Faith Leader Letter in Support of Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act

Dear Members of Congress,

As people of faith, we mourn the March 2016 assassination of Honduran Indigenous leader Berta Cáceres. Following the 2009 Honduran coup d’etat, multinational corporations and their allies in the Honduran presidencies pushed through hundreds of land concessions in Indigenous territories like Río Blanco and the Gualquarque River, which Berta fought to protect. She rallied her people, the Lenca, and led a grassroots campaign that successfully pressured the largest dam building company in the world to pull out of the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric Dam, although it continues to be constructed with other investors on Lenca territory and the sacred Gualcarque River. Berta’s fearless pursuit of justice and commitment to the earth, her people and justice for all of Honduras and humanity was internationally recognized in 2015 by the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, often referred to as the Green Nobel.

Berta’s life and legacy embody the prophetic currents that run through many of our faith traditions. We celebrate her life, mourn her death, and honor her legacy by joining in a national Week of Action to push forward H.R. 1299, The Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act.

Since the 2009 military coup, violence in Honduras has intensified and the murder rate has propelled the country to be one of the most dangerous places in the world. As part of this tragic panorama, there has been a scourge of killings specifically targeting human rights defenders and other vulnerable populations within the country. A number of these killings, including Berta’s assassination, have been directly linked to Honduran state security forces. Our government, which equips and trains Honduras’ state security forces, shares the responsibility for these killings.

In light of this crisis and our role in it, we believe the U.S. government must immediately cease all aid to Honduras for military operations, training, weaponry and equipment. The U.S. must suspend these funds until the Honduran government can demonstrate to the international community that it has fairly and transparently secured justice for the killings of human rights defenders like Berta Cáceres.

In Berta’s memory, for the sake of the Honduran people, human and environmental rights, we urge you, as U.S. lawmakers--if you haven't already--to co-sponsor H.R. 1299, which would suspend security assistance to Honduras until human rights violations cease and those who commit human rights abuses are truly held to account.

The Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act features the following demands:

- All U.S. aid to Honduran security forces must cease, and the U.S. must vote no on all loans from multinational development banks to Honduras until the following conditions are met:

- A full investigation and prosecution into the murders of Berta Cáceres, 100 small-farmer activists in the Aguán Valley, Joel Palacios Lino and Elvis Armando García.

- A full investigation and prosecution of the armed attack against Félix Molina.

- A full investigation and prosecution of those members of the Honduran military and police forces who have committed human rights abuses.

- That the Honduran military withdraw from domestic policing.

- That the rights of “ rights defenders; trade unionists; journalists; Indigenous, Afro-Indigenous, small farmer and LGBTI activists; human rights defenders; critics of the government; and other civil society activists...” are protected.

- Take steps toward establishing the rule of law and strong democratic systems such as a functioning judiciary branch capable of prosecuting member of the military and police forces.

Our faith traditions call on us to speak truth to power, to seek justice for the most vulnerable populations, and to root out oppression, including for our geographical neighbors. Even if that means challenging U.S. foreign policy, our beliefs compel us to act in solidarity with the people of Latin America, including the Honduran people. Our roles as leaders within our religious communities provide us the unique opportunity and imperative to advocate for social change and to be a moral compass in critical political times. We concur with our Honduran faith and civil society partners that H.R. 1299 will be an effective means to address impunity and move toward sustainable peace and justice. We urge you to join us in supporting the legislation.


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