BERTA CÁCERES EN MEMORIA
“Let us wake up! Let us wake up, humankind! We’re out of time. We must shake our conscious free of the rapacious capitalism, racism and patriarchy that will only assure our own self destruction.” -Berta Cáceres, excerpt from her Goldman Prize acceptance speech.
A Eulogy for Berta
It’s impossible to accurately fathom the impact that Berta Cáceres’ life has had. Her profound understanding of the need for the preservation of the natural environment, the rivers, the forests, the mountains, and the way of life and cosmology of the indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica instilled in her the undying commitment to struggle. And she did, unrelentingly, even against the most impossible of odds and in the threat of death. Yet, in spite of all that, she did succeed, along with the Civic Council of Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), the organization that she co-founded, and the Lenca indigenous communities that COPINH assisted. The successes were not just with the apparent victories such as the suspension of the hydroelectric project on the Rio Gualcarque, but more importantly in the ability she had in getting others to care, and not just in a superficial feel good way. She instilled her deep understanding onto others through her directness and openness with whomever she was talking. There was no ulterior motive with Berta, no sense that she was just using activism as a means of income or ego enrichment or political gain. It could be the first time she ever laid eyes on you and she spoke on personal terms. Everybody was an ally or potential ally, but she was no pushover. Her deep understanding allowed her to know who was committed and who was simply seeking self enrichment of some kind, and those people were told in no uncertain terms to find a way to contribute positively, but don’t get in the way of the people’s struggle. She could get angry, she was stubborn, but she always had a ready and sincere smile, she never cut herself off from building the necessary alliances essential to the Lenca’s and the Earth’s survival.
I had only known Berta for a short time, meeting her for the first time a little less than 4 years ago. I had seen her at various demonstrations in Tegucigalpa speaking against the ZEDE’s, or Charter Cities as they were called, as well as against the contamination of the rivers and mountains due to mining and hydroelectric projects. It wasn’t until the Caminata: Paso a Paso, the 200km/10-day walk from the North of Honduras to Tegucigalpa in March of 2013, that I had any real conversation with her. There were 200 people marching and we were about halfway through when we came upon the Soto Cano Air Force Base in Comayagua where the US military are stationed.
She asked me if I would like to speak when we got to the gates. She wanted me to deliver a message in English to the “gringos” stationed there, to which I agreed. After she said “gringos” I could tell she was a little concerned because she didn’t know me well and didn’t know if I would be offended by that term. At the gates, I began and ended my little spiel through the bullhorn to the soldiers with the chant “GRINGO BASURA, FUERA HONDURAS!” (“GRINGO TRASH. LEAVE HONDURAS!”). A short while later, as we were marching back to the highway, she came up to me and reached her arm up to my shoulder and laughed as she yelled “GRINGO BASURA, FUERA HONDURAS!” For awhile after that, when we ran into each other, she would tell me how funny she thought that was. Eventually when we would greet each other, she would always begin with “Y los pinches gringos?” (“And the fucking gringos?”) to which we would both yell, “FUERA!” (“LEAVE!”) That is what I miss, her laugh, her smile, and especially her unending exuberance in the struggle.
She took up the cause of freeing the Honduran political prisoner Chabelo Morales. Her profound understanding of the connection that his case had with the rest of the struggles for dignity and justice in Honduras made her a strong ally in and advocate for bringing the social and grassroots platform to rally around his freedom.
Even with her busy schedule, she visited Chabelo on several occasions whenever she passed by the prison. Chabelo told me that she was one of the few who always answered or returned his calls. She was instrumental in getting national attention and coordinating that with the international campaign that was the key to his exoneration.
Through her death by assassins’ bullets, the impact she had on a global scale has become starkly apparent. The grief and indignation from those who had been touched by her commitment has been shown through an overwhelming outpouring of solidarity for the causes that she believed in and an awe-inspiring inundation of condemnation of the government of Honduras and the global capitalist system spearheaded by US imperialism which are implicated in the assassination that took her physical life from the front lines of the fight. But they have unwittingly unleashed her spirit which she instilled in all those who struggled with her or sat down at the table with her or listened to and shared her words, “Wake up, wake up, before it is too late!”
She will never die as long as we continue the struggle and bring forward the same selfless commitment to saving the planet.
Sung by Karla Lara and Spoken Word by Melissa Cardoza
“Well, I remember her as a tenacious and demanding woman in the struggle, stubborn as few people I have known, who was indignant, but at the same time sweet, never lost her smile. And she had such a profound understanding and at the same time a simplicity, close to the people and on the other hand she could be strong and firm in her word against those who she considered threatening to the indigenous communities and the various peoples of the territories and to the natural resources.” – Padre Ismael (Melo) Moreno, Director ERIC-SJ/Radio Progreso bit.ly/1RnsPnw
“Throughout my life I have been aware of what can happen being in this struggle, as I also am aware that we are facing an oligarchic, banking, financial and transnational power, as well as the self same State of Honduras and its repressive bodies, which historically have rallied to the interests of large transnational corporations. I will not bow down to them!”-Bertha Cáceres, June 2013
“I saw Berta die in my arms, but also I saw her heart planted in every fight that Copinh has done and in so many people who knew her.
No rain sows as many tears as shed by her departure, but there is no such force as that resembling the Lenca struggle that they face every day, inch by inch, fighting for the territory against large multinationals. They maintain an unwavering fight against more than 40 hydroelectric projects; against dozens of mining projects, and a struggle to regain their territories in more than 50 locations within their ancestral region, as beautiful as any in Honduras. COPINH marches, walks, protests, recuperates, and extends its hand of solidarity with the movements.
