2 months after the murder of activist Berta Cáceres, investors begin to withdrawal from dam in Honduras

By Oxfam
Berta Zuniga Cáceres, daughter of slain activist Berta Cáceres, speaks to demonstrators gathered in Washington, DC, on April 5, 2016, as part of a vigil in memory of her mother. In the late hours of the night of March 2, 2016, human rights and land rights defender Cáceres was murdered by armed men who broke into her home in Honduras. Photo: Keith Lane / Oxfam America

Two investors involved in Honduras Agua Zarca project announce their intended exit

This week, the Dutch Development Finance Company (FMO) and Finland’s Finnfund, two of the development banks backing the controversial Agua Zarca hydroelectric project in Honduras, announced they would evaluate a permanent withdrawal to their involvement in the dam.  This announcement comes after two of the four men arrested for the murder of Berta Cáceres were linked to the company in charge of the project and two months after her brutal murder.

A prominent land rights and environmental activist, Berta Cáceres was a Goldman Environmental Prize winner and leader of the Lenca community in its peaceful opposition to the Agua Zarca dam in Honduras. Berta was a well-known human rights defender who died to protect the rights of her people, which were threatened by the Agua Zarca project.

In March, Finnfund and FMO suspended funding to the project, but it was crucial for both to withdraw all their money associated with building the dam. This announcement brings the two companies one step closer to a full exit from the project, but it still remains a question whether the biggest investor, the Central American development bank, CABEI, will follow suit. 

The project is strongly but peacefully opposed by the Lenca people. They face losing their access to the river Gualcarque, an important sacred site and a major source of water and food. Standing up against powerful interests is dangerous and Berta is the latest murder of land activists – in Honduras and across the world.

 “We all have a right to determine what happens on our lands,” said Oxfam’s director in Honduras, George Redman. “FMO and Finnfund’s announcement again underscores the vital need for all development banks to have the free, prior and informed consent of local communities affected by their projects before a single shovel strikes their soil.”

While there have been arrests in the case, investigations need to continue.

 “While we commend the Honduran authorities for taking action and arresting suspects in Berta’s murder, this cannot be end of the case,” continued Redman. “Everyone connected to her death, from those who ordered it, to those who shot her, must stand trial. We continue to demand a thorough, independent investigation, supervised by international observers. Otherwise, we cannot be sure that justice will truly be delivered.”

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