On March 17, while New York skies were gray with intermittent rainfall, hundreds of protesters, activists and allies of COPINH (Council of Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras) rallied in front of the Honduran mission to the UN. The protesters rallied to demand justice for the assassination of Honduran indigenous and environmental activist Berta Cáceres while at the same time calling for international action in support of the indigenous Lenca people.
The speeches and rallying cries came from an international assemblage of anti-imperialist woman activist groups and partners, who presented speeches alongside Berta’s own daughter, Bertita. Between emphatic translators and fellow Honduran activists, Berta’s daughter made a call to find those responsible for the death of her mother and other comrades from their militant but peaceful movement.
Berta Cáceres was murdered in her home town of La Esperanza, Intibuca, Honduras on March 3, 2016. It is highly likely, and suspected by the family and friends of Cáceres, that the Honduran government was involved in her assassination.
This serious claim against the government by Cáceres’ comrades is not an exaggeration. On July 15, 2013, a colleague of Cáceres, Tomás Garcia, was murdered by gunshot in broad daylight by a Honduran soldier in front of 200 to 300 people while Garcia was peacefully marching to deliver a message to the companies constructing a dam near his community.
On the micro-level, the criminals responsible for these crimes include the private energy company DESA (Desarrollos Energéticos, SA) and those affiliated with the Atala-family who own the energy corporation. This is the same company behind the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam project, which the late Cáceres died fighting against, and the same company thought to have helped in the 2009 U.S.-backed coup in Honduras.
On the macro-level, Bertita describes those responsible as the most powerful of the Honduran government, those allied with them in the United Nations and those closest to the hearts (and pockets) of the U.S. To her, these criminals are those most culpable for the lucrative disrespect of indigenous communities at a national and policy level. In her own words, “Justice means putting a stop to these projects of death. Justice means in Honduras, a country so violent, corrupt, and with so much impunity, a transformation that involves the respect of all indigenous communities.”
After the rally Liberation News interviewed Daysi Flores, the Country Coordinator of Honduras for JASS (Justice Associates) Mesoamerica. Recalling Berta’s legacy in Latin America and throughout the world, Flores said “Berta resisted violence against indigenous people and this outrageous patriarchal capitalist system and the disconnect the system forces on us from the rivers and mother earth. I think her message was very dangerous because her message touched various corporations and I think that’s why they tried to silence her.”
Flores noted that despite the assassination of Berta the powers that be were unable to truly get rid of Berta, but in fact, only multiplied her presence. Daisy spoke to the fact that Berta’s cause and legacy has flourished in the consciousness of people, not just throughout Latin America, but throughout the globe. Flores reminded Liberation News of Berta’s international accolades from communities who were not familiar with the struggle of the indigenous Lenca people of Honduras, but are now pledging their solidarity in the wake of the assassination.
For Flores, this international support for the Lenca people is critical for pressuring the Honduran government to be held accountable for the bloodshed of Berta and her comrades, and to assist the indigenous communities whose self-determination has been stolen by these invasive, large-scale “development” projects.
As was repeated throughout the speeches of the day, Berta’s fight is not over. The US-backed Honduran regime and their corporate partners managed to end Berta’s life, but from that act, many more fighters for the people and the planet will grow. It is our job to intensify and multiply this message of struggle and hope for the communities who Berta fought for bravely.