This too was Berta.” -Gustavo Castro, Otro Mundos, the sole witness to Berta’s murder
“Bertha has been a mother and an inspiration not only for the Lenca people, but for many people in the world. The least we can do is multiply the efforts and intensify the fight. If they think that killing Bertha will end the social and popular struggle are very wrong. This tragedy will multiply the commitment and the fighting spirit in thousands of people.” -Miriam Miranda, Garífuna leader and Coordinator of OFRANEH http://informes.rel-uita.org/index.php/mujer/item/bertha-fue-un-simbolo-de-propuesta-y-construccion
“I have been persecuted not just for political leadership but also for being a woman, for being Lenca. In this country it’s not the same being a male leader and being a female leader. And that comes with a very heavy weight.” –Berta Cáceres
“Our dear Berta Caceres
She was a defender of sovereignty
She was an anti-militarist.
Her death was not in vain.
Since she began her work, at age 16,it was to change the structure of the country we have.
With the crowd mourning her today, it has left us clearer as to what was her work, defending the rights of others.
We will not accept official investigations telling us that it was a crime of passion, nor that it was a robbery, nor that it was due to internal problems of COPINH.
Like it or not IT IS A POLITICAL CRIME.
She always denounced those who threatened and persecuted.
She had enemies due to her work, because it hindered them.”
– Berta Oliva, General Coordinator of COFADEH, via telephone in Voices Against Forgetting, COFADEH’s radio program.
Berta in Action
Dear colleagues of COPINH; Friends of national and international solidarity. With much pain and suffering of our Lenca brothers and sisters; and our Mesoamerican country we receive the news that our comrade Bertha Cáceres was killed for defending the territory as well as human and environmental rights. The infernal machinery of the capitalist transnational system continues to violate human rights, we condemn this crime against humanity and against one of the heroines and now martyr of our painful Mesoamericana homeland, Our organizations CPTRT, Mother Earth Movement, Friends of the Earth International, ATALC, COMROA and M4 condemn this crime.” -Dr. Juan Almendares
Delivered from the final resting place of our Berta. Our mom, our daughter, our guide.
Her daughters Olivia, Bertha and Laura, her son Salvador, her mother Austraberta alongside family and friends, wish to make public our thoughts in this moment of profound sorrow.
Our Berta is the greatest inspiration we have known, that is why we feel a need to ensure that the truth about her life and struggle is heard. Firstly, we want to say thank you for all the solidarity, both national and international. We want to say thank you for the support of her Lenca people, to whom she gave the best of her resistance. To the Garifuna people, with whom she bonded in struggle and visions of utopia. To all the organizations and social movements in Honduras, Latin America and the world who have made our pain their own. We are grateful for the enormous showing of affection and condolences that the Honduran people have offered, demonstrating that Berta’s fight is the dignified fight of all the peoples and the fight that the world needs.
We must not allow the truth about the crime that ended her life to be distorted. We know with complete certainty that the motivation for her vile assassination was her struggle against the exploitation of nature’s common wealth and in defence of the Lenca people. Her murder is an attempt to put an end to the struggle of the Lenca people against all forms of exploitation and expulsion. It is an attempt to halt the construction of a new world.
Her death comes in the middle of her fight against the installation of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam on the Gualcarque River. We demand that it be made clear that the responsibility for this lies with the company DESA, which is developing the project. We hold DESA, the international financial organizations backing the project (the Netherlands Development Finance Company FMO, Finnfund, the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, Ficohsa Bank), and the contractors (CASTOR and the Atala Group) responsible for the persecution, criminalization, stigmatization and constant death threats against Berta, us, and COPINH. We hold the Honduran state responsible for obstructing Berta’s protection and for contributing to her persecution, criminalization and murder. For having chosen to favor the interests of the company over and above the decisions of the communities.
How is it possible that the very police, army and security ministry that protect the interests and installations of DESA are the same institutions that were expected to guarantee the protection of our Berta? How is it possible that the same police, army and Honduran state that was supposed to protect her well being are the same ones that sent her death threats, harassed her, and persecuted her?
It is the business groups in bed with the national government, the municipal government and the State’s repressive institutions which are behind the extractive projects being developed in the region. The financiers of these extractivist projects of death are the same ones responsible for the death of our Berta, and so many others struggling against the exploitation of their territories. Because it is this money that allows for the imposition of economic interests over the ancestral rights of the peoples.
We will not allow Berta’s image to be transformed into an empty logo. Our Berta will be celebrated as part of the permanent and energetic struggle in defence of life and territory, and against this system of exploitation and pillage.
Given the demonstrated lack of objectivity seen in previous investigations in this country, we demand that the investigation of this crime be handled by an impartial international commission formed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, international human rights organizations and the appropriate governmental organisms.
We want the integrity of Berta’s status as a resistance figure to be respected. She is an eternal fighter against racism, patriarchy and the oppressive and murderous capitalist system. Her struggle is marked by a vigorous anti-imperialism, consistently affirmed in her international activities and her thorough rejection of the coup d’état financed and supported by the United States. The coup marked the beginning of this handing over of national territory to the transnational corporations to the detriment of the rights of the Lenca people and the Honduran population.
We demand the immediate and permanent cancellation of DESA’s Gualcarque River concession, guaranteeing the free flow of the waters of the Gualcarque. If the government is honestly interested in justice, then we demand that they cancel all concessions for mining, dams, logging and all projects that threaten our national sovereignty.
We demand respect and guarantees of physical, legal and emotional security for our family, our communities (Rio Blanco in particular) and all those organized in COPINH.
Berta’s struggle was not only for the environment, it was for system change, in opposition to capitalism, racism and patriarchy.
Not only did they kill our mother, they killed the mother of an entire people. We are calling for an intensification of the mobilizations, denunciations and demonstrations of solidarity demanding true justice.
As Berta said: “Wake up! Wake up humanity! There’s no more time. Our consciences are shaken by the mere thought of self-destruction by capitalist, racist and patriarchal depredation.”
Delivered in La Esperanza, Intibucá on the 5th day of March of the year 2016.
