View Full Version : Berta Cáceres, Indigenous Activist, Is Killed in Honduras

Drew Phipps
03-04-2016, 09:16 PM
Berta Cáceres, Indigenous Activist, Is Killed in Honduras


MEXICO CITY — An indigenous activist in Honduras (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/honduras/index.html?inline=nyt-geo) who won a prestigious international environmental prize for fighting a dam project despite continued threats was assassinated on Thursday in her hometown, officials said. Gunmen broke down the door of the house where the activist, Berta Cáceres, was staying in La Esperanza, in western Honduras (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/honduras/index.html?inline=nyt-geo), and shot her early Thursday, human rights groups said. Ms. Cáceres, 44, had led a decade-long fight against a project to build the Agua Zarca Dam along the Gualcarque River, which is sacred to the Lenca people. The campaign involved filing legal complaints against the project, organizing community meetings and bringing the case to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission. Last year, she won the Goldman Environmental Prize, (http://www.goldmanprize.org/recipient/berta-caceres/) which is awarded to grass-roots leaders who build community support to protect the environment.

The killing of one of Honduras’s most prominent environmental activists casts attention on the country’s dismal human rights record. It comes just after President Juan Orlando Hernández traveled to Washington and Mexico City last week to argue that his government was turning the corner in combating the violence that makes Honduras one of the most murder-plagued countries in the world. Although the Inter-American Human Rights Commission had ordered protective measures for Ms. Cáceres, she was not under the protection of the Honduran security forces on the day of her death, Julián Pacheco Tinoco, the Honduran security minister, said at a news conference in Tegucigalpa, the capital. He said she was not in the place she had reported as her home when she was killed. Her brother Gustavo Cáceres told media outlets in La Esperanza that her death could have been avoided. “The police were responsible for providing security for my sister here in the city,” he said. “She wasn’t hiding.”

The killing brought widespread condemnation from international human rights organizations and American lawmakers. Mr. Hernández, the president, called the killing of Ms. Cáceres “a crime against Honduras, a blow for the people of Honduras,” and promised an investigation with help from the United States. There are no immediate suspects, officials said. Conflicts between local communities and large companies in Honduras often draw in several armed groups, including the army. “Everyone is saying that the government or the company did it, but you’ll never know,” said Ms. Cáceres’s nephew, Silvio Carrillo, in a telephone interview from Oakland, Calif., where he lives. “It’s the art of obfuscation.”

Since 2013, Ms. Cáceres’s organization, the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, has protested to try to stop the dam’s construction. Under international law, indigenous groups must be consulted on projects that affect their lands, but the Lenca say they were not consulted about the dam. They maintain that the 22MW hydroelectric (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/h/hydroelectric_power/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier) project, which would create a 300-meter long reservoir and divert 3 kilometers of the river, will jeopardize their water resources and their livelihood.

For over a year, the organization maintained a blockade to prevent access to the site despite attempts by security officials to evict protesters. In July 2013, a Honduran soldier fatally shot Tomás García, another leader of Ms. Cáceres’s organization, during a peaceful protest. The protest prompted the Chinese company Sinohydro, which had the contract to build the dam, to withdraw from the project. The Honduran company behind the dam, Desarrollos Energéticos S.A., continued with the project, however, and Honduran business leaders took up the cause against Ms. Cáceres. Aline Flores, president of the Honduran Council for Private Business, said in 2013 that the groups led by Ms. Cáceres were “boycotting, invading and making Honduras look bad internationally.” Criminal charges were filed against Ms. Cáceres, first for carrying an unlicensed weapon, which she said had been planted by military officers at a roadblock, and then for incitement. The company resumed construction of the dam last fall, avoiding potential blockades by moving to the other side of the river, Ms. Cáceres said at the time.

Over the past month, the threats against Ms. Cáceres and her organization had mounted after security forces detained more than 100 people during a peaceful protest on Feb. 20. Since a 2009 coup in Honduras, journalists, judges, labor leaders, human rights defenders and environmental activists have been assassinated in targeted killings, with their murders often going unsolved. Twelve environmental defenders were killed in Honduras in 2014, according to research by Global Witness, which makes it the most dangerous country in the world, relative to its size, for activists protecting forests and rivers. In accepting the Goldman prize, Ms. Cáceres described what it had been like to live under siege. “They follow me and threaten to kidnap and kill me,” she said. “They threaten my family. This is what we have to face.”

