX (On the Communist Trial at Cologne, 1851).

  4. #4
    ‘If you speak out you die’ say Colombian villagers fighting death squads and oil giants

    The pain and the tears wont stop. I would give anything just to know what happened,' says Hector Abril, father of murdered environmental activist Daniel Abril, pictured with his grandson Daniel junior and daughter. Photograph: Michael Gillard
    12:02Tuesday 28 June 2016

    ELECTRIC blue butterflies danced around the basketball court in the Colombian village of Las Brisas as community leaders gathered for a May Day workshop on how to protect themselves from international oil companies and home grown death squads.

    Fabian Laverde, a recently decorated human right defender, asked everyone to form a circle and place something in the middle that represented their struggle for survival.

    “If you speak out you die,” whispered 46-year-old farmer Aristobulo Garcia, a father of three, as he threw dry soil onto the pile of mangoes, limes and yucca. “We must learn from the ants how to work together against outside threats,” he told the others.

    Here, in the department of Casanare in the eastern foothills of the Andes, people are dying by the gun or machete for the curse of having huge oil and mineral deposits under their feet.

    Since black gold was discovered three decades ago, over 2500 people have been ‘disappeared’ in Casanare. Overwhelmingly, the dead are victims of government security forces and their right wing paramilitary allies, according to CINEP, a respected church-funded research body documenting Colombia’s “sea of invisible victims” in this dirty war of five decades that has clamed over 220,000 lives and displaced 6 million more.

    In 1996, Scotland on Sunday exposed the campaign of terror in the oil fields of Casanare being waged by the Army’s 16th Brigade, a 3000 strong unit created for and funded by a consortium of international oil companies led by BP.

    The Brigade protected the multinationals from left wing guerrillas who kidnapped staff and bombed oil installations, but its soldiers were also conducting a counter-insurgency strategy of ‘cleansing’ the area of legitimate unarmed social movements who they regarded as sympathisers or rebel fronts.

    20 years on, in the shadow of a ceasefire and demobilisation agreement announced last Thursday between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the country’s largest guerrilla group, the killing of those standing up for their communities and the environment in Casanare continues with almost complete impunity.

    State institutions and the courts are at best under-resourced and lacklustre, at worst complicit in covering up environmental crimes and political murder. Regulators who do their job too well are killed or sidelined.

    Several farmers in the basketball circle chose rocks as symbols of their historic resistance to the excesses of the multinational presence, which has grown to now include Spanish, Canadian and Chinese oil companies.

    But that resistance has come at too high a price, veteran peasant leader, Martin Ayala, reminded them. “Twenty years ago the Association of Peasant Farmers (ADUC) in Casanare was fighting for everything. It cost us the lives of six leaders just to get a road paved in the settlement of El Morro,” he said.

    Ayala’s predecessor was killed in 1995 after leading a peaceful stoppage that paralysed BP’s operation in El Morro over the failure to provide jobs and meaningful social benefits. The two sicarios(assassins) ordered beer and cigarettes from Carlos Arregui’s shop at the front of the family home before gunning him down in front of his children. The police, unusually, were on hand minutes later but did not secure the beer bottles and cigarette butts for forensic testing.

    Since 1996, the entire leadership of ADUC and the community leaders of El Morro have been assassinated or threatened; turning legitimate protest into an act of suicide or, at best, a game of Russian roulette.

    Rubiel Vargas, an engineer, whose brother, Oswaldo, was assassinated in 2004, said: “The campaign of murdering community leaders in El Morro - the last was killed in 2014 - is organised. But I fear to say by whom.”

    Ayala laid a branch of leaves on the growing pile of objects to symbolise the medicinal value of Casanare’s flora in protecting against the toxic effects of oil contamination.

    Memories are long here that while re-branding itself as a green oil company in the UK, BP was secretly dumping toxic waste in unlined pits throughout Casanare, without any record of where.

    A retired nurse placed a cup of water on the pile to symbolise the threat of contamination from new seismic explosions and oil spills caused by old, corroded pipelines. She too called for collective struggle “to not be uprooted from our land and put somewhere we don’t belong.”

    The threat of displacement from farmland rendered infertile by oil development is a slow death for many. Self-sufficiency is replaced by city dwelling poverty.

    THE workshop in Las Brisas marked the inauguration of a training school funded by UK charity War on Want’s Oil Justice campaign. It aims to teach farmers and community leaders the detective skills for uncovering evidence that might hold multinationals to account.

    Across Colombia, death squads are targeting activists in areas marked for mineral, energy and industrial farming projects that are often backed by multinationals and international banks, says Peter Drury, Amnesty International’s lead researcher on Colombia for the last 20 years.

    The Daniel Abril Fuentes School of environmental and social research is named after a 38-year-old cattle farmer and environmental activist gunned down on 13 November last year in Trinidad, a town in Casanare long dominated by paramilitaries.

    Those who did for the young father are still at large. Abril was not politically aligned, his family say, but acted as a mediator between communities, oil companies and agribusinesses – rice and palm oil - during various work stoppages and disputes.

    “He was always independent”, Hector Abril, his father, explained wearing a traditional Stetson and black armband. The police did not interview the family but posted a 30 million pesos (£7500) reward for information. “It is too little”, says Hector. “The pain and the tears won’t stop. I would give anything just to know what happened.”

    Abril had to leave Casanare in 2007 after an attempt on his life with the apparent collusion of a now disbanded secret police unit. He fled to a neighbouring department with his young son, Daniel junior, only returning after three years to continue his defence of the environment.

    “He told me he was going to have to leave again because of renewed death threats about what he was doing,” recalls Daniel junior, now fourteen but with a maturity beyond his years gained from attending many meetings by his father’s side.