My Mom’s Struggle…
by Salvador Zuniga Cáceres (original in Spanish:La lucha de mi mamá…)
Her struggle is that of the people and the struggle of the people is hers. It is difficult for this system of destruction and exploitation to understand that the rivers, the forests, the animals are a part of us and we are a part of them, that they are our spirituality, our way of life, which keeps us alive.
It is very difficult for them to understand that we are not willing to allow them to destroy us, exploit us, put up our ancestral territory for sale, criminalize us, persecute us and kill us.
My mother, a woman born in the midst of the Lenca people, has been criminalized and murdered for not being willing to allow the green of our mountains, the pure and spiritual sound of our rivers, the harmonizing birdsong to disappear, she was murdered for being steadfast and profoundly understanding what it it that nature is telling us.
Her struggle is also with the women who are mothers that summon our ancestors, who are a source of wisdom, that are the protagonists of the struggle for life, those who are beaten, those who are killed, but in spite of that their voices can not be silenced.
Indigenous peoples have been victims of racism and contempt, the voice and spirit of my mother has accompanied them and will accompany them, because it is not conceivable, such a world where we are not able to understand that this world is diverse, it has different voices and sounds, which give richness to this world.
They murdered her for understanding that this struggle goes far beyond all boundaries, that this current system threatens the life of our planet, threatens worldviews, calls on us to be indifferent, to not feel that every injustice in this world is something that is unfair to everyone, tries to convince us that we are not together and to only think of ourselves…
Take now the form of shouting, of hope, of a utopia to change this world, a raised fist that cries out for justice, a call to the brotherhood of peoples, that is why we can never say Berta is dead…
THURSDAY, MARCH 17, 2016
(translation by La Voz de los de Abajo. Click title above to go to their blog.)
March 17th, 2016 marks the beginning of a massive mobilization spearheaded by indigenous and black Hondurans and accompanied by the rest of the Honduran social movements aimed at shutting down Honduras’s capital city of Tegucigalpa until demands are met for justice in the
assassination of Berta Cáceres. One of the primary conveners is the Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras, OFRANEH, which has led the struggle for years amongst Honduras’s Garífuna population and has worked closely with Berta and COPINH for many years. The following is their statement on the purpose of the mobilization and encampment that just began. [Original en español]
Why we mobilize with Berta today
Berta is not dead. Her spirit lives in all of the rivers of Honduras and the world that are threatened by a backwards idea of development that favors the blood-thirsty political and business elite, whose antiquated vision calls the death of rivers “clean energy.” We have walked alongside Berta on many paths and the struggle to defend our territories and cultures in the face of the devastating aggression of neoliberalism has been one of our most important bonds. They want to convert the natural resources on indigenous lands into commodities to be auctioned off, without any consent from our peoples, who they see as just statistics that can be dismissed.
Honduras since the coup d’état has become a political laboratory, where the ruling elite have used hideous techniques of social containment and control to get rid of us and maintain their fierce grip on power, making use of the intentionally-provoked violence and bloodshed that is embedded in our society. The execution of Berta is a desperate act by a villainous government that has been unable to neutralize her spirit of struggle or defense of the Lenca people’s territory from the bankers and business people who traffic in death.
Berta’s struggle was rooted in the defense of the Lenca territory and culture and the empowerment of women.
The central axis of her activities revolved around the Right to Prior, Free and Informed Consultation. It is a right that has been scorned by the various government administrations, which haven’t thought twice about their attempts to give away territory and put our cultures up on the auction block.
The assassination of Berta has corroborated her own denunciations of the persecution that the “authorities” and executives of the DESA Corporation carried out against her for years. Now it seems that her death is being used as a pretext to intensify the strategy aimed at destroying COPINH and annihilating its leaders.
- An exhaustive investigation by an independent international panel into the assassination of Berta Cáceres
- The immediate withdrawal of the DESA Corporation from Lenca territory and the cancelling of all concessions for hydroelectric dams, mining projects, extraction of hydrocarbons, and Special Development Regions on indigenous lands
- Demilitarization of indigenous lands
- Unconditional freedom for our brother and compañero Gustavo Castro
- Immediate passage of the Law for Prior, Free and Informed Consultation, created by the Indigenous People’s Observatory with direct collaboration by Berta Cáceres
- Nullification of unilateral decrees regarding extractive and hydroelectric projects in indigenous territories
- Re-working of the Alliance for Prosperity, which is a false solution to the migration conflict
- Recognition of COPINH as the organization responsible for the oversight of its territories.
Berta lives on and the struggle continues.
Sambo Creek, March 17th, 2016
Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras, OFRANEH
Letter from Gustavo Castro to the Honduran people:
(English translation by Other Worlds. The original in Spanish can be found here: Palabras de Gustavo Castro al pueblo de Honduras)
I don´t know if you´ll ever receive these lines I´m writing to you.
I came to Honduras with so much hope. I hadn´t been here in years, but I´m grateful that Berta invited me. My beloved friend for so many years, her and her family. Despite all what I´ve been through, I don´t regret coming or having been chosen by fate to say goodbye to my dear friend.
I am in pain for my wounds, although they are getting better, but I am more in pain for my dear Honduran people, who don´t deserve this, none of us do. We´ve always admired this noble, brave people who are fighting for a dignified life for all, where there´s room for all, without distinction and with justice. That was Berta´s struggle.
Just as I feel the love of the Honduran people for Mexico, this is the love I feel for this beautiful country, its landscapes, its nature, and especially its people, proud of being Catrachos. We shouldn´t let murders or weevils cloud our hope or landscapes.
When in Mexico I run into immigrants from these lands, I can´t resist to come to them and help them, recognizing their bravery, because I know what they´ve been through and the pain for all what they are leaving behind to move on in the path of life, of hope, of searching for something better. And I say to myself and I say to them, don´t go, come back, the journey is difficult, our people, our land need us. And I say goodbye with a word that Berta always said to me: “Cheke!”.
