Charges Dropped Against Honduras Dam Opponent

Members of COPINH, an indigenous campesino movement defending lands and rivers in Honduras against dams and other threats

June 25 2013

After an eight-hour hearing on June 13, a court in Santa Bárbara, the capital of the western Honduran department of the same name, suspended a legal action against indigenous leader Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores for the alleged illegal possession of a weapon. According to Cáceres’ lawyer, Marcelino Martínez, the court found that there was not enough evidence to proceed with the case. Cáceres, who coordinates the Civic Council of Grassroots and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), is now free to travel out of the country, although the case could still be reopened. Representatives from some 40 organizations came to the city on June 13 in an expression of solidarity with the activist.

Cáceres was arrested along with COPINH radio communicator Tómas Gómez Membreño on May 24 when a group of about 20 soldiers stopped their vehicle and claimed to find a pistol under a car seat [see Update #1178, where we gave the date incorrectly as May 25]. Cáceres and Gómez Membreño had been visiting Lenca communities that were protesting the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project. The leader of the military patrol, First Battalion of Engineers commander Col. Milton Amaya, explicitly linked the arrests to the activists’ political work: the Honduran online publication Proceso Digital reported that Amaya “accused Cáceres of going around haranguing indigenous residents of a border region between Santa Bárbara and Intibucá known as Río Blanco so that they would oppose the building of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam.”

According to SOA Watch—a US-based group that monitors the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly the US Army School of the Americas (SOA)—Amaya has studied at the school on two occasions. (Proceso Digital 5/26/13; Adital (Brazil) 6/14/13; Kaos en la Red 6/14/13 from COPINH, Radio Mundo Real, Honduras Libre, Derechos Humanos; SOA Watch 6/21/13)