Getting away with murder: the case of Berta Caceres
One year ago today, Berta Caceres, indigenous Lenca leader and land defender, was murdered in her home in La Esperanza, Honduras. Berta was the co-founder of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (COPINH), and led the successful grassroots resistance to the Agua Zarca dam that threatened the Lenca community of Rio Blanco. She had faced repeated death threats because of her work and resistance.
Last year War on Want paid tribute to Berta Cáceres, condemning her murder and calling on the Honduran government to bring the assassins to justice. Yet, despite eight arrests, the people who gave the order for her murder have not been brought to justice. At the heart of this callous crime, and many more like it, are corporations and political leites intent on using all means necessary to protect their own interests.
Photo credit: Wretched of the Earth
War on Want had previously called on the Honduran authorities to guarantee the safety of Berta Cáceres and other human rights defenders from the Lenca community. Together with the Central American Women's Network (CAWN), we petitioned the Honduran embassy in October 2012 to protest against the wave of violence threatening women human rights defenders in Honduras.
When Berta Cáceres was arrested and imprisoned in May 2013, we joined the international campaign that secured her release. In October 2013, we sent a joint letter to the Honduran government condemning the false accusations made against Berta Cáceres and two other leaders of COPINH. Despite repeated calls for the authorities to guarantee her safety, she continued to receive death threats for her activities in defence of the Lenca community.
Berta’s assassination was not an isolated event. Five other Indigenous leaders and community members have also been murdered for opposing Agua Zarca, three before and two after Berta’s assassination. But this is only one of a myriad of corrupt projects in the region violating the rights of Indigenous and rural communities, making Honduras the ‘deadliest country in the world’ for environmental and human rights defenders.
This deadly pattern is commonplace around the globe. Water and land defenders continue to lose their lives fighting for justice, defending their indigenous lands, homes, communities and natural environment from the destructive forces of racialised capitalism, privatisation and extractivism.
Photo Credit: COPINH
The horrendous crime was an attempt to silence her voice. However, one year after her murder, Berta continues to teach us that ideas cannot be killed; that people power cannot be stopped; that her struggle is still alive; and that it is our duty to continue the resistance against injustice.
COPINH have called for a global day of action to remind those who sought to silence her that Berta Lives on. In the UK, Wretched of the Earth are hosting a gathering in London this Saturday to remember and celebrate Berta’s life and legacy. Wretched of the Earth is a collective of grassroots Indigenous, Black, brown and diaspora groups, individuals and allies acting in solidarity with oppressed communities in the Global South and Indigenous North.