Courtesy Goldman Environmental Prize
“They tried to silence Berta but she is incarnated in each of us.”

Assassination of Cáceres Receives International Push for Honest Investigation

Rick Kearns

“Berta Cáceres Lives” was the theme of an international gathering in Honduras in April bringing together activists from around the world dedicated to an independent investigation of the Cáceres assassination, organizing efforts and human rights issues.

The event grew out of international outrage at the March 3 murder of the important Lenca activist, which many believe was ordered by the DESA Corporation of Honduras and with help from the Honduran government.

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Due to the evidence pointing at official involvement in the crime the idea that the Honduran authorities could conduct an impartial investigation has been roundly rejected by activists and leaders from many countries, including the U.S. and the European Union, as well as some religious groups.

From April 13 to 15 representatives from more than 150 Honduran and international organizations came to the capital, Tegucigalpa, to discuss strategies and ideas related to the investigation and continuing human rights activism in the style of Cáceres.

According to press statements made by the conference participants Cáceres’ death was due to “her fight on behalf of COPINH [National Council of Indigenous and Popular Organizations], which is linked to the criminal extractive model, as well as being neocolonial policies and femicide perpetrated by the Honduran and international far right.”

“We as women are at a high risk, not only from macho and patriarchal violence but also from political violence,” said Auxiliada Romero of the Communal Movement of Matagalpa, Nicaragua.

“They tried to silence Berta but she is incarnated in each of us,” Romero asserted.

Cáceres’ work on behalf of her Lenca community brought her into contact with human rights advocates from across the world and helped her to win the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize as well as to inspire many of the people at the conference.

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“Organized and united we can deal with everything that is happening in our territories, and we learn that there is a different way of living than the one they want to sell to us,” said Claudia Ramos of Other Worlds Mexico.

The event organizers did issue a series of goals that they would pursue: an investigation into the crime against Cáceres that would take into account the political context of her work and that they identify all of the material and intellectual authors of the assassination; the removal of the DESA Corporation from Lenca territory including the liberation of the Gualcarque River from private firms; to struggle with international allies against all extractive projects; the ending of the military presence in all indigenous, rural and urban areas; and the formal recognition of COPINH along with other legitimate community organizations as being officially responsible for the protection of Indigenous Peoples.

On the last day of the gathering some participants were attacked by people they said were employed by the DESA Corporation, resulting in injuries to 10 people including children. Calls for arrests have not resulted in any as of late April.

While the murderers of Cáceres are still at large, it was noted that Didier Ramirez, the main suspect in the March 15 murder of indigenous COPINH activist Nelson Garcia, was arrested on March 27. Ramirez was identified as a member of the MS gang. No other information was available at press time of a hearing date or other arrests related to the Garcia or Caceres murders.

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