Peter Lemkin
03-05-2016, 04:27 AM
Yes, VERY sad and sinister. The list of environmental activists murdered around the World is very long - though little known about. I can make a list of over 50. Usually murdered by companies or large landholders that felt they stood in the way of their profits - or Right-wing governments that supported the views of the companies and large landholders/rich.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Honduran indigenous and environmental organizer Berta Cáceres has been assassinated in her home. She was one of the leading organizers for indigenous land rights in Honduras. In 1993, she co-founded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, or COPINH. For years, the group faced death threats and repression as they stood up to mining and dam projects that threatened to destroy their community. Last year, Cáceres won the Goldman Environmental Prize, the world’s leading environmental award. In a video released by the foundation, she described how she helped organize indigenous communities in Honduras to resist a hydro dam on the Gualcarque River because it could destroy their water supply.

BERTA CÁCERES: [translated] In more than 150 indigenous assemblies, our community decided that it did not want that hydroelectric dam.

ROBERT REDFORD: Berta filed complaints with the Honduran government and organized peaceful protests in the nation’s capital. As her visibility increased, she became a target for the government.

BERTA CÁCERES: [translated] We denounced this dam and were threatened with smear campaigns, imprisonment and murder. But nobody heard our voices—until we set up a roadblock to take back control of our territory.

ROBERT REDFORD: For well over a year, the Lenca maintained the roadblock, with standing harassment and violent attacks. Tragically, Río Blanco community leader Tomás García was shot by the Honduran military at a peaceful protest.

BERTA CÁCERES: [translated] Seeing these men murdered, the community became indignant, forcing a confrontation. The company was told that they had to get out.

PROTESTER: [translated] We have 500 people here, and we are Río Blanco comrades. We will defend Río Blanco, and we will not let them pass.

BERTA CÁCERES: [translated] And that is how Sinohydro left Río Blanco. But it cost us in blood.
AMY GOODMAN: That was a profile of 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize winner Berta Cáceres. It was narrated by Robert Redford. In accepting the award, Cáceres vowed to continue standing up for the rights for Mother Earth and indigenous communities.

BERTA CÁCERES: [translated] In our worldviews, we are beings who come from the Earth, from the water and from corn. The Lenca people are ancestral guardians of the rivers, in turn protected by the spirits of young girls, who teach us that giving our lives in various ways for the protection of the rivers is giving our lives for the well-being of humanity and of this planet. COPINH, walking alongside people struggling for their emancipation, validates this commitment to continue protecting our waters, the rivers, our shared resources and nature in general, as well as our rights as a people.

Let us wake up! Let us wake up, humankind! We’re out of time. We must shake our conscience free of the rapacious capitalism, racism and patriarchy that will only assure our own self-destruction. The Gualcarque River has called upon us, as have other gravely threatened rivers. We must answer their call. Our Mother Earth, militarized, fenced-in, poisoned, a place where basic rights are systematically violated, demands that we take action. Let us build societies that are able to coexist in a dignified way, in a way that protects life. Let us come together and remain hopeful as we defend and care for the blood of this Earth and of its spirits.

