Congressman Johnson Reintroduces The Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act

March 3, 2021
Press Release

Congressman leads effort with 40+ colleagues to withhold U.S. funds from Honduran police & military until gross human rights violations are investigated and prosecuted.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week commemorates the 5-year anniversary of the assassination of Honduran environmental and indigenous rights leader, Berta Cáceres. Five years later, the fight for human rights in Honduras wages on, and the United States must drastically change its role in that fight.

Today, Rep. Johnson, alongside his five co-leads, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL-09); Rep. Marcy Kaptur (OH-9); Rep. Ilhan Omar (MN-05); Rep. Chuy Garcia (IL-04) and Rep. Joaquin Castro (TX-20), reintroduced the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act. The bill has 44 original cosponsors.

The Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act would suspend U.S. funding for police and military operations, and prohibit international loans providing security assistance from being dispersed unless the Honduran government investigates and prosecutes blatant human rights violations by their police and military forces.

The State Department, The New York Times, the Associated Press and numerous human rights groups have documented that the Honduran police and military are widely believed to be deeply corrupt and commit gross human rights abuses – including torture, rape, illegal detention, and murder – with impunity.

“We provide millions of dollars in security assistance to Honduras every year, but these same forces have been attacking and killing environmental, labor and human rights activists like Berta Cáceres without any effective response from the Honduran authorities,” said Rep. Johnson.

“This rampant impunity cannot continue. It’s time for our government to send a stronger message by leveraging security assistance and multilateral loans in order to put real and lasting pressure on the Honduran government to protect its activists and pursue those responsible for these outrageous crimes. I continue to stand in solidarity with Berta’s family, COPINH, and the entire activist community that has committed their lives to sweeping justice for Hondurans.”

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (OH-9): “On this week of the unfortunate anniversary of Berta Cáceres murder, I once again call on my House colleagues to support the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act, which would suspend U.S. funding to Honduras for police and military operations until the Honduran government investigates credible reports of human rights abuses.”

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (IL-09): “It has been five years since the devastating murder of Berta Cáceres, a Honduran environmental and human rights defender, at the hands of a US-trained former Honduran military officer. To this day, human rights defenders in Honduras continue to be murdered at an alarming rate, and their killers often go uncharged.” “It is well past time for the United States to end its support for the Honduras military and police that murder their own people, repress civil liberties, and violate human rights. This critical legislation will make sure that we immediately suspend US aid that arms and trains the Honduran military and police until human rights defenders are protected and security forces are prosecuted for their gross human rights violations.”

Rep. Ilhan Omar (MN-05): “Five years ago, Honduran activist Berta Caceres was murdered by Honduran military forces trained by the United States. In 2019 and 2017, I had the honor of meeting with her daughter as she pursues justice for Berta. Yet to this day, we continue to provide security aid to a government that murders human rights activists with zero legal accountability.  Just as we should end aid to Saudi Arabia for their murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the United States should not be providing security aid to a government that murders activists with impunity. I am proud to join. Congressman Johnson to ensure that Honduras is not rewarded for their crimes.”

Congressman Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04): “When I met Berta Cáceres’ mother and sister in Honduras and later in Washington, I promised to keep fighting for justice for Berta. Violations of human rights should never be fueled by American dollars. The Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act will suspend security assistance to the country until these violations committed by police and government officials against their own people cease, and all the perpetrators of Berta’s murder are brought to justice. We owe it to her family and to all Hondurans forced to migrate due to the rampant violence in their country.”

Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20): “I am honored to join my colleagues in introducing the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act of 2021. On the 5th anniversary of Berta’s murder, we must demand that those behind her killing are finally brought to justice. I stand in solidarity with Berta’s family, and the countless of human rights defenders unjustly persecuted for their activism in Honduras. As we reflect on Berta’s legacy, we cannot in good conscience continue providing aid to Honduran security forces as they engage in gross human rights violations. I call on all my colleagues to join this important legislation and to demand justice for Berta Cáceres.”

The bill requires investigations into a series of suspicious killings of human rights activists and demands the Honduran government protect the rights of trade unionists; journalists; human rights; defenders; Indigenous, Afro-Indigenous, small farmers and LGBTI activists; critics of the government and other civil society activists so they may operate without interference from the police or military.

Berta Cáceres would have been 50 years old tomorrow. Her legacy lives on.

Other cosponsors: Reps. Don Beyer, Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici, David Cicilline, Emanuel Cleaver II, Danny K. Davis, Peter DeFazio, Adriano Espaillat, Anna Eshoo, Sylvia Garcia, Mary Gay Scanlon, Raúl Grijalva, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Jared Huffman, Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna, Ron Kind, Derek Kilmer, Andy Levin, Alan Lowenthal, Stephen Lynch, James McGovern, Gwen Moore, Seth Moulton, Grace Napolitano, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jimmy Panetta, Chellie Pingree, Mark Pocan, Ayanna Pressley, Jamie Raskin, Kathleen Rice, Bobby L. Rush, Rashida Tlaib, Paul Tonko, Nydia Velázquez, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Juan Vargas, Peter Welch.

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