Early in the morning on March 3, 2016, the environmental justice community was jolted by news of the assassination of Berta Cáceres, the Honduran feminist activist. She was nearly 45 and was shot dead the previous night in her home, in La Esperanza. It seems almost certain that she was killed because of her sustained opposition to illegal logging, agricultural plantations and the construction of dams that caused environmental destruction and displacement of communities. The Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), cofounded by Berta in the early 1990s, has been in the forefront of the fight to stop the construction of the Agua Zarca cascade of four giant dams in the Gualcarque river basin—the spiritual, economic and cultural habitat of the Lenca People.
In 2015 she was awarded the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize for her courage and leadership. At the time she said, “There is a racist system in place that sustains and reproduces itself. The political, economic and social situation in Honduras is getting worse and there is an imposition of a project of domination, of violent oppression, of militarization, of violation of human rights, of transnationalisation, of the turning over of the riches and sovereignty of the land to corporate capital, for it to privatize energy, the rivers, the land; for mining exploitation; for the creation of development zones.”
All around the world we see the same: corporate interests appropriating resources at the cost of the environment and people, particularly indigenous communities, all with the overt or covert support of the state. Here is Berta's call to action: “We must undertake the struggle in all parts of the world, wherever we may be, because we have no other spare or replacement planet. We have only this one, and we have to take action.”
Berta and her colleagues were constantly made aware that their lives were in danger. Yet the struggle against the hydro-electric project—intended to help meet the energy needs of the extractive industries—continued.
Let us heed Berta's call to action and ensure that her death is not in vain.
The sole witness of this assassination, Gustavo Castro Soto, a Mexican citizen and activist, is still being detained in Honduras despite the Mexican Embassy trying to bring him home to Mexico. Like Berta, Gustavo is a “key leader to popular struggles against corporate extraction, government malfeasance, and U.S. intervention in Mesoamerica.” He was targeted along with Berta but survived, despite getting shot twice. As the key witness to Berta Cáceres’ assassination, Gustavo's life is in grave danger, especially while he remains detained in Honduras. We join the Lenca people and the environmental justice community in their: