March 24 — It has been three weeks since the assassination of beloved Indigenous leader and environmentalist activist Berta Cáceres of Honduras.
Berta was killed by unknown assailants on March 3, after many death threats for her tireless work in defense of the Lenca nation as well as for the organization she co-founded, COPINH (Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras), which defended the Lenca people’s treasured ancestral land and rivers.
The Honduran and U.S. governments’ response is not to seek her murderers, but to harass, arrest and threaten COPINH instead. Immediately after her death, the Honduran state detained her comrades in COPINH and confiscated their cell phones and other belongings. The Honduran government, a U.S. puppet, even made the absurd accusation that it was, in fact, COPINH members who had killed Berta.
According to Beverly Bell, in the March 22 Foreign Policy In Focus, “Prominent COPINH organizer Aureliano Molina was imprisoned for two days on suspicion of ‘a crime of passion,’ though he was two hours away. … Two other COPINH leaders were interrogated for days … The government denied their request for accompaniment by their lawyers.”
A fellow comrade of Berta’s from Mexico who was wounded when Cáceres was killed, Gustavo Castro, also an environmental activist, witnessed her murder. Castro is currently being detained in Honduras and is prohibited from leaving the country until further notice. The movement believes that the Honduran government may attempt to frame Gustavo Castro for Cáceres’ murder.
The deaths and repression continue. On March 19, another COPINH member, Nelson García, was viciously shot in the face and killed as he helped defend a community from military occupation.
Despite the repression, the movement throughout the country and indeed the world has responded: “Berta did not die, she multiplied.”
In the capital, Tegucigalpa, youths spray graffiti with that slogan across the city in an act of defiance to the occupying, U.S.-supported, death-squad government. Demonstrations and vigils are held regularly. On International Women’s Day, March 8, marches with women carrying Berta’s picture flooded the streets. Reports that organizations of young people are working to take back their land are steady.
The Honduras Solidarity Network issued this alert: “To the national and international community … through this we make the public aware that … youth from Guadalupe Carney, Trujillo Colón, Honduras, members of the Peasant Movement of Aguán … came to reclaim land belonging to the campesino community.”
Olivia Zúñiga Cáceres, Berta’s oldest daughter, said on Democracy Now on March 18: “Today, we are here to demand justice and an explanation for the crime of the death of my mother, Berta Cáceres. We’ve launched … a battle at the international level, to exert pressure in order to demand that the … multinational corporations that come to plunder, to exterminate our people … spill our blood in our territories … that they stop being financed and leave our country.”
Another daughter, Laura, traveled to Washington to meet with legislators about the assassination. There she told of Cáceres’ efforts to stop the Agua Zarca Dam construction along the Gualcarque River. This river is vital to the livelihood of the Indigenous Lenca people. More than 100 environmental defenders have been killed in Honduras in the last decade according to the Global Witness nongovernmental organization.
Laura told Washington that Cáceres had received over 30 death threats.
After Cáceres’ death, at least 60 congressional representatives sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry requesting an independent, international investigation into her murder.
The letter criticized ongoing U.S. support for Honduran security forces. Earlier this year, the Obama administration announced it would provide up to $750 million to support security and economic development programs across Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
However, it is, in fact, the U.S. government that is ultimately responsible for the death of Berta and the thousands of other human rights activists, political organizers, women, journalists, LGBTQ activists and others who have been terrorized for their resistance to an illegal, repressive, fraudulent government.
Berta Cáceres was not just an environmentalist. Her words demonstrate that she was anti-imperialist. In a Guardian newspaper interview in 2015, she declared:
“The political, economic and social situation in Honduras is getting worse, and there is an imposition of a project of domination, of violent oppression, of militarization, of violation of human rights, of transnationalization, of the turning over of the riches and sovereignty of the land to corporate capital, for it to privatize energy, the rivers, the land; for mining exploitation; for the creation of development zones.”
The turnover of wealth is all for U.S. imperialism.
To find out what you can do for the people of Honduras and get justice for Berta Cáceres, demand freedom for Gustavo Castro and support the struggle in Honduras, visit www.hondurassolidarity.org and otherworldsarepossible.org