We are still reeling from the shock, sadness, and outrage from the news of the assassination of Berta Cáceres.
Berta was a leading environmental and indigenous activist. She and the organization that she helped found, the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), led the struggle against destructive mines and dams and for the rights of the indigenous people of Honduras. She holds a special place and role in our history as she was one of the founding members of EcoViva’s Honduran partner, Red COMAL. For her leadership and courage she was awarded a Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015.
In her acceptance speech, she said, “we must all give our lives for the good of humanity and of the planet.”
Berta was found shot and killed in her residence on March 3, alongside a Mexican social scientist and activist who was injured and taken into protective custody. Her Honduran state protection, as mandated by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, was nowhere to be found at the time of the incident. So far, official statements made by Honduran authorities don’t inspire confidence. They maintain that Berta had not reported the residence as her home to her security detail, even though local neighbors were accustomed to seeing her come and go often at the property. Though she and members of COPINH had been receiving threats for years, as with countless other human rights activists in Honduras, the authorities say they are investigating her known associates, as they report no sign of a break in. Yet more information released by the state portray her murder as a robbery that turned violent.
She is gone, brutally taken away from us but the struggle continues. Many other environmental activist are still in danger and we join the voices of thousands of people in Honduras and around the world who are demanding justice and an end to impunity. The incident is another low point for the Honduran government and President Juan Orlando Hernández, who recently travelled to Washington to lobby Congress and the Obama administration for continued aid to improve citizen security and promote economic growth.
Global Witness identifies Honduras as the most dangerous place to speak out against environmental and social atrocities. Since 2002, 112 activists have been murdered in that country over land disputes and confrontation with large-scale development. Twelve of those murders happened in 2014 alone. Over a half-dozen of Berta’s colleagues have also been slain for their role in defending their communities and environment.
Here are three petitions you can sign calling for justice for Berta:
- “We urge immediate protection for Gustavo Castro, injured during the assassination of Berta Cáceres” sponsored by The Movimiento Mesoamericano contra el Modelo Extractivo Minero.
- “Demand justice for Berta NOW: Ask Secretary John Kerry to enforce the Leahy Law” sponsored by Friends of the Earth.
- “Tell the State Department: We Demand Justice for Berta” sponsored by Witness for Peace.