Grijalva Urges State Department to Protect Human Rights, Indigenous Rights and Environmental Justice Activists

Tucson, Ariz. – Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry today urging him to work with national governments and the international community to investigate and prosecute those perpetrating violence against human rights, indigenous rights and environmental justice activists. The letter comes as the world mourns the tragic and senseless murder of Berta Cáceres, a highly influential Honduran indigenous and environmental rights leader.

The letter notes the dramatic escalation of violence against environmental rights activists and calls for more aggressive efforts to address these threats. It reads in part:

Over the past decade, we have witnessed a dramatic escalation of violence against environmental justice activists, with the effects intensified amongst indigenous communities.

Every aggression against human rights, indigenous rights and environmental justice activist is an attack on our most fundamental freedoms. As a global leader on the protection of human rights and the environment, the United States must take a consistent and public stance supporting those threatened with violence and strongly encourage the investigation and prosecution of those perpetrating these crimes, including state agents. The stakes are high. Now is the time for responsible and sustained leadership on this critical issue.

On Thursday, Cáceres was slain in her hometown of La Esperanza, Intibucá. She would have been 46 today. According to news reports, authorities say she was killed during a robbery, but her mother said that Cáceres was killed "because of her struggle." The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ordered that she receive police protection, but no police were present when she was murdered.

Cáceres was a recipient of the 2015 Goldman Prize for her human rights work in Honduras to stop one of the world's largest dam builders from pursuing the Agua Zarca Dam. The dam would have cut off the ethnic Lenca people from water, food and medicine and violated their right to sustainably manage and live off their land. In her acceptance speech, Cáceres said:

“En nuestras cosmovisiones somos seres surgidos de la tierra, el agua y el maíz, de los ríos somos custodios ancestrales el pueblo lenca. Resguardados por los espíritus de las niñas que nos enseñan que dar la vida de múltiples formas por la defensa de los ríos es dar la vida por el bien de la humanidad y de este planeta”.

“In our world view we are beings who emerged from the land, water, and maize, as Lenca people we are ancestral custodians of the rivers. We are guarded by the spirits of the little girls who show us that to give one's life in multiple ways to defend the rivers is to give one's life for the good of humanity and this planet."

The full letter is available at, http://1.usa.gov/1Yc5QLr.

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