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The "Bertha Cáceres" law, on the way to the European Union

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By Javier Suazo

On May 2, 2016, the human rights journalist and member of the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP), Félix Molina, suffered an attack that almost cost him his life. The journalist had denounced that the funders and executive directors of the “Agua Zarca” Hydroelectric Company could be involved behind the attack on the indigenous leader. And this is perhaps the main justification for human and environmental rights defenders to ask for deeper investigations into the crime, and for the State bodies to capture those responsible as invisible perpetrators.

The relatives of Bertha Cáceres have asked the government of Honduras to allow an independent Commission of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to investigate the case, since they doubt the good faith and effectiveness of the State organs in collusion for the most part with corruption. and drug trafficking. The same appeal has been expressed by senior officials of the European Union, the US Embassy, ​​the Vatican Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice and renowned film actors and world leaders. A favorable response has not yet been received, rather the contamination of the case and the reluctance to allow a detailed knowledge of the investigations by human rights organizations is reported by the relatives.

On June 14, 2016, in the face of this reluctance from the government of the Republic, four (4) Democratic congressmen presented to the US House of Representatives a bill called the Bertha Cáceres Law “to suspend military cooperation and aid in matters from the United States to Honduras until the human rights violations by the security forces cease and until those responsible for these violations are brought to justice ”. They request that not only the murder of Bertha Cáceres and the attack on Félix Molina be investigated, but also the murders of Joel Palacios Lino and Elvis Armando García linked to the Garifuna community, and the murder of more than 100 peasant activists in the Aguan Valley . Aid from the US government and people will be reactivated only if the Honduran government successfully prosecutes the military and police involved in these events, as well as the intellectual authors.

The approval of the Bertha Law would have a direct impact on the budget of the Armed Forces and the National Police of about 25 million dollars in direct aid and cooperation from the US, and about 60 million dollars from multilateral banks, especially the IDB , where the US acts as a guarantor. It demands that the Army withdraw from the tasks carried out by the National Police as mandated by the Constitution of the Republic, protect the rights of journalists, trade unionists, peasants, human rights activists, Afro-indigenous, LGBTI and opponents of the government, and the reestablishment of the rule of law by purging the organs of the State responsible for so much corruption, impunity and systematic violations of basic human rights such as the right to life, participation and public protest.

It is unlikely that this Law will have the desired reception and be approved, even though the evidence and reports from human rights organizations show a direct and decisive relationship between the strengthening of the armed forces and the Honduran Police and the increase in human rights violations and environmental and illicit businesses resulting from drug trafficking. It also shows the high levels of corruption and impunity of the bodies in charge of imparting justice, which have been favored with the resources allocated by the US and the multilateral banks to the brought reform of public security in Honduras, where all attempts have failure with a growing waste of financial resources in a country whose people remain mired in extreme poverty, ignorance and political chaos.

Notable in this failure is the liquidation of the Public Security Reform Commission (CRSP) and the eventual closure of the Directorate of Investigation and Evaluation of the Police Career (DIECP), which operates without an operational structure and budget.

President Hernández denounced in Washington that civil society organizations misrepresent information on the human rights situation in Honduras and deliver it to congressmen and senators, thereby causing great harm to the country; However, empirical evidence and studies carried out by international human rights institutions or organizations document these systematic violations involving the military and police. Although the Bertha Cáceres Law does not interfere with the funds assigned to the Plan Alianza para la Prosperidad (PAP) since it is an initiative of the United States with the presidents of the Northern Triangle (backyard) of Central America: Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, for a initial amount of 750 million dollars, it is evident that there is a direct relationship on the issues of drug trafficking, regional security and democratic governance. Even the link also exists in the economic issue, where it is committed to the generation of productive jobs, one of the important interventions being the generation of electrical energy from renewable sources.

The “Bertha Cáceres” Law, although difficult to pass in the US, has set off alarms in Honduras where there is talk of new legislation to effectively protect human rights defenders, peasants, indigenous people, Garífuna, journalists, members of the gay-lesbian community and political opposition leaders harassed for opposing presidential re-election, but also by OFIs who watch as thousands of dollars are thrown into the garbage when the goals of public safety reform are not met Rather, corruption and impunity within and outside the justice operators are strengthened.

The alarms have also been set off in the countries that make up the EU, since the practice of systematic violations of human rights, environmental, corruption and impunity is contrary to its principles of creation and the execution of programs and projects aimed at promoting governance democracy in Honduras. That is why there is talk of a "Bertha Cáceres" Law for Europe, which even incorporates a principle of conditionality for the bilateral aid granted to Honduras, subject to the protection of human rights, substantial achievements in reducing corruption and impunity and prosecution of the military and police involved in these acts. It involves a process of accelerated purification of State bodies such as the Prosecutor's Office, Supreme Court of Justice, Armed Forces, Police and Court of Accounts.

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