Oxfam supporters around the world are pressuring the backers of the Agua Zarca dam project in Honduras to withdraw, and demand an independent investigation into the murder of a local Indigenous leader who opposed the project.
Goldman Prize-winner Berta Cáceres, one of the Lenca community leaders protesting against the project, was shot and killed in her home on March 3. Another activist, Gustavo Castro from Friends of the Earth Mexico, was injured during the same attack. He remains in Honduras, sequestered at the Mexican Embassy and in need of protection and safe passage out of the country.
Despite these developments, the regional Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI), the Dutch development bank FMO, Finnfund from Finland, and the Voith-Hydro (Siemens) engineering partnership from Germany continue to back the dam project.
Oxfam’s public campaign calls for these investors to immediately pull out from the project and for Honduran authorities to protect Cáceres’ family and members of her Indigenous rights organization. The campaign also urges Honduran authorities to launch an independent investigation into her murder, under the supervision of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
“This project is tainted and beyond repair,” said Ed Pomfret, the head of Oxfam’s land campaign. “It is emblematic of hundreds of similar projects happening today, all around the world, where the rights of local people are being trampled, leaving them poor and landless.
“We demand that CABEI, FMO, Finnfund and Voith-Hydro do the right thing and withdraw. We need a proper investigation into Berta’s death and the immediate establishment of peace in the area for the Lenca communities, and this can only occur if the project is stopped and the companies pull out,” Pomfret said. “People have been killed and injured and no one has been held responsible. It’s unthinkable that these companies would let this project continue under these circumstances.”
According to “Common Ground,” 2.5 billion people depend on community lands which are under concerted attack by powerful investors and elites. The report, published by Oxfam and partner organizations for the Land Rights Now campaign, describes how local communities have secure ownership rights to only 20% of these lands, and are therefore highly vulnerable to the abusive ways their lands are being grabbed.
The report also highlights Honduras as one of the most dangerous countries to be a land rights activist. Around the world, almost 1,000 land protesters have been killed since 2002.
“Berta’s death must be the last. The only good that can come of it is for her people to emerge successful in their struggle for rights to their lands and resources,” Pomfret said.