Author: Angelika Albaladejo
Berta Cáceres, the beloved and renowned Honduran environmental and indigenous rights activist and winner of the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize, was murdered in her home on March 3, 2016.
In the aftermath of this tragedy, there has been an undeniable wave of solidarity around the world and a refusal to give up the fight that Berta believed in so strongly. “Berta no murió, se multiplicó! Berta didn’t die, she multiplied!” has been a rallying cry at protests and vigils from Tegucigalpa to Washington, D.C.
The Latin America Working Group immediately set to work organizing a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry calling for “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.” The letter was signed by more than 250 environmental, indigenous, women’s, labor, and human rights organizations from around the world, sending a unified message of support for an independent investigation by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and systemic changes in response to this tragic loss.
Grassroots activists like you have accompanied this effort every step of the way as we’ve honored Berta’s life and work, fought for justice in her case, and advocated for an end to impunity in Honduras.
In the time since Berta’s death, together we’ve stood in solidarity with Berta’s family in a D.C. vigil and urged our Representatives in the House to sign several letters in support of stopping human rights violations in Honduras and ensuring an independent, international investigation of Berta’s murder as has been requested by the Cáceres family and her colleagues at the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). And there have been some results: Honduran authorities have arrested five suspects, including one employee of the DESA company involved in the Agua Zarca dam project and both a current and a retired army officer. But, there is so much more that must be done.
Berta’s story is all too common in Honduras. At least 109 activists were killed in Honduras between 2010 and 2015 for their work in defense of the environment and their communities against destructive dam, mining, logging, and agriculture projects. Honduras is now the “deadliest country in the world to be a land and environmental defender,” according to Global Witness’ 2015 report.
In spite of the risks, Honduran defenders continue to press onward, including Berta’s own daughters Laura and Bertita Zuñiga Cáceres and her nephew Silvio Castillo, who have taken strong advocacy roles internationally to seek justice for Berta and all Hondurans being murdered for their work defending the rights of their communities. The fight for justice and real change in Honduras will be long and difficult. But, through continuing solidarity and advocacy we find hope in Berta’s legacy.
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of The Advocate, LAWG’s biannual newsletter. Download a PDF of the issue here.