Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras

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The Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (Spanish: Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras, COPINH) is a Honduran organization founded in 1993, which is dedicated to the defense of the environment in Intibucá and the defense of the indigenous Lenca people.[1] COPINH is known for its mobilizing capacity. Anthropologist Mark Anderson describes it as "a pivotal force within the ethnic movement" in Honduras.[2] It advocates for indigenous rights, participates in conflicts over resources, and opposes neoliberal economic policies, which it describes as "the pillage and re-colonization of our country."[2] It has organized protests against water privatization, hydroelectric dams, and United States foreign policy.[2]

COPINH was founded as the Civic Committee of Popular Organizations of Intibuca (Spanish: Comité Civico de Organizaciones Populares de Intibucá) on March 27, 1993 by Woman Human Rights Defender, Berta Cáceres (Lenca).[3][failed verification] Soon thereafter, the organization began to focus on the Lenca people. The organization's 2004 history describes how the Lenca "began to discover their indigenous face, a face of resistance and national identity."[2] In 1994, the organization affiliated with the Confederation of Autochthonous Peoples of Honduras (CONPAH). In the same year, Lenca activists from COPINH who wished to work more closely with the government and multilateral institutions created a rival Lenca organization, the National Indigenous Lenca Organization of Honduras (OLINH).[2] By 1998, COPINH had adopted its current name.[2]

Among its early acts in 1994, COPINH organized a march to the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa demanding increased recognition of indigenous self-government through indigenous municipalities, a government moratorium on logging, and the investigation of violence against indigenous peoples, among other demands. The Honduran government signed a 48-point agreement in response to the protests.[2] In October 1997, some 150 Lenca protesters led by COPINH destroyed a prominent statue of Christopher Columbus in Tegucigalpa. Leaders Salvador Zuniga and Candido Martinez accepted responsibility for destruction of the statue, but defended the action as protesting a history of exploitation of indigenous peoples. Zuniga declared, "It would seem that in this country clay leaders matter more than the real problems faced by indigenous people. If there is justice, we will be released, but we are not sorry for the act of dignity carried out on October 12."[4]

Berta Cáceres was leading an effort to prevent construction of the DESA-backed Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam and project. After she was found shot to death at home on March 3, 2016, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights recommended precautionary measures for COPINH members.[5] In mid-March, authorities moved to evict a COPINH-led land occupation in Río Chiquito, located in Rio Lindo, Cortés department. While returning to his home, community leader Nelson Garcia (also a Lenca) was fatally shot four times in the face and killed.[6] A few weeks later, major international investors, the Netherlands Development Finance Co. (FMO) and FinnFund, announced they would suspend funding for the Agua Zarca project.[7]

The danger continues for activists. In July 2016 Lesiba Yaneth, also a member of COPINH, was found killed. She had opposed the Aurora hydroelectric project, planned in the municipality of San Jose, in La Paz Province, Honduras. This project was very important to the government; "the vice-president of the National Congress, Gladys Aurora Lopez," was reported as having "direct ties" to it.[8] On July 8, Secretary of Security Julian Pacheco said that the government had failed to provide adequate protection for Cáceres, who had received death threats. The police and military are expected to protect human rights defenders. Three suspects were arrested within a week in the Yaneth murder.[8]

The daughter of the assassinated leader, Bertha Zúñiga Cáceres, was elected general coordinator of the group in 2017.[9]


  1. ^ "Que es copinh - COPINH - Consejo Civico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras".
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Anderson, Mark (2007). "When Afro Becomes (Like) Indigenous: Garifuna and Afro-Indigenous Politics in Honduras". Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology. 12 (2): 384–413. doi:10.1525/jlat.2007.12.2.384. ISSN 1935-4932. Retrieved 2016-03-12.
  3. ^ Matan a Berta Cáceres, líder indígena hondureña by La Prensa, 3 March, 2016
  4. ^ Mejía, Thelma (1997-11-13). "Clay Leaders Matter More than Our Problems". Inter Press Service. Retrieved 2016-03-12.
  5. ^ Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (5 March 2016). "Medidas Cautelares COPINH". Inter-American Commission of Human Rights. Retrieved 2016-03-06.
  6. ^ Lakhani, Nina (2016-03-16). "Fellow Honduran activist Nelson García murdered days after Berta Cáceres". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-03-16.
  7. ^ Rick Kearns, "A Win in Honor of Berta Carceres? Investors Pull Funding from Controversial Project", Indian Country Media, 6 July 2017; accessed 8 July 2017
  8. ^ a b Rick Kearns, "Another Activist Killed in Honduras, Ties to Slain Bertha Cáceres", Indian Country Today, 14 July 2016; 8 July 2017
  9. ^ "Environmentalists in Honduras, "neither ignorant nor anti-development"". Equal Times. Retrieved 2018-10-20.