Berta Caceres y Flores was assassinated by a hit team in Honduras on March 3, 2016. She was an extraordinarily courageous woman. I write today to honor her.
She was a tireless indigenous and environmental activist who fought for the recognition, respect and dignity of her people, the Lenca. She also led their struggle against the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam, a joint venture between a Chinese company Sinohydro, the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, and Honduran company Desarrollos Energéticos (also known as DESA). They intended to build a series of four dams on the Gualcarque River, a river on Lenca land that is sacred to the Lenca people. She found out about the project when some members of the tribe discovered a lot of heavy construction equipment recently set up near the river and tipped her off. After she found out what was going on and realized the extensive environmental destruction that the dams would cause, she decided to stop the project. And stop it she did.
Wikipedia picks up the story.
The developers had breached international law as the local people had not been consulted on the project, and the Lenca people were concerned that the dam would compromise their access to water, food and medicine, and therefore threaten their traditional way of life. Cáceres worked together with the community to mount a protest campaign. She organized legal actions and community meetings against the project, and took the case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
From 2013, Cáceres led COPINH* and the local community in a year-long protest at the construction site to prevent the companies from accessing the land. Protesters were regularly removed from the site by security officers, and on 15 July 2013, the military opened fire on the protesters, killing one member of COPINH and injuring three others. The community regularly complained of threats and harassment from the company employees, security guards, and the military, and in May 2014, members of COPINH were attacked in two separate incidents that left two members dead and three seriously injured.
In late 2013 both Sinohydro and the International Finance Corporation withdrew from the project because of COPINH’s protests. Desarrollos Energéticos continued, however, moving the construction site to another location to avoid the blockade Other local business leaders supported the project, and criminal charges were laid against Cáceres and two other indigenous leaders. They were charged with “usurpation, coercion and continued damages” against DESA for their roles in the protest, allegedly inciting others to cause damages to the company. In response to the charges, Amnesty International stated that, if imprisoned, Amnesty International would consider them prisoners of conscience and dozens of regional and international organizations called upon the Honduran government to stop criminalizing the defense of human rights and to investigate threats against human rights defenders.
On 20 February 2016, over 100 protesters were detained by security while protesting, and threats against the organisation began to increase.
Berta Caceres y Flores was shot to death as she was drinking coffee with Gustavo Castro Soto. He was injured in the attack and held her in his arms as she died. He had been staying with Cáceres as part of a peacekeeping mission from Mexico.
The matter is under investigation, but no one is expecting that her killers will be identified and brought to justice. A military dictatorship that ousted democratically elected Manuel Zelaya with Hillary Clinton’s blessings when she was Secretary of State is running the country.
Caceres knew she was the top name on a government hit-list but she refused to cease her efforts. She is survived by her husband and four children.
She was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015 for her efforts to stop the dam project and save the Gualcacque River habitat.
*COPINH is the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, an organization that she founded.
A few words about why I detest Hillary Clinton:
Hillary Clinton’s enthusiastic support for the military coup and her quick recognition of the military as the legitimate government of Honduras was disgusting.
Zelaya was elected by the people. He was a moderate reformer who supported land reform and efforts to form labor unions to represent workers in collective bargaining with corporations. He was a popular leader.
He was removed because rich landowners will not tolerate land reform and corporations will not tolerate labor unions. It’s full on exploitation of human and natural resources for profit. Anyone who gets in the way is expendable. This is neoliberal economics at its finest.
And not to be forgotten is the murderous destabilization of Honduras by the war on drugs and the narco-traffickers.
Hillary Clinton is no friend of reformers and human rights activists. She knows about and fully supports the murderous regime.
Little wonder that she likes and respects Henry Kissinger.
Little wonder too that so many Hondurans are fleeing their country and seeking asylum in the US. They are refugees from the murderous violence for which we are significantly responsible and we owe it to them to admit them to our country.
Finally, although I support Bernie Sanders, I nevertheless will vote for Hillary Clinton, if she wins the Democratic Party’s nomination. I will have to hold my nose, but I will do it because the Republican candidates are horrible and unqualified to serve as president.
A vote for Hillary would be a vote in self-defense.