I dedicate this award to all the rebels out there, to my mother, to the Lenca people, to Río Blanco and to the martyrs who gave their lives in the struggle to defend our natural resources. Thank you very much.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was Berta Cáceres speaking less than a year ago when she received the Goldman Environmental Prize. She was gunned down in her home in La Esperanza in Honduras early on Thursday. La Esperanza means "hope" in Spanish.
Today, protests demanding justice for Cáceres are scheduled from Washington, D.C., to Tegucigalpa, Honduras. On Thursday, the Goldman Environmental Foundation released a statement that read in part, quote, "We mourn the loss of an inspirational leader, and will honor her life’s work by continuing to highlight the courageous work of Goldman Prize winners like Berta. She built an incredible community of grassroots activists in Honduras, who will carry on the campaign she fought and died for."
Meanwhile, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont called Cáceres’s death a "great loss for the people of Honduras" and warned that the Honduran government’s inability to protect her would, quote, "weigh heavily" on future U.S. aid to Central America—to that Central American country.
AMY GOODMAN: Last year, a report (https://www.globalwitness.org/campaigns/environmental-activists/how-many-more/) by the group Global Witness found that Honduras is one of the deadliest countries for environmentalists. According to the report, at least two people working to save the environment were killed each week in 2014. In total, the group Global Witness documented the murders of at least 116 environmental activists last year. Three-quarters of them were killed in Central and South America.
For more, we’re going to San Francisco, where we’re joined by Berta Cáceres’s nephew, Silvio Carrillo. He is a freelance video journalist in the Bay Area. And in Albuquerque, New Mexico, we’re joined by Beverly Bell, longtime friend and colleague of Berta. She’s currently the coordinator of Other Worlds, a social and economic justice organization.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Silvio, our condolences. We are so utterly devastated by the death of your aunt. I know you are flying down to Honduras. Thank you for staying for this conversation. Can you talk about your—can you talk about Berta’s significance and what she was trying to do in her life?
SILVIO CARRILLO: Well, that’s—that’s a big ask. She was trying to do many things in her life. She was trying to be a mother, be a daughter, be an aunt, be a human being, respect human beings. And this is what she did every day for the indigenous people of Honduras and across Latin America. I mean, she helped coordinate indigenous solidarity networks throughout Latin America and around the world. In fact, she was always asked to speak around the world. Many people knew her throughout the world. And if you look on social media, there’s reactions from everywhere. Berta was always on the go. And, you know, she—and so now we have to be on the go. This is how it is, and she knew this was how this was going to end.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Beverly Bell, the importance of her work and the role of the Honduran government in—the current government that exists in Honduras?
BEVERLY BELL: There’s no way to overstate the importance of Berta’s work. She was working very closely, actually, with the democratically elected President Mel Zelaya to work to, quote, "refound" democracy. And she was doing this in the same way that Berta did everything, which was through grassroots mobilization of workers, of women, of, significantly, indigenous people and campesinos, which is the population that was represented in the organization that she founded some 20 years ago. She was working for a wholly new form of governance in Honduras, not just a new government, but a new system whereby people had the say and the riches of the country went to benefit them instead of the tiny elite.
And it was for this, actually, that Mel Zelaya, who was very close to those demanding land reform and these rights and this refounding, as they called it, of democracy—it was in large part for this that he was ousted—and, I must add, with the very, very close help of the U.S. government. And Berta continued to work for that change for true participatory democracy that empowered women, that empowered LGBQ individuals, that empowered those who have always been left on the margins, excluded from political processes and from economic benefits. And it was for that reason, in part, that she was assassinated by the government and by the—
BEVERLY BELL: —no doubt, with the backing of the transnational corporations that she and the group that she ran were opposing.
AMY GOODMAN: In 2013, Berta Cáceres (http://www.democracynow.org/2013/11/25/honduras_presidential_elections_in_dispute_as) spoke to Democracy Now!