    “Two months before he was killed, three men claiming to be soldiers from the 16th Brigade told a neighbour that Dad should come in for a talk. He called the Brigade who at first denied it then said the three soldiers were theirs. We want the intellectual authors and those who did it brought to justice. There is CCTV footage. We just want the prosecutors to do their job.”

    WHEN BP’s Deepwater Horizon well exploded in 2010, killing eleven workers and contaminating the Gulf of Mexico, the oil giant sold its Casanare assets the following year to help pay over $20bn in damages for the biggest environmental disaster in US history.

    Today, there is almost no sign in Casanare of BP’s once ubiquitous green-washed Helios logo. It’s as if removing all trace of BP’s presence was a condition of the $1.75bn sale to Equion Energy, a joint venture between the Colombian state oil company and Canadian firm, Talisman, whose 49% share was last year bought by Repsol from Spain.

    Equion has four oil production contracts, two of which are with UK based Emerald Energy, now part of a Chinese state-controlled firm.

    The local community, however, are blocking plans to drill a new set of wells in El Morro, BP’s old nemesis. With the price of speaking out so high, demands for gasification of the eighteen villages is hard to write off as greed.

    Equion says its has “excellent relations” in El Morro. Privately, however, it blames local political corruption for misappropriating past oil royalties and creating unfair expectations on oil companies to replace the state.

    Tired of waiting for Colombian courts to deliver justice, communities affected by oil development in Casanare have been turning to the UK courts, where BP’s legacy is as much on trial.

    Judgement is imminently expected in a case London lawyers Leigh Day have brought on behalf of farmers whose land they claim was affected by the construction of the BP-operated and part-owned Ocensa pipeline, which carries oil from Casanare to Colombia’s Caribbean coast.

    The long trial was unexpected because in 2006 BP settled early with farmers affected by the same pipeline, some of who were living on an urban rubbish dump. Leigh Day took half the £3.2m settlement money in fees.

    Since 2014, BP and Equion have been vigorously defending another claim by different UK lawyers. The oil companies are accused of complicity in the kidnap and torture by paramilitaries of Gilberto Torres, an oil union leader behind a stoppage at a key pumping station in Casanare.

    BP and Equion strenuously deny any involvement. However, five paramilitaries claimed during their criminal trial in Colombia that Ocensa had paid them to kill the troublesome Torres. Furthermore, allegations of a general “liaison” between paramilitaries and BP’s security department are supported by internal oil company documents disclosed in the Torres claim.

    THE Scotland on Sunday expose in 1996 and widespread political outcry led BP and later Equion to adopt new security arrangements. Funding for the 16thBrigade, for non-lethal assistance only, was from then on routed through the defence ministry with a requirement that soldiers and private security companies - Equion use G4S - receive periodic human rights training.

    However, it has emerged that since 2002 the 16thBrigade has been executing innocent civilians and then manipulating dead bodies to look like guerrillas killed in combat so that the army could appear to be winning the war.

    The so-called ‘false positives’ scandal involved the execution of at least 3000 innocent civilians by seven army brigades between 2002 and 2008. In Casanare, the 16th Brigade is under investigation for 133 suspected executions.

    A short walk from the workshop in Las Brisas, locals have erected a monument to their dead at a crossroads called Coral de Piedra. Here, they say, is where the army helicopter would pick up the dumped bodies of farmers dressed as guerrilla fighters who soldiers had really slaughtered in their homes.

    One double murder under investigation is that of 38 year-old Daniel Arciniegas and his 15-year-old son, Roque Julio, from a nearby village in the municipality of Aguazul.

    Months after reporting having seen soldiers murder two young men, in March 2007, Roque Julio, the witness, and his father were killed and presented as guerrilla combatants themselves.

    Before returning to a farewell lunch at the basketball court, the group of newly trained community detectives recited aloud the words on the banner hung at the crossroads: “Those that died for life cannot be called the dead. They are builders of a new society.”

    Martin Ayala finished with a chant sadly all too often heard in these parts. It went: “For our dead. Not one minute of silence. Everything in the struggle.”

    Onto the pile of objects in the basketball court, SoS placed a pen – a commitment to monitor the oil fields of terror in the era of a fragile peace.
    "We say to the workers: 'You will have to go through fifteen, twenty, fifty years of civil wars and international wars, not only in order to change existing conditions, but also in order to change yourselves and fit yourselves for the exercise of political power."'

    MARX (On the Communist Trial at Cologne, 1851).

  5. #5
    After Berta Cáceres, another Honduran Indigenous environmental activist murdered

    july 11 2016

    The bloody campaign against opponents of Honduras' right-wing president, Juan Orlando Hernández, continues, as worldwide resistance to the slaughter of indigenous and environmental activists reaches the halls of the U.S. Congress.

    On Wednesday afternoon, July 7, the body of Lenca indigenous environmental activist Lesbia Yaneth Urquía was found near the municipal dump of the town of Marcala, about 190 kilometers west of the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa. She had either been shot or hacked to death, according to different reports.

    Ms. Urquía was a member of COPINH, the Civic Council of People's and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras-the same organization formerly headed by Berta Cáceres, also an indigenous Lenca, who was shot to death on March 3. Urquía, like Cáceres, had been actively involved in organizing protests against mining companies that have been building dams in Honduras to provide water for their environmentally-destructive activities.

    Tomás Gómez, the coordinator of COPINH, dismissed the idea that this was a simple crime without political ramifications. Rather, he says, it was an attempt to silence opposition to the activities of extractive industries and their political allies. Since the coup d'état which ousted leftist President Manuel Zelaya in June 2009, more than 100 environmental activists have been murdered in Honduras, many in the same La Paz district where Ms. Urquía lost her life.

    This new horror comes at a moment of increased controversy over the Cáceres murder. On June 21, the British Guardian newspaper posted a story based on an interview with a Honduran army officer, who was not named and is now in hiding. The officer, a non-commissioned man who was part of a militarized police unit, the Inter-Institutional Security Force, or FUSINA, reported that in 2015, he had seen lists of opposition activists distributed to the troops and marked as people to be assassinated. Berta Cáceres was one of the people whose name appeared on a list.

    This would have been scandalous enough, but the military units which received these lists had been receiving training from the United States Marines and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Presumably, this training was paid for by the money that the United States has been sending to Honduras - $200 million supposedly assigned to "improve security" and thus prevent the arrival of children and families trying to flee violence at U.S. borders. The tendency in Honduras to subordinate policing to the military has been seen by Hondurans and others as a very alarming development, but the money has kept flowing nevertheless.

    On the day after the Guardian article appeared, the Honduran government hotly denied the accusations about the hit list, and threatened to sue the newspaper for slandering the country. However, Annie Bird, an expert in the repression of environmental activists in Honduras, quickly demolished Defense Minister Samuel Reyes' claims, presenting detailed evidence of the existence of the units among which the death lists were said to have been circulated and much more.

    Last month, the Honduran government reported the arrest of five men for the murder of Berta Cáceres, evidently giving up their original attempt to claim the attack was carried out by rival members of COPINH. The men include one active service military officer, Major Mariano Díaz, who had been trained by the U.S.-supported TESON training program, and Sergio Rodriguez, the former head of community relations for DESA, the main company involved in building the Agua Zarca dam. This is the project Cáceres had been protesting against at the time of her death. The overall impunity rate for such murders in Honduras, however, remains high.

    International calls for an end to U.S. support for the Honduran military and security forces continue to mount, including a new statement from the AFL-CIO. The U.S. State Department has at long last announced that it will look into the Guardian's accusations about hit lists, though details of what such an investigation will encompass are yet to be revealed.

    Meanwhile, in Washington D.C., the organization 300 with Dignity (300 con Dignidad) urged the U.S. Congress to pass the "Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act, HR 5474. This law, sponsored by Rep. Henry "Hank" Johnson (D-Georgia), now has 20 co-sponsors in the House and calls for a complete suspension of military and security aid to Honduras.

    Members of the public are urged to contact their congressional representatives and insist that they support HR 5474.

    Photo: Honduras' largest tribe, the Lenca, protest a proposed hydroelectric dam in October 2006. Lesbia Yaneth Urquia, who also fought the dam, was assassinated. | AP
    "We say to the workers: 'You will have to go through fifteen, twenty, fifty years of civil wars and international wars, not only in order to change existing conditions, but also in order to change yourselves and fit yourselves for the exercise of political power."'

    MARX (On the Communist Trial at Cologne, 1851).

  6. #6
    Canada Mining Companies in Latin America Have Blood on Hands

    An injured protester flees as riot police use tear gas and batons to disperse a protest against the Tambor mine, Guatemala, May 23, 2014. | Photo: Reuters

    Published 24 October 2016 (23 hours 40 minutes ago)

    A new report finds that the corporate social responsibility governing Canada's mining industry brings human rights abuses and death to Latin American communities.
    Canadian mining companies came under renewed criticism Monday for their role in dozens of deaths, hundreds of injuries, and their systemic criminalization of mostly nonviolent grassroots activists protesting their operations in Latin American countries over the past 15 years, a new report found. The report sheds further light on the notorious human rights and environmental track records of Canadian corporations extracting resources abroad.

    Compiled by the Toronto-based Justice and Corporate Accountability Project at York University's Osgoode Hall Law School, the report documents incidents in over a dozen countries by 28 Canadian mining giants, including big names like Barrick Gold, Goldcorp and Tahoe Resources that have repeatedly garnered criticism for damning reports of human rights violations and environmental destruction at their mines. It also calls attention to the urgent need for greater accountability, both from corporations and the Canadian government, to treat reports of violence with the gravity they warrant.

    In total, the “The ‘Canada Brand:’ Violence and Canadian Mining Companies in Latin America” documents 44 deaths—30 of which are described as clearly “targeted”—across 11 countries and 403 injuries—363 of which happened during protests and other confrontations—across 13 different countries, between 2000 and 2015.

    It also records 709 cases of criminalization over the same period against opponents of mining activities, including arrests, charges, formal complaints and other litigation targeting activists and community leaders.

    The report lays bare differences in the kinds of violence communities face at the hands of Canadian mining corporations in different countries. Guatemala—home to contentious and controversy-embroiled mines like Tahoe Resources’ Escobal silver mine and Goldcorp’s Marlin gold mine—suffered the most deaths with 12 fatalities linked to four Canadian mining projects. Mexico, Colombia, El Salvador and Peru followed with eight, six, five and four deaths, respectively, in connection with one or more Canadian mining projects.

    On the other hand, three Canadian projects associated with violence in Argentina—home to Barrick Gold's disputed Veladero mine—did not have blood on their hands with the deaths of activists, but clearly led in the number of instances of arrests, charges and detention of anti-mining activists with a total of 114 such cases. Honduras, Guatemala, Panama and Peru followed with 85, 71, 70 and 56 cases of criminalization tied to two or more projects.

    Meanwhile, Mexico was home to the largest number of Canadian mining projects linked to reports of violence and repression, with a total of six such mines.

    What’s more, the researchers found that Canadian companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange systematically exclude violent incidents from their required reporting. Human rights groups have used these reporting requirements in the past to launch complaints against mining corporations based on the argument that their negligent reporting is misleading for investors.