Our land is generous, our blood is the same, the same Meso-American links that have always bonded us together and that invite us to fight, just like Berta, for a more dignified and better life for all.
While I´m waiting to reunite with my family and friends, a lot of Honduran people have expressed their solidarity and affection. I thank all of you, so much. Berta meant a lot to me, as much as she meant to you. Berta was an exceptional woman who fought for a better Honduras, more dignified, more just, for a country for all. Her spirit grows in the heart of the Honduran people, because we didn´t bury her, but sowed her so that she can give us hope, from La Esperanza.
Have no doubt. I have complied with all the proceedings requested by the authorities, more than ten, and I will continue to do so for justice. Although the authorities told me many times I could leave and they even got me a helicopter to leave La Esperanza to Tegucigalpa, at the last minute they requested me to stay for new proceedings, to which I´ve always said yes. Right now, I have done everything in my power. I have a life, I have a family. From Mexico I will not stop supporting and I will always be willing to help you find the truth. That´s why we have between both countries a Treaty on Bilateral Legal Assistance in criminal matters between the United Mexican States and the Republic of Honduras.
From Mexico I will continue taking on my historical responsibility with the Honduran people, with Berta, her family and COPINH. In my body I carry the wounds for all my life, which will never let me forget this commitment.
I thank COPINH for having opened their doors for me. They are beautiful, simple people, worthy of their ancestors, worthy of these magnificent lands. They are a people with a relentless spirit for the struggle to preserve their identity and place of origin. I admire you in your respect to nature and your love to Honduras. I admire you and thank you so much. You are what the world knows and respects of Honduras, you are hope, you are the seed from where the spirit of Lempira, ancestral peoples, the Honduran people, will rise stronger. You have been an example and inspiration for many all around the world, and for the Honduran people as well. In the same way, you are an example of dignity for all social, peasant, indigenous and Garifuna organizations that struggle for a better country. I thank all of you for your solidarity.
I would also like to thank the Mexican Ambassador and Consul for all their invaluable support. They have greeted me with open and protective arms to face this adverse situation. I appreciate all the Honduran and international solidarity for their love to Berta and their generous displays of concern. I will never be able to pay for your thousands of letters, signatures and messages.
Soon there will be justice,
Gustavo Castro Soto
“Yet even death cannot subdue Berta. In the days since her murder, the notoriety of her person and her message has multiplied exponentially around the word. The current level of global action against Honduran government impunity, US government’s support for it, and pillaging by transnational capital has reached heights that Berta could only have dreamed of. Click here for actions you can take in solidarity.” -Beverly Bell, Other Worlds http://www.commondreams.org/views/2016/03/16/why-was-berta-caceres-assassinated
The Radio Program “This is Hell”
Organizer Beverly Bell profiles the life and legacy of Berta Cáceres (begins at 01:32:50).
Demands of Honduran State from Berta Cáceres’ Family
WHAT WE DEMAND FROM THE STATE OF HONDURAS REGARDING THE ASSASSINATION OF BERTHA CACERES FLORES
(original in Spanish can be found here: EXIGENCIAS AL ESTADO DE HONDURAS ANTE EL ASESINATO DE BERTA CÁCERES FLORES )
We strongly condemn the assassination of our compañera and mother, Bertha Cáceres Flores, General Coordinator of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), which occurred on March 2.
This was not an isolated event; her death exemplifies the grave danger that human rights defenders face, especially those who defend the rights of indigenous people and the environment against the exploitation of our territories. This danger is ongoing and affects all the people around us, including our family.
In recent years, both Bertha and we, her family and the members of COPINH, have been victims of numerous acts of harassment, threats, persecution, and criminalization by state and non-state actors, especially since the beginning of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project, developed by the company DESA (Desarrollos Engergéticos, S.A.) within the territory of the Lenca community of Río Blanco.
All of the actions of persecution against our compañera were reported and publicly known, yet effective measures of protection were not adopted. There was no investigation and no political will to listen to the Lenca people, who demanded their territory and dignity be respected. For this reason, the State of Honduras is responsible for the assassination of our compañera and mother Bertha Cáceres.
Due to the impact that this event has had on the national and international communities, the importance of justice being served for this crime, and out of respect for the memory and lifelong activism of Bertha Cáceres, the members of COPINH and her family demand:
- Within the framework of protective measures, we request that an agreement be signed immediately for technical assistance between the State of Honduras and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in order to name an independent commission of experts, trusted by COPINH and Berta’s family, that will supervise, support, and participate in the investigation currently being conducted by the Public Ministry.
- That the concession granted to the company DESA for the hydroelectric project “Agua Zarca” be immediately and permanently cancelled, given that it has been the main source of threats, persecution, and aggressions against the Lenca community of Río Blanco and the members of COPINH. This DESA project is a permanent danger to our safety.
- The immediate suspension of all concessions that have been granted within the territory of the Lenca people without respecting the right to a free, informed prior consultation with the indigenous people, given that these projects are the main source of threats and aggressions. A review process should be started to cancel these concessions.
- The demilitarization of the zones and territories of the Lenca people, and respect for territorial autonomy and forms of self-government, making the COPINH the organization responsible for community autonomy.
- That the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Law be implemented immediately, with all resources necessary for its effective application made available and in accordance to the organization’s needs.
We demand that the country’s highest authorities commit to complying with the requests made. In this regard, we publicly request an urgent meeting with the President of the Republic, Juan Orlando Hernández, as well as the Attorney General of the Republic, Oscar Fernando Chinchilla and with the relevant Secretaries of State in order to guarantee the respect for the integrity of the Lenca people.
We ask that the International Community embrace our requests and demand that the Honduran authorities comply with them.
Presented in Tegucigalpa, March 9, 2016.
The family of Bertha Cáceres Flores
The Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH)
The Platform of Social and Popular Movements of Honduras
Center for Justice and International Law
Action alert compiled by Rights Action http://rightsaction.org/
Action Needed in U.S. and Canada Concerning Assassination of Berta Cáceres and Assassination Attempt Against and Illegal Detention of Gustavo Castro
- Letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
- Letter to Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of International Development, Minister of International Trade, Ambassador of Canada to Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua
Over 250 organizations signed the letter to the U.S. Secretary of State; over 50 organizations signed the letter to the Canadian government representatives. Please make these letters your own and put them to use! If you have not signed them, please do so and put them to use. If you have signed them, great, and put them to use.
Send copies to your own Senators, Members of Congress and Members of Parliament asking that your elected officials publicly endorse what this letter demands.
Action Needed in the U.S. and Canada
The Honduran regime prosecutors are manipulating the “investigation”, focusing on members of Berta Caceres’ organization – COPINH – as authors of her assassination, and paving the way to possibly implicate Gustavo Castro himself in the assassination of Berta.
All efforts must be made to pressure the U.S. and Canadian governments (the most important supporters of the Honduran regime since the 2009 military coup) to pressure the Honduran authorities to let Gustavo Castro go home to Mexico; and to establish the independent international judicial commission to directly join the criminal investigation in Honduras. Short of this, corruption and impunity will prevail again in Honduras.
- How to fund Berta’s family and COPINH / More information: See below
Letter to Canadian Government Regarding Assassination of Honduran Berta Cáceres
Honourable Stéphane Dion, P.C., M.P., Minister of Foreign Affairs
Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, P.C., M.P., Minister of International Development
Honourable Chrystia Freeland, P.C., M.P., Minister of International Trade
Mr. Michael Gort, Ambassador of Canada to Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua
CC: Her Excellency Sofía Lastenia Cerrato Rodríguez, Ambassador of Honduras to Canada
CC: His Excellency Agustín García-López Loaeza, Ambassador of Mexico to Canada
March 18, 2016
Dear Ministers Dion, Bibeau and Freeland and Ambassador Gort:
The undersigned organizations write to express their horror to learn that Nelson Garcia, another leader of Berta Cáceres’ organization, the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) was murdered on March 14.
In the wake of Berta’s murder, which generated shock and dismay around the world, it is deeply distressing that the people behind these murders feel so unencumbered and so empowered as to continue killing COPINH leadership and terrorizing members of Berta’s organization.
Over one hundred and twenty national and regional organizations and institutions from Canada  have called on the Canadian government to condemn the murder of Berta Caceres and to urge the Honduran government to support an independent, international investigation of the killing. Goldman prize-winner Marilyn Baptiste from the Xeni Gwet’in First Nations in British Columbia also sent a message  calling for a full and independent investigation, noting that the Lenca people have not given their free, prior and informed consent for the dam projects, including the Agua Zarca dam project, on the Gualcarque River with which they share a spiritual bond. We note with concern that one of the companies that promotes having a project along this river is the Canadian firm Hydrosys.
In response to the assassinations of Berta Cáceres and Nelson García, the Netherlands Development Finance Company (FMO)  and the Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation Ltd.  have suspended funding assistance in Honduras, including to the Agua Zarca project.
Late Tuesday, the Honduras Solidarity Network reported that COPINH leader Nelson Garcia was murdered by two unknown individuals in the community of Río Chiquito, department of Cortés. Nelson was on his way to his mother-in-law’s house to eat after helping a group of families who were evicted from the area known as Río Lindo in the community of Río Chiquito by police, military police, soldiers and a special investigative unit (DGIC). Though these families built houses on this land two years ago, their homes and crops were destroyed using tractors and heavy machinery during the eviction. Immediately following Nelson’s murder, police reportedly called it a common crime, similar to how Honduran authorities tried to dismiss Berta’s murder as a crime of passion or a failed robbery immediately following her assassination.
It is shocking that Nelson was murdered less than two weeks after Berta was killed, despite condemnation of her murder by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR),  which has also issued precautionary measures to ensure the physical integrity and well-being of the members of COPINH and Berta’s family.
The IACHR has also issued precautionary measures for Gustavo Castro, the principal witness to Berta’s murder who continues to be prevented from returning home to Mexico, despite the Mexican Embassy having formally requested that his migratory alert be lifted on March 10th. Mexico and Honduras have a treaty for mutual cooperation in criminal investigations that would allow Gustavo to continue participating in the ongoing investigation into Berta’s murder from Mexico. There is no reason for him to remain in Honduras away from his family and his important work as a human rights defender.
We recognize that the Canadian Embassy to Honduras issued a statement on March 3rd condemning Berta’s murder, calling for a full and expedited investigation and the protection of human rights defenders.  However, it is imperative that the Canadian government continue pressing publicly, and using every other means available, for Honduran authorities to:
- Guarantee the security of all of the members of COPINH, Berta’s family and Gustavo Castro through full implementation of the IACHR precautionary measures;
- Incorporate a group of independent international investigators who have the trust of Berta’s family and COPINH into the ongoing investigation into Berta’s assassination through an agreement with the IACHR. This should also be expanded to include the threats, criminalization and murder of other members of COPINH including Nelson Garcia;
- Lift the measure that currently impedes Gustavo Castro’s safe and immediate return to Mexico;
- Immediately and definitively revoke the Energy Development Company’s (DESA) concession for the Agua Zarca project, granted without the Lenca peoples’ free, prior and informed consent; suspend, review and annul all other hydroelectric and mining concessions on Lenca territory granted without the Lenca people’s free, prior and informed consent; demilitarize Lenca territory; and respect the Lenca people’s autonomy.
Furthermore, given the Canadian government’s legal obligations to respect and promote human rights around the world, we urge you to reverse the egregious policy that the government has taken toward Honduras to date.  Following the military-backed coup in June 2009, the Canadian government helped undermine efforts for the return of a democratically-elected government in Honduras and was quick to support and do business with repressive post-coup administrations. As Honduras became the most dangerous country for communities defending their land and water, Canada pushed for a new mining law [, [x]] and passed a free trade agreement with Honduras that favours Canadian investments, despite the serious implications for human rights and the environment. 
Since the coup, over 100 environment defenders have been murdered with Berta’s assassination becoming the most widely known.  Many journalists and others engaged in important social struggles have also been killed.
- Cut off Canadian public funding to the Honduran government and security forces through the Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program (ACCBP) and the Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force (START);
- Given the lack of free, prior and informed consent of the Lenca Indigenous people, suspend all Canadian government and public support – including funding, investment insurance, government and embassy services of any kind – that HydroSys and any other related investors in projects along the Gualcarque River might be receiving;
- Ensure that no Canadian overseas development aid, other financing or services are used to support infrastructure or mega-projects that do not have the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples whose lands and rights will be affected, in accordance with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and ILO Convention 169 as minimum standards. While violence is used to silence Indigenous people who exercise their right to oppose projects that will affect their lands and rights, conditions do not exist to guarantee free, prior and informed consent.
- Investigate the Canadian government’s role in Honduras during and since the 2009 military-backed coup by expanding the parliamentary committee study on Honduras, ensuring broad public participation.
We urge the Canadian government to act on its commitment to advance human rights, justice and security while protecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Alliance internationale des femmes/International Women’s Alliance (IWA)
Americas Policy Group (Canadian Council for International Co-operation)
Association québécoise des organismes de coopération internationale (AQOCI)
Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network (ARSN)
BC CASA/Cafe Justicia
BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU)
BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF)
Canadian Union of Postal Workers/Syndicat des travailleurs et travailleuses des postes (CUPW-STTP)
Cercle des Premières Nations de l’UQAM
Comité de Apoyo al Pueblo Mapuche de Montréal
Comité pour les droits humains en Amérique latine (CDHAL)
Comité 8 mars des Femmes de diverses origines/ March 8 Committee Women of Diverse Origins
Confédération des syndicats nationaux – CSN
Coordination du Québec de la Marche mondiale des femmes
Council of Canadians
Education In Action, Ottawa
Fédération des femmes du Québec (FFQ)
Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ)
Friends of the Earth Canada
Groupe de recherche sur les espaces publics et les innovations politiques de l’Université du Québec à Montréal (GREPIP-UQÀM)
Horizons of Friendship
Ligue internationale de lutte des peuples/International League of People’s Struggle (ILPS) in Canada
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
Maquila Solidarity Network (MSN)
Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network
Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, Toronto
Mining Justice Action Committee, Victoria
Mining Justice Alliance, Vancouver
People’s Health Movement Canada/Mouvement populaire pour la santé au Canada
Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC)
Réseau québécois sur l’intégration continentale (RQIC)
Projet Accompagnement Solidarité Colombie (PASC)
Sierra Club BC
Solidarité Laurentides Amériques centrale (SLAM)
Stop The Institute, Vancouver
The United Church of Canada
United for Mining Justice
Victoria Central America Support Committee
Letter to U.S. Secretary of State Regarding Assassination of Honduran Berta Cáceres
March 10, 2016
Dear Secretary of State Kerry,
We write in shock and deep sorrow regarding the murder of Honduran human rights and environmental defender Berta Cáceres, founder and general secretary of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). We urge a response from the State Department that is not business as usual but a profound change of direction towards improving the abysmal situation of human rights in Honduras.
Berta Cáceres, winner of the prestigious 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize, was a visionary indigenous and environmental rights leader. She championed efforts to protect indigenous peoples from large-scale development projects that are being advanced in Honduras without consultation of communities and without concern for the environment. She organized communities in Honduras and across the world against the unconsented extraction of natural resources and in defense of the Gualcarque River, a sacred site of the Lenca people and an essential water source, against the construction of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam. Berta Cáceres was a much-loved leader of the diverse social movements in her country. Members of Honduran civil society are united in sorrow and anger about her death—as are so many in the international community.
Berta Cáceres was killed on March 3, 2016 by armed men who broke into her home in La Esperanza, department of Intibucá, Honduras. Mexican environmentalist and journalist Gustavo Castro Soto of Otros Mundos Chiapas/Friends of the Earth Mexico and the Mesoamerican Movement against the Extractive Mining Movement was also wounded in the attack. We urge that Mr. Castro immediately be permitted to return safely to his country.
In the course of her work, Berta Cáceres suffered constant death threats against herself and her family, threats of sexual violence and assault, attacks and harassment. She was also the subject of continual legal harassment by judicial authorities and intimidation by security forces and local government officials for her work. In the six months before her murder, according to COPINH, the threats against her escalated and included shots fired at her car and verbal threats and messages, by members of the military, police, local authorities and representatives of the hydroelectric company.
Ms. Cáceres had precautionary measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) since 2009 but never received the full protection she needed. We are outraged by statements from Security Minister Julián Pacheco that in effect blame Cáceres for the failure of the Honduran government to comply with its obligation to protect her.
She is one of 15 human rights defenders who have been killed in Honduras while beneficiaries of IACHR precautionary measures, as reported by the Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH). On March 5, 2016, the IACHR granted precautionary measures for COPINH, Berta Cáceres’ family and Gustavo Castro Soto, given the risk to their safety.
Berta Cáceres’ death confirms what a 2015 report by Global Witness has shown: Honduras is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for environmental activists. At least 109 environmental activists were murdered between 2010 and 2015. Since the 2009 coup, Honduras has become one of the world’s most dangerous places to be a human rights defender of any kind. Indigenous and Garifuna leaders, LGBTI activists, union leaders, women’s rights activists, human rights activists, justice operators, and journalists reporting on human rights and corruption issues are among those who, like environmental activists, are at risk. The murder of Berta Cáceres sends a devastating message to all Hondurans trying to exercise their rights.
