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Environmental Human Rights: News & Updates

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A trove of Dutch and U.S. legal and financial documents shared with The Intercept reveal, for the first time, the flow of international funding in the days leading up to March 2, 2016, when a hit squad broke into Cáceres’s house and killed her. The bank provided the documents to two Dutch human rights lawyers, Wout Albers and Ron Rosenhart Rodriguez, who have spent the past two years representing Cáceres’s family and COPINH, the organization she co-founded, in a civil lawsuit that seeks to hold FMO accountable for its role in the Agua Zarca project. 

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he Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice ordered the definitive release of five other defenders of the Guapinol River, in a ruling dated June 3, 2022 and notified to the lawyers on June 21 of this year. This unanimous decision was taken after the legal representatives filed an Appeal for Protection (Amparo) in June 2020. The defendants favored by this decision of the Court are Juan Antonio López and Leonel George of the Committee of Common Goods of Tocoa, Colón and the defendants of Guapinol Reynaldo Domínguez, José Adaly Cedillo and Marco Tulio Ramos, all accused by the mining company Inversiones Los Pinares and by the Public Ministry, of Unjust Deprivation of Liberty, Aggravated Arson, Theft and Unlawful Association to the detriment of the Chief of Security of said company, against the mining company and the Internal Security of the State of Honduras.

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Fairtrade America – part of Fairtrade International, the world’s most recognized label for social justice and sustainability – has announced the results of a decade-long study that found farmers who are part of Fairtrade certified Producer Organizations experience better economic resilience, social wellbeing, environmental sustainability and governance of their cooperatives than farmers not in Fairtrade certified organizations, particularly in times of global crisis. 

The Assessing the Impact of Fairtrade on Poverty Reduction and Economic Resilience through Rural Development study, implemented by Mainlevel Consulting, reveals that Fairtrade Standards, Fairtrade pricing and producer support programs positively impact certified farmers and their communities. While the findings outline encouraging evidence of Fairtrade’s benefits, the study also presents the grim reality that farmers’ gains – especially in regards to incomes and farm investments – have been undercut in recent years due to the challenges of COVID-19, climate change, and increasing costs of production. “In times of crisis, it becomes evident that Fairtrade enhances farmers’ economic resilience and supports them in continuing their profession,” said Tatjana Mauthofer, researcher at Mainlevel Consulting and co-author of the study.

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On Monday, Roberto David Castillo, a US-trained former Honduran army intelligence officer who was the president of an internationally financed energy company has been sentenced to 22 years and six months for the assassination of the Indigenous environmentalist Berta Cáceres. The sentence was handed down almost a year after Castillo was found guilty, and falls short of the 25-year maximum – a decision condemned by Cáceres’s supporters outside the high court in Tegucigalpa. Castillo will be required to carry out public works coordinated by the prison service as part of his sentence and is responsible for any future civil claims brought by the victims, the court ruled. Cáceres, the coordinator of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (Copinh), was best known for defending indigenous Lenca territory and natural resources, but she was also a respected political analyst, women’s rights defender and anti-capitalist campaigner.

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Rights Action has been very involved in funding and supporting Indigenous land and environmental defenders, and their human rights and justice struggles in the Q’eqchi’ territories of eastern Guatemala since 2004. With the immediacy of this recent trip in mind, Rights Action sends this special appeal for their work and struggles. For a number of complex and very unfortunate reasons, the human rights/ repression/ corruption/ impunity situation is even harder in this region, and has been going on longer, than in other regions of Guatemala – Honduras, as well - where people and communities that Rights Action supports are involved in their own community defense struggles.

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In El Salvador there are at least 3,000 Water Administration boards, community associations that play an essential role in the supply and management of water resources in rural areas and the peripheries of cities, in the face of the State’s failure to provide these areas with water. This northern area covering several municipalities has been in conflict in recent years since residents of these communities began to fight against an urban development project by one of the country’s most powerful families, the Dueñas.

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Alonso Salgado, Donaldo Rosales, and Marco Tulio Paredes Molina; Ricardo Avila and Carlos Peralta. Three defenders and two social communicators were murdered this month in Honduras. The death toll since the beginning of the year has rise to over 10. And while the case of 19 MILPAH defenders whose criminalizing charges were dropped can be celebrated, it is concerning that May also brought about new cases of criminalized defenders. Looking at the extractive industries, we see a similar mixed picture. Open pit mining has been prohibited, but mining operations continue to expand in Honduras bringing about environmental damage, repression and criminalization. Some hope comes from the visit by a UN exploratory mission on the possible installation of a UN-backed anti-corruption mission as well as from the strengthening of the Honduran anti-corruption body UFERCO. JOH, meanwhile, pleaded not guilty in New York. His trial will continue in September. Welcome to another month in Honduras.

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On April 26 and 27, Guatemalans demonstrated throughout the country, blocking roads and demanding an end to high food and fuel prices, as well as calling for government accountability and the resignation of President Alejandro Giammattei. Protesters carried signs stating “we are the generation that will no longer remain quiet before injustice,” and “if there is no justice for the people, there will be no peace for the government.” Above all, the Paro Multinacional (multinational strike), organized by the Comité de Desarrollo Campesino (Campesino Development Committee, CODECA), demands that the Guatemalan government give voice and recognition to the country’s more than 24 Indigneous nations. A member of CODECA, who preferred not to be named to emphasize the collective nature of the group, claimed that the organization’s fight is one of the right to territory, which goes beyond land and encompasses the right to resources, culture, and history. “It is about more than land to harvest,” he stated, “it is about the people who inhabit it and, above all, the natural resources, which is what the Indigenous communities in Guatemala protect.”

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