Co-Responsibility: the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act H.R. 1299

Written by Michelle Manivel

Who was Berta Cáceres?

Berta Cáceres was an activist, leader, environmental rights advocate, and a voice for human rights all over Central America, but heavily focused on Honduras. She was a cofounder of the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, which was designed to address threats to indigenous communities, and help them fight for their land rights and improve their quality of life. She was an advocate for equal representation, anti-violence, and land rights for the indigenous and native people of Honduras.

What is the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act? (H.R. 1299)

This bill demands that the U.S. immediately stop sending aid to Honduras until certain conditions are met:

  • Investigation into the murders of Berta Cáceres; 100 farmer activists; Joel Palacios and Elvis García; and Félix Molina

    • Palacios and García were young men who were part of a group traveling along the northern coast of Honduras when their car got stuck in quicksand.  Without warning, 20 military personnel started firing shots at the group, killing the two young men.

    • Felix Molina was a journalist who has faced and overcome two murder attempts- on the same day- simply for his profession.  It was an attempt to silence him, other media journalists and human rights activists.

  • Investigation of the members of the Honduran Military and police who have committed these and similar abuses, and chastise with appropriate punishment

  • Ensure the withdrawal of the Honduran military from policing activity in Honduras

  • Protection of land rights, trade unionists, journalists, indigenous and afro-indigenous, small farmers, LGBTI communities, people who speak against the government, and human rights defenders of all marginalized communities

  • Continuously take steps to establish a strong democratic society with functioning judiciary branch with ability to prosecute military and police forces

What does this have to do with the 2017 Honduran Elections?

Due to the low quality, lack of integrity and fraudulent monitoring during the 2017 Honduran presidential elections, the people of Honduras, along with many international organizations, have been calling for new elections. As a result of the fraudulent results of the election (including the skewed results and irregularities in voting), multiple people died from excessive force while protesting. HR1299 seeks justice for the human rights violations that were carried out by Honduran security and governmental forces, and ensure that they are brought to justice. These are many of the same forces that Berta Cáceres fought against that ultimately were responsible for her murder. This justice is not only in reference to the violations of physical attacks, but also mental, such as the fraudulent election results.

How does the US have impact but is still managing to avoid it?

The U.S. has held a large proportion of influence over the Honduran elections and history of the distress in the country, including the announcement of their support for Juan Orlando Hernández as the winner. The U.S. government has shared confusing information about the elections, such as congratulating, then stating the need to implement electoral reform in the country. They have also been providing aid to the Honduran government, which has then gone to the military and the attacks that killed Cácares, Palacios and García, among others. The U.S. has equipped the Honduran military and enabled it to have immense power, yet has not taken action to stop the violence that has ensued.  

TAKE ACTION

  • Call your representative and ask them become a co-sponsor of the bill. Talking points are available online here.

  • Join IFCLA’s newly energized Honduras Working Group! Email intern@ifcla.net for details.

  • Stay tuned to IFCLA’s upcoming events page for a Honduras 101 presentation in May 2019 and events around the 10-year anniversary of the coup in June.

*Photo available online at and copyright of Goldman Environmental Prize.