We urge you:
- To support an independent international investigation led by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights into Ms. Cáceres’ murder and to urge that the Honduran government invite and fully cooperate with such an investigation. Such an independent investigation is essential given the lack of confidence in the judicial system; reigning impunity, including for cases involving human rights defenders; and the emblematic nature of this case.
- To insist that Honduran judicial authorities carry out their duties to effectively and promptly investigate Cáceres’ murder, in cooperation with the international investigation, and following lines of inquiry that take into account the context of Cáceres’ work and situation of risk and pursue the intellectual as well as material authors, guaranteeing due process and access to justice.
- To press the Honduran government to comply with the precautionary measures granted by the IACHR on March 5 and provide immediate, effective, and carefully consulted protection to members of COPINH, members of Ms. Cáceres’ family, Mr. Castro and all witnesses in the case.
With this tragic loss, we join together to call for more systemic change. We ask that the State Department make clear to the Honduran government that future partnership and funding depends on demonstrating the political will to investigate and prosecute this crime and all crimes against human rights defenders. The Honduran government must make the mechanism for protection of human rights defenders, journalists, media workers and justice operators fully operational and adequately funded, with protection measures consulted with beneficiaries. It must guarantee freedom of expression, including by ending harsh, constant repression of social protests, ensuring an immediate end to intimidating public statements by government officials and members of the military and police that place human rights defenders and journalists in danger, and ending specious prosecution of human rights defenders.
It is crucial that the Honduran government meet, as the IACHR has said, its “obligation of carrying out the prior, free, and informed consultation of indigenous people regarding projects underway on their land and territories and that affect their natural resources.” We support Senator Patrick Leahy’s call to abandon the Agua Zarca dam project and to protect the territory that Berta devoted her life to defending. The Honduran government should recognize that the pace and process by which it is facilitating the extraction and trade of natural resources by national and international investors is contributing to social conflict and human rights violations.
We ask the U.S. government to:
- urge the Honduran government to meet its obligation to ensure prior, free, and informed consent of indigenous communities and to greatly improve transparency regarding existing and proposed concessions of natural resources. This should include making public project information regarding the nearly 50 hydropower concessions granted since the start of 2010.
- ensure that no U.S. assistance and support for multilateral bank projects promote or permit development projects without meeting the obligation for ensuring prior, free and informed consent of indigenous communities, nor without ensuring meaningful consultation of all affected communities and that strong human rights, labor rights and environmental safeguards are in place.
- Finally, we urge the State Department to suspend all assistance and training to Honduran security forces, with the exception of investigatory and forensic assistance to the police, so long as the murders of Berta Cáceres and scores of other Honduran activists remain in impunity. In addition, we urge the State Department to implement transparently and fully the conditions in the FY2016 State, Foreign Operations bill which link 50 percent of aid to the central government of Honduras to progress on addressing human rights abuses and corruption.
The U.S. government must stand with those who are putting their lives on the line for the protection of human rights and the environment in Honduras.
Agricultural Missions, Inc. (AMI)
Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise
Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice (ACIJ)
Alliance Against Mining – Philippines (Alyansa Tigil Mina)
Alliance for Global Justice (AfGJ)
Alliance for Justice
AMERICA PARA TODOS
American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)
American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
American Jewish World Service (AJWS)
Americans for Indian Opportunity
Amigos de la Tierra España
ART NOT WAR
Asociación Americana de Juristas (AAJ)
Baurkot & Baurkot
Beyond Extreme Energy
Brooklyn For Peace
Casa de Maryland
Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good
Center for Biological Diversity
Center for Constitutional Rights
Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary
Center for Human Rights and Environment
Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)
Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA)
Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL)
Center for Women’s Global Leadership, Rutgers University
Center of Concern
Center on Conscience & War, Washington DC
Central American Resource Center (CRECEN)
Central American Resource Center (CARECEN), Washington DC, Los Angeles, and San Francisco
Centro de Documentación en Derechos Humanos “Segundo Montes Mozo S.J.” (CSMM)
Centro de Estudios para la Justicia Social TIERRA DIGNA, Colombia
Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN)
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Refugee and Immigration Ministries
Church World Service
Climate Justice Alliance (CJA)
Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU)
Colombia Support Network
Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach
Columbia Divest for Climate Justice
Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES)
Committee for Human Rights in Latin America (CDHAL), Montreal, Canada
Committee on U.S.-Latin American Relations, Cornell University
Communications Workers of America (CWA)
Community Alliance for Global Justice (CAGJ)
Community Justice Project, Inc. of Miami, FL
Confederación Sindical de Trabajadores/as de las Américas (CSA)
Conference of Major Superiors of Men
Coordinadora de Afectados por Grandes Embalses y Trasvases (COAGRET)
Corporate Accountability International
The Cross Border Network for Justice & Solidarity, Kansas City, Missouri
Denver Justice & Peace Committee
Disciples Justice Action Network
Dominican Friars, Irving, TEXAS
Donella Meadows Institute
Due Process of Law Foundation
Earth Day Network
Environmental Defender Law Center (EDLC)
Environmental Defenders Project, USA
Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA)
Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
Faith in Public Life
Family Farm Defenders
Farmworker Association of Florida
The Fellowship of Reconciliation
Florida Immigrant Coalition
France Amérique Latine/Francia América Latina
Franciscan Action Network
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Friends of Broward Detainees
Friends of the Earth-United States
Friends of Miami-Dade Detainees
O Fórum da Amazônia Oriental (FAOR)
Fund for Democratic Communities, Greensboro, NC
Georgia Detention Watch
Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature
Global Campaign for Peace Education
Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ
Goldman Environmental Foundation
Grassroots Global Justice Alliance
Green Cross International
Grupo Belga ‘Solidair met Guatemala’
Guatemala Human Rights Commission (GHRC)
The Guatemalan-Maya Center
Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy
Honduran Conservation Coalition
Honduras Accompaniment Project
Honor the Earth
Hope Community Center
Ignatian Solidarity Network
Indigenous Environmental Network
The Ingrid Washinawatok Flying Eagle Woman Fund for Peace, Justice and Sovereignty
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti
Institute for Policy Studies, Climate Policy Program, Global Economy Project and New Economy Maryland Project
El Instituto Madeira Vivo (IMV)
Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA)
Interfaith Coalition on Immigration, MN
Interfaith Power & Light
International Federation of Settlements
International Forum on Globalization
International Funders for Indigenous Peoples (IFIP)
International Institute on Peace Education
International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF)
International Platform against Impunity
International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)
International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW)
InterReligious Task Force on Central America and Colombia
JASS (Just Associates)
Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States
Jesuit Social Research Institute/Loyola University New Orleans
Just Foreign Policy
La Asamblea Veracruzana de Iniciativas y Defensa Ambiental (LAVIDA), Mexico
Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, AFL-CIO (LCLAA)
Latin America Solidarity Committee-Milwaukee
Latin America Task Force of Interfaith Council for Peace & Justice – Ann Arbor, Michigan
Latin America Working Group (LAWG)
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
LEPOCO Peace Center, Bethlehem, PA
Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution
Maine Clammers Association
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Medical Mission Sisters
Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office
Mesoamerican Women Human Rights Defenders Initiative
Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate-U.S Province (OMI)
Movement Generation: Justice and Ecology Project
Movimiento Mesoamericano contra el Modelo extractivo Minero -M4
Mundo Maya Foundation
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Council of Churches
National Family Farm Coalition
National Immigration Law Center
National Lawyers Guild – National Board
National Lawyers Guild International Committee
The National Religious Campaign Against Torture
Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA)
Nicaragua-US Friendship Office of the Americas
NOAH Friends of the Earth-Denmark
Nuclear Information and Resource Service
The Oakland Institute
Oil Change International
Pax Christi International
Pax Christi USA
Peace Action Montgomery
Peace Brigades International (PBI)
Peace Development Fund, Amherst, MA and San Francisco, CA
Peace Education Initiative, The University of Toledo
Pesticide Action Network North America
Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo (PIDHDD Regional)
Plataforma “Jalón Vivo”
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Presbyterian Peace Fellowship
Public Services International
Radios Populares, Chicago IL
Rainforest Action Network
The Rainforest Foundation US
Real Food Challenge
Red Europea de Comites Oscar Romero
Red Mexicana de Lideres y Organizaciones Migrantes
Rights Action (USA & Canada)
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
The Rural Coalition
The Second Chance Foundation
SEIU Florida Public Services Union
Servicios Internacionales Cristianos de Solidaridad con los Pueblos de America Latina — Oscar Romero (SICSAL)
Sister Parish, Inc.
Sisters of Mercy, Institute Justice Team
Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur Justice and Peace Office
SOA Watch, WI
The Solidarity Center
SOMO (Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations), Netherlands
Southeast Immigrant Rights Network (SEIRN)
South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice
Student Power Networks
Syracuse Peace Council
Tamales y Bicicletas
Task Force on the Americas
Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA)
Trade Unions for Energy Democracy
Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment)
Unión de Afectados por Texaco, Ecuador (UDAPT)
Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA)
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC)
United Auto Workers Union (UAW)
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society
Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights
Voces de la Frontera
Washington Defender Association Immigration Project (WDAIP), Seattle, WA
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
WE ACT for Environment Justice
Witness for Peace
Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN)
Women’s Environment and Development Organization
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
Zo Indigenous Forum, Mizoram, India
1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East – Florida
8th Day Center for Justice
Desmond D’Sa, Goldman Environmental Prize Winner 2014, Africa
Funds Needed for Family of Berta Caceres and COPINH
Since 1998, Rights Action has funded and worked with COPINH, co-founded and directed by Berta Caceres. Since her assassination on March 3, 2016, , Rights Action is channeling emergency funds to her family and to COPINH, as they are in emergency response mode trying to ensure that justice is done.
To Make Tax Deductible Donations in the U.S. or Canada, make checks to “Rights Action” (write Berta/COPINH on memo line) and mail to:
- U.S.: Box 50887, Washington DC, 20091-0887
- Canada: (Box 552) 351 Queen St. E, Toronto ON, M5A-1T8
- Canada: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/rights-action/
- U.S.: http://www.rightsaction.org/tax-deductible-donations (click on NetworkForGood)
- Berta Caceres’ Acceptance Speech, 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize. To view: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AR1kwx8b0ms
- Murdered for Activism in Honduras, by Silvio Carrillo (Berta’s nephew), March 11, 2016, New York Times:http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/12/opinion/international/murdered-for-activismin-honduras.html?emc=edit_tnt_20160311&nlid=45556342&tntemail0=y
- Berta Caceres: Who She Is & What She Lived For, by Grahame Russell, March 3, 2016: http://us9.campaign-archive2.com/?u=ea011209a243050dfb66dff59&id=026d1728a3
- Fight With Joy: Remembering Bertha Cáceres, by Sandra Cuffe, March 7, 2016: https://intercontinentalcry.org/fight-joy-remembering-bertha-caceres/
- Eulogy For Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores, by Bev Bell, March 9, 2016:http://otherworldsarepossible.org/berta-lives-life-and-legacy-berta-caceres
- Blood Flows Where Canadian Capital Goes, by Tyler Shipley, 03/6/2016:http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/analysis/blood-flows-where-canadian-capital-goes-371189471.html
- www.BertaCaceres.org (established and operated by Berta’s family)
- Honduras Solidarity Network: http://www.hondurassolidarity.org/
- Other Worlds: http://otherworldsarepossible.org/
- Common Frontiers: http://www.commonfrontiers.ca/
- School of the Americas Watch: http://www.soaw.org/about-the-soawhinsec/what-is-the-soawhinsec