BERTA CÁCERES: [translated] The population today, those who have been in resistance who are from the LIBRE party, are challenging the repressive apparatus, with the absence of the construction of real power from the communities, but now these people are voting enthusiastically for the LIBRE party, that we hope will be distinct from the other political parties. This scenario is playing out in all the regions of Honduras—in Zacate Grande, Garifuna communities, campesino sectors, women, feminists, artists, journalists and indigenous communities. We all know how these people have been hard hit, especially the journalists, LGBTQ community and indigenous communities. This is all part of what they’ve done to create a climate of fear. Here, there’s a policy of the state to instill terror and political persecution. This is to punish the Honduran people so that people don’t opt for the other way and look for changes to the political economic situation and the militarization.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Berta Cáceres in 2013, interviewed by Andalusia Knoll. Silvio Carrillo, you covered, for Al Jazeera, the coup in 2009 in Honduras. And talk about how what happened then, the ouster of the democratically elected leader, Zelaya, the president—how that has set the tone for what’s happening, the murders that are taking place today in Honduras.
SILVIO CARRILLO: Well, it set a precedent for chaos, that the U.S. was, apparently, very willing to accept. They didn’t like Zelaya—they thought he was too allied with Chávez—and didn’t overly support the coup, but did not denounce it, either. I mean, Barack Obama was asked about it in the White House, and he says, "This coup is not legal." Well, of course it’s not legal. No coup is legal. That’s the whole—that’s by definition. That’s what a coup is. It is illegal. And they did nothing to help the situation in Honduras. The Congress was hemming and hawing. Hillary Clinton’s spokesperson, the State Department spokespersons were—didn’t even know what to say. It was an embarrassment. And they were barely—they weren’t even called out on it. And it was a shameful, shameful exhibition by the U.S.
And in Honduras, on the ground, it was complete chaos when Zelaya tried to fly back in. I was there when the military shot a boy in the head. They killed him. And I followed the family back to their hometown, where they buried him and where they mourned their loss. And there was no justice for the boy. They never figured out who shot him. But we—I mean, it was quite clear it was a military gun that fired the bullet that went into his head. The autopsy for the boy was conducted by the government officials, and no one was there to oversee that, just like Berta’s autopsy last night. There was a request from the family to have an independent forensics expert there, and they denied it. So you know, it’s just a culture of obfuscation when these things happen. And that’s what’s going to—sadly, that’s what it’s going to continue to be.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Beverly Bell, we only have about a minute or so left. There was a group of gunmen, supposedly, that broke into her home and killed her. And initial reports from the police was that it was probably robbery. Your sense of whether this was a definitely targeted assassination that was occurring here?
BEVERLY BELL: This was a targeted assassination. Berta Cáceres received so many death threats, it would be impossible to count them. She lived under constant knowledge, as her nephew said, that she would be assassinated. We all knew it. I began writing her eulogy several years ago. This is not a woman who was to die of old age. She was absolutely assassinated.
And I would like to point out that the single witness to the crime, Gustavo Castro, from Chiapas, Mexico, continues to be held by the government. I just spoke to his wife a few moments ago, and they have not yet released him, they say, for questioning now, more than 24 hours later. So this is a tremendous concern that this man be allowed to leave and to go back home safely to Mexico.
AMY GOODMAN: You mentioned the coup, Silvio. We just have 20 seconds. But at the time, Hillary Clinton was the secretary of state and was very involved in what was happening in Honduras.
BEVERLY BELL: Well, you know, I don’t know what she was involved in. She was involved in—you know, Lanny Davis was also involved in getting payments from the Honduran government, and he’s very closely allied to Hillary Clinton. This is why this was never a clear-cut—it was never called an outright putsch, to say—for them to say it was a coup. And they backed off of that. And they didn’t know what to do. It was a very confusing situation for them. But I think it’s pretty clear now, in hindsight, what they should have done.

Magda Hassan
03-05-2016, 01:26 PM
Honduras is again a dangerous and deadly place for unionists and environmental activists. Zelaya was forcibly removed in a US backed coup remember.

Peter Lemkin
03-05-2016, 01:31 PM
Honduras is again a dangerous and deadly place for unionists and environmental activists. Zelaya was forcibly removed in a US backed coup remember.

You speak the truth there! He was too progressive, and also too friendly with Chaves and persons like him to please the 'Great Rich White Masters In The North'.

Magda Hassan
03-05-2016, 01:43 PM
Honduras is again a dangerous and deadly place for unionists and environmental activists. Zelaya was forcibly removed in a US backed coup remember.

You speak the truth there! He was too progressive, and also too friendly with Chaves and persons like him to please the 'Great Rich White Masters In The North'.

Remember Clinton and Bush people all over this.