    The actual extent of violence and repression at Canadian mines in Latin America is likely much higher than what is detailed in the report, since the study only documented cases that could be corroborated by two independent sources. The authors note that additional reports of deaths, injuries, and other abuses also surfaced during the investigation, but could not be included based on the methodology. The report acknowledges that the number of cases of sexual violence most likely do not reflect the reality due to the fact that such abuses are chronically underreported. The authors also note that other kinds of human rights abuses suffered as a result of Canadian mining were excluded from the study.

    “We were not able to include death threats, deliberate burning of crops and property destruction, forced displacement, reported assassination attempts without reported injury, illness from environmental contamination, or psychological trauma from any of the violence due to the extensive resources required to document these incidents,” reads the executive summary.

    Despite being a partial picture, the authors stress that the report provides evidence of Canadian mining companies direct involvement in violence in Latin America and express hope that the study can act as a call to action for discussion at how to tighten regulations on the industry.

    The report is far from the first time the Canadian mining industry has been thrust into the spotlight for its rampant abuses. In fact, a number of high-profile international bodies — including four United Nations bodies and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights—have condemned the systematic abuses committed at the hands of Canadian companies, urging the Canadian government to reform its policy of industry self-regulation in favor of more strict requirements for extractive companies. Earlier this year, over 180 organizations from across Latin America penned a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau demanding the government act in the face of runaway abuses by Canadian mining companies.

    The barrage of criticism, though, has done little to stem the human rights violations at the hands of an industry that enjoys voluntary and non-enforceable “corporate social responsibility” codes governing its business practices.

    Nevertheless, local plaintiffs impacted by human rights abuses and environmental destruction in Latin American countries are increasingly seeking recourse in Canadian courts. As the new report highlights, though, it's a David vs. Goliath battle.
    "We say to the workers: 'You will have to go through fifteen, twenty, fifty years of civil wars and international wars, not only in order to change existing conditions, but also in order to change yourselves and fit yourselves for the exercise of political power."'

    MARX (On the Communist Trial at Cologne, 1851).

  7. #7
    Son of Honduran Human Rights and Resistance Activist Murdered

    Fernando Aleman Banegas was assassinated in La Ceiba in the early hours of Monday morning. | Photo: Facebook / Comunicaciones Mendoza

    Published 31 October 2016 (3 hours 45 minutes ago)

    In post-coup Honduras, a coup which Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton supported, the corpses continue to pile up.
    Human rights organizations are raising alarm after yet another assassination in Honduras, this time of the son of a prominent resistance activist, human rights defender, and aspiring progressive candidate for local political office with the left-wing Libre party.

    Fernando Aleman Banegas was shot dead in the early hours of Monday morning when we was getting into his car after leaving a club in the northern port city of La Ceiba, according to local reports. The gunmen reportedly fled the scene on a motorcycle.

    Aleman will be buried in the nearby city of Tocoa, which borders the Aguan Valley agricultural region, home to a brutally repressive land conflict between campesino communities and large private landowners.

    Aleman’s mother, Elsy Banegas, has accompanied the campesinos struggle for years as the President of the Coordinator of Popular Organizations of the Aguan, known as COPA, a human rights group focused on labor and campesino issues in the region. Banegas is also an aspiring mayoral candidate for Tocoa with the Libre party, founded as an offshoot of the popular resistance movement in the wake of the 2009 U.S.-backed coup, in order push for a constituent assembly to rewrite the Honduran constitution at the ballot box, to complement their street resistance.

    According to the Honduran human rights organization COFADEH, Banegas’ candidacy “threatens the interests of transnational mining companies and large landowners in the region.” The prominent activist has long been a vocal critic of systematic grave human rights abuses, impunity and the consequences of militarization in the region, particularly since the coup.

    Banegas’ organization COPA reported after the murder that the social leader has “on many occasions received death threats for acting against mining companies, privatization and against the violation of human rights.”

    Aleman’s assassination came hours before Libre kicked off its internal elections process to select the party’s new leadership leading up to the 2017 general election. Despite the shadow of violence, participation in the process surpassed the party’s own goals, according to Libre leader and ousted President Manuel Zelaya, with at least 239,000 people casting votes when estimates expected participation of 150,000 in the country of about 8 million.

    Human rights organizations have called for a thorough and impartial investigation into Aleman’s murder.

    The killing comes just two weeks after two Aguan campesino activists were murdered. Jose Angel Flores, president of the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguan, one of the most prominent land rights organizations on the forefront of the Honduran resistance movement, and his fellow activists Silmer Dionisio George were both gunned down on Oct. 17. Since 2010, the bloody land conflict in the Aguan has claimed the lives of nearly 150 campesinos, according to human rights groups.

    The wave of assassinations also comes months after the high-profile killing of internationally-renowned Indigenous activist Berta Caceres in March. Caceres' case has come to epitomize the grave human rights situation in Honduras and systemic impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of political violence.

    Human rights organizations have stressed that the United States — which under the leadership of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton helped secure the 2009 coup — is complicit in the ongoing crisis in Honduras and must cut all aid funding to the Honduran government and military.

    Video at link.


    The US and Canada Have Blood on Their Hands in Honduras
    By: Grahame Russell

    Members of the military police march during a parade commemorating Independence Day of Honduras. | Photo: Reuters

    Published 22 October 2016

    The international community needs to be held to account for propping up and subsidizing the murderous regime in Honduras.
    Honduran military and police forces, backed by the international community and in particular millions of U.S. dollars, once again brutally attacked peaceful protesters in a week that saw more social movement blood spilt.

