'Stop funding murder in Honduras!' Activists slam US government


Banners unfurled by activists in front of the offices of USAID in Washington to protest the agency's support for a controversial dam project on March 14. Photo: Twitter /@the_intercept

Activists in the United States have called on the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to cut support for the Agua Zarca dam project. The project was vehemently opposed by indigenous environmentalist activist Berta Caceres, who was assassinated on March 3, and her community.

Two activists scaled an art installation in front of the office of the USAID information office in Washington DC as part of a protest calling on the US government agency to cut support for the controversial dam project.

USAID is supporting the Agua Zarca dam on the Gualcarque River, which was one of the projects opposed by the Lenca people. Caceres, a decorated activist and co-founder of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) who was allegedly killed due to her active opposition to the project.

The two activists, Jake Dacks and Nico Udu-gama, unfurled banners which read: “USAID stop funding murder in Honduras” and “Berta Caceres, Presente!”

In a press release, Dacks said: “We stand in solidarity with our dear comrade Berta and the Lenca people and all Hondurans who are valiantly resisting displacement in their territory.

“If USAID is serious about involving communities in development, they will listen to the Lenca people and stop working the DESA-Agua Zarca hydroelectric project immediately.”

Caceres was awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize last year for her organising efforts against the Agua Zarca mine.

In response to community opposition, a major partner in the dam project pulled out in 2013. One of the project's funders, the International Finance Corporation – the World Bank's private sector lending arm – also pulled out citing human rights concerns.

USAID, however, continues to support the dam project, despite the recent assassination of Caceres and an earlier killing of community activists Tomas Garcia in 2013.

The US government aid agency has been routinely criticised for using its programs to support the US government's foreign policy goals above the needs of communities.

After a 2009 coup that ousted the democratically elected government of Manuel Zelaya, the post-coup government pursued a development strategy. It has deliberately set out to court transnational companies to build hydroelectric projects and open mining operations, such as the Agua Zarca dam.

[Reprinted from TeleSUR English.]

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