    The march on Thursday organized by the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, or COPINH, and OFRANEH, an organization which represents the Afro-Indigenous Garifuna people, converged outside the Attorney General’s office to demand justice following the assassination of two more prominant social movement leaders in the country.

    During the attack, heavily armed police and COBRA forces (Special Operations Command) indiscriminately fired tear gas canisters and water cannons and physically beat girls and boys, women and men, and the elderly.

    Police and COBRA forces attacked just as OFRANEH was initiating a drumming and spiritual ceremony. COPINH was once led by globally-renowned activist Berta Caceres, who was murdered this year for opposing the construction of a dam. They are two of the most respected community organizations in Honduras since before the 2009 U.S. and Canadian-backed military coup, and particularly since then.

    Eyewitness Karen Spring from the Honduras Solidarity Network reported: "The repression was brutal and I've been in a lot of repressive marches since the 2009 coup. This one was up there with the worst, especially since a COPINH member reported that one police took his gun out and fired a shot at his feet. It all happened so fast and no one expected it; there was no time to get children and elderly out. People were grabbing kids and running with them as they were crying and choking from the teargas. The police chased protestors for almost 2 kilometers from the Attorney General's office."

    COPINH and OFRANEH marched to denounce the assassinations this week of Jose Angel Flores and Silmer Dionosio George, two leaders of MUCA, or the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguan, and the recent attempted killing of two COPINH members. The organizations also are demanding justice for the March 3 assassination of COPINH co-founder Caceres; the establishment of an independent international commission to investigate her assassination; and to demand cancellation of the concession granted illegally to the DESA corporation to develop the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam project in Rio Blanco, along with numerous other illegal mining and hydroelectric concessions on Lenca territories in western Honduras.

    Berta Caceres’ Daughter Speaks

    After the attack, Berta Caceres’ daughter – Bertita – spoke in a press conference:

    “This is yet another act of repression against people demanding justice for the assassination of our compañera Berta Cáceres. How is it possible that soldiers, weapons and repression are the only way the regime deals with us, even when we have Protective Measures from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights? … Despite all this repression, harassment and criminalization, we will not permit the construction of development projects of death in our communities.”

    Do Not Write Letters of Protest to the Regime

    Wondering what to do about this latest act of State repression in Honduras?

    Don’t write letters of protest to the regime.

    They are impervious to them. In power since the 2009 coup, the economic, military and political elites care about two things: maintaining their mutually beneficial economic and political relations with and support from the international community (primarily: governments of U.S., Canada and the European community; the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank; and a host of global investors and companies working in the sectors of African palm, sugar cane, bananas, garment “sweatshop” factories, mining and tourism); and, maintaining relations with and support from the U.S. military.

    The repression, corruption and impunity in Honduras are not “Honduran” problems. They are problems of this so-called “international community” together with the Honduran elites. International economic and military relations are the lifeblood of the regime. This is how power works.

    Through our denunciations and activism, we have to make this “international community” take responsibility for its actions. If accountability is not brought to complicity of the military, economic and political backers of the Honduran regime, the repression, corruption and impunity will not stop.

    Grahame Russell is a non-practicing Canadian lawyer, author, adjunct professor at the University of Northern British Columbia and, since 1995, director of Rights Action ( / Follow, also, the work of the Honduras Solidarity Network (

    Videos at link.
    "We say to the workers: 'You will have to go through fifteen, twenty, fifty years of civil wars and international wars, not only in order to change existing conditions, but also in order to change yourselves and fit yourselves for the exercise of political power."'

    MARX (On the Communist Trial at Cologne, 1851).

  8. #8
    The public debate of the nation: an exercise in constant evolution
    Depending on the climate further enhance exchange between the people and their representatives, the third process delegate accountability to their constituents was recently launched throughout the country,

    Author: Lauren Hernandez Cespedes |
    November 8, 2016 00:11:00

    First Process Delegate accountability to their constituents. XVI Mandate of the Municipal Assemblies of People's Power of Havana Vieja. Constituency 7 Old Havana Cathedral Council. Delegate: Antonio R. Hernandez Mena Photo: Anabel Diaz

    The transparent dialogue with their governances citizenship is essential for the harmonious development of a society premise. Depending on further enhance the climate of exchange between the people and their representatives, the third process of accountability delegate their constituents was recently launched throughout the country, corresponding to the sixteenth mandate of the Municipal Assemblies of People's Power .

    These sessions are an exercise of analysis and reflection on the needs and demands of the community, the problems that affect it, as well as a space of (self) critique management solutions made by delegates in their respective jurisdictions.

    More than 66 600 such meetings will take place throughout Cuba until next December 30, where the simple act of raising your hand represent the conscious and explicit fellow citizens to comment, criticize or inquire about their immediate environment and prospects of development. In this regard, they instituted as platforms for discussion and public debate, and above all, a compass that sets the direction and speed of changes and social thought of the nation.

    This time the process takes place in the context of commemorations for the 40th anniversary of the People's Power and close to the general election next year.

    In line with the concept that defends -related to the empowerment of citizens, especially the younger generation, participation in social spaces again be incorporated into the process as activists, youth and students in higher and pre-university education. His presence there not only provide them with greater knowledge of our political and institutional system, but allow them to contribute ideas and evaluate from practice, one of the unique elements of democracy in Cuba: the accountability of the delegate to their constituents.

    The prior preparation of the representatives of the people, guided by the directions of the municipal assemblies, is one of the factors that must pay tribute to the success of the process. However, the constant and consistent work of the delegate does not complete its meaning and becomes solutions and satisfactions, without proper and usual intervention of the institutions that are part of the problems, and the voters themselves, as the community united , it has the greatest strength.

    Google Translator

    I wish I lived in a democracy.

    So I participated in bourgeois democracy and now I feel like a douche bag.

    Biggest crowd that I've seen at this precinct in 15 years, gonna be a mudslide for Trump.
    "We say to the workers: 'You will have to go through fifteen, twenty, fifty years of civil wars and international wars, not only in order to change existing conditions, but also in order to change yourselves and fit yourselves for the exercise of political power."'

    MARX (On the Communist Trial at Cologne, 1851).

  9. #9
    Captured in Mexico involved in murder of Berta Cáceres

    Hondurans still cry for justice in the case of Berta Cáceres. | Photo: Efe.

    Published 13 January 2017

    Coordination with Central American countries (El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico) allowed Honduran police to arrest a new man implicated in the death of the leader.
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    The Honduran ex-militant Henry Javier Hernández Rodríguez, one of those implicated in the murder of environmentalist and human rights defender Berta Cáceres, was captured in Mexico.

    Hernández Rodríguez was captured in a barber shop in the state of Reynosa where he worked, Ricardo Castro, director of the Technical Agency for Criminal Investigation (ATIC), told reporters.

    Hernández Rodríguez, 26 years old.

    "I want to state that based on the research and intelligence work that the ATIC has carried out, it has come to the conclusion that the seventh person who is accused of this crime has been captured," Castro said.

    >> Captured sixth implicated in murder of Berta Caceres

    According to the head of the ATIC, there is scientific evidence that Hernández Rodríguez would be the intellectual and material author of the violent death of Berta Cáceres, who opposed the development of a hydroelectric project in western Honduras because he considered that it would cause damage to the environment in That region.

    The capture of the ex-military was possible after a work of several months coordinated with the police of El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico, he added.

    Hernández Rodríguez is guarded in Mexico by local authorities and two agents of the ATIC.

    In context

    Caceres was killed on March 3 fr 2016 and have since been captured seven men, six of whom are accused as alleged perpetrators of the murder of environmentalist in the city of Intibucá, in western Honduras, where he lived.

    Until now the material and intellectual authors of the Cáceres murder, which caused commotion at national and international level, are unknown.

    Google Translator
    "We say to the workers: 'You will have to go through fifteen, twenty, fifty years of civil wars and international wars, not only in order to change existing conditions, but also in order to change yourselves and fit yourselves for the exercise of political power."'

    MARX (On the Communist Trial at Cologne, 1851).

  10. #10
    Award-Winning Mexico Indigenous Environmental Activist Murdered

    Isidro Baldenegro Lopez, accepting his award at the 2005 Goldman Prize award ceremony. | Photo: Goldman Prize

    Published 17 January 2017

    The story echoes those of other Indigenous activists across Latin America who have been killed for defending their native land, like Berta Caceres.
    Isidro Baldenegro Lopez, an award-winning Indigenous environmental activist who fought against deforestation in Mexico, was assassinated last weekend, Proceso reports.

    Baldenegro, the 2005 recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize for North America, was found dead outside a relative’s house in Chihuahua. Witnesses claim the murder suspects are linked with known assassins of other Indigenous environmental activists in the region.

    Baldenegro will be buried in Coloradas de la Virgen, the land belonging to his native Tarahumara community, which he and his family defended for decades.

    In March 2003, he was arrested for 15 months for organizing protests against unregulated logging in the Sierra Madre Mountains. Two decades prior, his father was shot and killed in front of him shortly after, leading to mass protests against logging corporations.

    Baldenegro’s story echoes those of countless other Indigenous environmental activists across Latin America who have been killed for defending their native lands, like Berta Caceres and Walter Mendez Barrios.

    Murdered in March last year, Caceres was a Honduran Indigenous activist who was killed amid a campaign she led to stop the construction of a hydroelectric dam that threatened to harm lands belonging to her native Lenca people. She was also a recipient of the Goldman Prize.

    While Caceres' death attracted international attention, just days later Walter Mendez Barrios, a Guatemalan environmental activist, was also murdered. He was the leader of the Association of Forest Communities of Peten, which sought to protect Indigenous lands against deforestation led by foreign corporations.

    Investigative journalism group Global Witness reports that Latin America had the highest murder rate of environmental activists in 2015, compared to other regions.

    While Baldenegro was officially recognized for his work defending his native lands in Mexico, he was widely championed as a hero of Indigenous land rights across the world.

    “Baldenegro’s courageous efforts have made him a national and international hero,” the Goldman Prize site writes of the deceased Tarahumara leader.

    “He brought world attention to the beautiful, ecologically crucial old-growth forests of the Sierra Madre as well as the survival of the Tarahumara.”

    Baldenegro was just 50 years old.

    Video at link
    "We say to the workers: 'You will have to go through fifteen, twenty, fifty years of civil wars and international wars, not only in order to change existing conditions, but also in order to change yourselves and fit yourselves for the exercise of political power."'

    MARX (On the Communist Trial at Cologne, 1851).

  11. #11
    Berta Cáceres court papers show murder suspects' links to US-trained elite troops

    The Honduran environmental activist’s killing a year ago bears the hallmarks of a ‘well-planned operation designed by military intelligence’ says legal source
    Indigenous Hondurans and peasants march to demand justice for the murder of Berta Cáceres on 17 August 2016 in Tegucigalpa.

    Hondurans demand justice for Berta Cáceres on 17 August 2016 in Tegucigalpa. Officials have denied a state role in the killing despite the arrest of one serving and two ex-soldiers. Photograph: Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images

    Nina Lakhani

    Tuesday 28 February 2017 05.00 EST Last modified on Tuesday 28 February 2017 10.26 EST

    Leaked court documents raise concerns that the murder of the Honduran environmentalist Berta Cáceres was an extrajudicial killing planned by military intelligence specialists linked to the country’s US–trained special forces, a Guardian investigation can reveal.

    Cáceres was shot dead a year ago while supposedly under state protection after receiving death threats over her opposition to a hydroelectric dam.

    The murder of Cáceres, winner of the prestigious Goldman environmental prize in 2015, prompted international outcry and calls for the US to revoke military aid to Honduras, a key ally in its war on drugs.

    Eight men have been arrested in connection with the murder, including one serving and two retired military officers.

    Officials have denied state involvement in the activist’s murder, and downplayed the arrest of the serving officer Maj Mariano Díaz, who was hurriedly discharged from the army.

    But the detainees’ military records and court documents seen by the Guardian reveal that:

    Díaz, a decorated special forces veteran, was appointed chief of army intelligence in 2015, and at the time of the murder was on track for promotion to lieutenant colonel.
    Another suspect, Lt Douglas Giovanny Bustillo joined the military on the same day as Díaz; they served together and prosecutors say they remained in contact after Bustillo retired in 2008.
    Díaz and Bustillo both received military training in the US.
    A third suspect, Sgt Henry Javier Hernández, was a former special forces sniper, who had worked under the direct command of Díaz. Prosecutors believe he may also have worked as an informant for military intelligence after leaving the army in 2013.
    Court documents also include the records of mobile phone messages which prosecutors believe contain coded references to the murder.

    Bustillo and Hernández visited the town of La Esperanza, where Cáceres lived, several times in the weeks before her death, according to phone records and Hernández’s testimony.

    A legal source close to the investigation told the Guardian: “The murder of Berta Cáceres has all the characteristics of a well-planned operation designed by military intelligence, where it is absolutely normal to contract civilians as assassins.

    “It’s inconceivable that someone with her high profile, whose campaign had made her a problem for the state, could be murdered without at least implicit authorisation of military high command.”

    The Honduran defence ministry ignored repeated requests from the Guardian for comment, but the head of the armed forces recently denied that military deaths squads were operating in the country.

    Five civilians with no known military record have also been arrested. They include Sergio Rodríguez, a manager for the internationally funded Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam which Cáceres had opposed.

    The project is being led by Desarrollos Energéticos SA, (Desa), which has extensive military and government links. The company’s president, Roberto David Castillo Mejía, is a former military intelligence officer, and its secretary, Roberto Pacheco Reyes, is a former justice minister. Desa employed former lieutenant Bustillo as head of security between 2013 and 2015.

    Cáceres had reported 33 death threats linked to her campaign against the dam, including several from Desa employees. Desa denies any involvement in the murder.

    Cáceres was killed at about 11.30pm on 2 March, when at least four assassins entered the gated community to which she had recently moved on the outskirts of La Esperanza.

    Berta Cáceres speaks to people near the Gualcarque river in 2015 where residents were fighting a dam project.

    Berta Cáceres speaks to people near the Gualcarque river in 2015 where residents were fighting a dam project. Photograph: Tim Russo/AP
    A checkpoint at the entrance to the town – normally manned by police officers or soldiers – was left unattended on the night she was killed, witnesses have told the Guardian.

    Initially, investigators suggested the murderer was a former lover or disgruntled co-worker. But amid mounting international condemnation, Díaz, Bustillo and two others were arrested in May 2016.

    Hernández, who was eventually arrested in Mexico, is the only suspect to have given detailed testimony in court. He has admitted his involvement, but says he acted under duress.

    All eight have been charged with murder and attempted murder. The other seven suspects have either denied involvement or not given testimony in court.

    Prosecutors say that phone records submitted to court show extensive communication between the three military men, including a text message which was a coded discussion of payment for a contract killing.

    American experts have been involved in the investigation from the start, according to the US embassy in Tegucigalpa.

    Senator Ben Cardin, ranking member of the Senate foreign relations committee, said US support should not be unconditional: “It is essential that we not only strengthen our commitment to improving the rule of law in Honduras, but we must also demand greater accountability for human rights violations and attacks against civil society.”

    Last year, the Guardian reported that a former Honduran soldier said he had seen Cáceres’s name on a hitlist that was passed to US-trained units.

    1Sgt Rodrigo Cruz said that two elite units were given lists featuring the names and photographs of activists – and ordered to eliminate each target.

    Cruz’s unit commander deserted rather than comply with the order. The rest of the unit were then sent on leave.

    In a follow-up interview with the Guardian, Cruz said the hitlist was given by the Honduran military joint chiefs of staff to the commander of the Xatruch multi-agency taskforce, to which his unit belonged.

    Cruz – who asked to be referred to by a pseudonym for fear of retribution – deserted after Cáceres’s murder and remains in hiding. The whereabouts of his former colleagues is unknown.

    Following the Guardian’s report, James Nealon, the US ambassador to Honduras, pledged to investigate the allegations, and in an interview last week, said that no stone had been left unturned.

    “I’ve spoken to everyone I can think of to speak to, as have members of my team, and no one can produce such a hitlist,” said Nealon.

    But the embassy did not speak to the Xatruch commander, Nealon said. Activists, including those with information about the alleged hitlist, have told the Guardian they have not been interviewed by US or Honduran officials.

    Lauren Carasik, clinical professor of law at Western New England University, said America’s unwavering support for Honduras suggests it tolerates impunity for intellectual authors of high-profile targeted killings.

    “Washington cannot, in good conscience, continue to ignore mounting evidence that the Honduran military was complicit in the extrajudicial assassination of Cáceres.”

    Extrajudicial killings by the security forces and widespread impunity are among the most serious human rights violations in Honduras, according to the US state department.

    Nevertheless, the US is the main provider of military and police support to Honduras, and last year approved $18m of aid.

    The Gualcarque river, sacred to local indigenous communities and the site of the controversial Agua Zarca dam.

    The Gualcarque river, sacred to local indigenous communities and the site of the controversial Agua Zarca dam. Photograph: Giles Clarke/Global Witness
    In recent years, US support has focused on Honduras’s special forces units, originally created as a counterinsurgency force during the 1980s “dirty war”.

    The elite units ostensibly target terrorism, organised crime and gangs, but campaigners say the Honduran intelligence apparatus is used to target troublesome community leaders.

    Violence against social activists has surged since a military backed coup d’état ousted populist president Manuel Zelaya in 2009. Since then at least 124 land and environmental campaigners have been killed.

    A recent investigation by corruption watchdog Global Witness described extensive involvement of political, business and military elites in environmentally destructive mega projects which have flourished since the coup.

    One of the most troubled parts of the country has been northern Bajo Aguán region, where a land conflict between palm oil companies and peasant farmers has claimed more than 130 lives over the past six years.

    The Bajo Aguán is also home to the 15th battalion – one of two special forces units in the Honduran army – and the special forces training centre.

    Two of the suspects, Díaz and Hernández, served in the 15th battalion together; Cruz’s elite unit was also stationed in the Bajo Aguán.

    Ambassador Nealon said that there was no record of Díaz, Hernández or Bustillo attending any US training courses in Honduras.

    “Our training programmes for police or for military are not designed to instruct people in how to commit human rights violations or to create an atmosphere in which they believe that they are empowered to commit human rights violations, in fact, just the opposite,” said Nealon.

    Honduran military records show that Díaz attended several counterinsurgency courses at special forces bases in Tegucigalpa and in the Bajo Aguán.

    He also attended cadet leadership courses at Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1997, and a counter-terrorism course at the Inter American air force academy in 2005.

    The court documents also reveal that at the time of his arrest, Díaz, 44, was under investigation for drug trafficking and kidnapping, while also studying for promotion.

    Military records show that in 1997, Bustillo attended logistics and artillery courses at the School of the Americas, at Fort Benning, Georgia, which trained hundreds of Latin American officers who later committed human rights abuses.
    "We say to the workers: 'You will have to go through fifteen, twenty, fifty years of civil wars and international wars, not only in order to change existing conditions, but also in order to change yourselves and fit yourselves for the exercise of political power."'

    MARX (On the Communist Trial at Cologne, 1851).

  12. #12
    Behind the Murder of Berta Cáceres

    By Chris Fry
    Honduran Indigenous leader and environmental activist Berta Cáceres was shot to death a year ago at her home in a gated community, supposedly under Honduran government protection.
    An investigation by the British newspaper The Guardian revealed Feb. 28 that the death of Cáceres, winner of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015, was “an extrajudicial killing planned by military intelligence specialists linked to the country’s U.S.-trained special forces.”
    Cáceres’ murder caused such an outcry within Honduras and internationally that the Honduran government was forced to put eight men on trial for her murder. The Guardian’s investigation revealed that among the accused were:
    Major Mariano Díaz, chief of Honduran army intelligence at the time of the murder, on track to be promoted to lieutenant colonel. He attended cadet leadership courses at Ft. Benning, Ga., in 1997, and a counterterrorism course at the Inter-American Air Forces Academy at Lackland AFB, Texas, in 2005.
    Sgt. Henry Javier Hernández, a former Honduran military special forces sniper.
    Sergio Rodríguez, a manager for the internationally funded Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam, which Cáceres had opposed. This dam project is funded by Desarrollos Energéticos SA (Desa), a corporation headed by Roberto David Castillo Mejía, a former military intelligence officer.
    Retired Lt. Douglas Giovanny Bustillo, who joined the military on the same day as Díaz and had been in constant *contact with him. Bustillo attended logistics and artillery courses at the School of the Americas at Ft. Benning, which trained hundreds of Latin American officers who later committed *human rights *abuses. Bustillo was also head of Desa corporate security between 2013 and 2015.
    Berta Cáceres had reported 33 death threats linked to her campaign against the Desa dam, including many from Desa management. A former Honduran soldier reported that Cáceres was on a hit list that was passed on to U.S.-trained military units.
    Because of these threats, the Honduran government set up a guard station at the gate of Cáceres’ home, but it was left empty on the night of the murder.
    A legal source told the Guardian reporter: “The murder of Berta Cáceres has all the characteristics of a well-planned operation designed by military intelligence, where it is absolutely normal to contract civilians as assassins. It is inconceivable that someone with her high profile, whose campaign had made her a problem for the state, could be murdered without at least implicit authorization of military high command.”
    In 2009, the Honduran military overthrew the elected government in Honduras, with Washington’s tacit support. The U.S. State Department, at the time headed by Hillary Clinton, violated Organization of American States rules by doing nothing to oppose the military junta.
    Since then, military death squads have roamed the country, murdering tens of thousands, particularly Indigenous people, at the behest of mining companies who need dams to power their operations. The U.S. government has proclaimed its opposition to these murders, but has not stopped sending funds to the Honduran military, amounting to $18 million a year.
    The Trump regime has made its position quite clear. Homeland Security Chief John Kelly has proposed tearing Honduran and other Central American refugee children from their mother’s arms if they somehow manage to reach the U.S. border, fleeing death squads. (, March 7)
    "We say to the workers: 'You will have to go through fifteen, twenty, fifty years of civil wars and international wars, not only in order to change existing conditions, but also in order to change yourselves and fit yourselves for the exercise of political power."'

    MARX (On the Communist Trial at Cologne, 1851).

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