Peter Lemkin
03-05-2016, 01:44 PM
Hundreds of Environmental Activists Killed Worldwide Over Past Decade

April 16, 2014

Assassinated Brazilian environmentalist Chico Mendes and his wife, Ilsamar Mendes, at their home in 1988 | Photo: Miranda smith Productions (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Chico_%26_Ilsamar_Mendes_1988.png)/Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en)

A report (http://www.kcet.org/news/redefine/rewild/Deadly%20Environment.pdf) released Tuesday offers a chilling bit of news: working to protect the world's wildlife and its habitat can make you some ruthless enemies. According to the human rights watchdog group Global Witness, at least 908 environmental activists worldwide were murdered in retaliation for their work between 2002 and 2013.
The report, Deadly Environment (http://www.globalwitness.org/deadlyenvironment/#report), was released Tuesday to commemorate the 25th year since the murder of Brazilian forest activist Chico Mendes by a local rancher who objected to Mendes' defense of local forests.
The study is sobering, especially with its release in a week in which the U.S. has seen a campaign by armed groups trying to prevent enforcement of environmental protection laws in Nevada (http://www.kcet.org/news/rewire/commentary/sorting-fact-from-fiction-on-chinese-solar-in-nevada.html).
Despite the week's news in Nevada, and historic attacks on activists like Karen Silkwood (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karen_Silkwood) and Judi Bari (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judi_Bari), it seems to be safer to be an environmental activist in the U.S. than in many other countries, according to Global Witness.
Latin America and Southeast Asia are especially dangerous places for environmental activism, with Mendes' native Brazil accounting for an unnerving number of the 908 documented murders: 448 Brazilian activists were killed during the 12-year period studied. 109 Honduran activists were killed in the same timeframe, making that country the second most dangerous for environmental activists, with the Philippines third at 67 murders.

Among the 32 other countries Global Witness identifies as posing serious danger to their own environmentalists is Mexico, with 40 documented murders of environmental activists from 2002 to 2013.
With very few exceptions, the murderers tend to operate with impunity -- meaning that there is generally little to no effort to apprehend and punish the perpetrators. In some cases the killers turn out to be working with either local militias or other paramilitary groups. In others, the suspects are linked to large corporations whose projects the environmentalists sought to impede. But in the vast majority of murders studied by Global Witness -- 737 of them -- there is no information whatsoever about the suspects.
And the problem is getting worse, the group reports. 2012 was the worst year to date for killings, with 147 documented murders of environmental activists worldwide, or an average of one enviro killed every two and a half days. 2013's figures, currently at 95, are expected to rise as more information comes into Global Witness.
A common denominator in the countries with large numbers of environmentalist murders is conflict over land and resources. Brazil is in the process of converting its immense rainforests into cattle ranches and soy plantations, which brings opposition from those seeking to preserve the forests and the wildlife and indigenous cultures the forests support. Honduras' murders seem to be committed in support of the increasing conversion of that country's landscape to palm oil plantations, while mining interests are apparently behind much of the violence in the Philippines.
On a global scale, the murders seem to be carried out in the service of extractive industries such as logging, the energy industry, and agribusiness, including ranching. "The number of deaths points to a much greater level of non-lethal violence and intimidation," adds the group, "which the research did not document but requires urgent and effective action."
Global Witness reports no retaliation killings of environmental activists in the U.S. between 2002 and 2013. That doesn't mean American activists have no reason to fear, as that non-lethal violence and intimidation continue to this day in the U.S. We recently covered the retaliation poisoning of a California biologist's dog, (http://www.kcet.org/news/redefine/rewild/mammals/rat-poison-researchers-dog-poisoned-in-apparent-retaliation.html) for instance. Over the weekend a staff member of the Center for Biological Diversity, which has been working to force the BLM to remove those now infamous trespass cattle from tortoise habitat in Nevada, found that his address and a Google Street View image of his home had been posted to Twitter (http://www.splcenter.org/blog/2014/04/16/bundy-supporters-reportedly-harass-conservationists-blm-workers-over-nevada-range-war/#.U08HA3GIxSU.facebook) by an anti-environmental opponent. The poster urged supporters of the rancher to "contact" the activist.
Such threats are part of a long and distressing tradition of violence, lethal and otherwise, directed at green activists by people working in the service of those who stand to profit from destroying the environment. Aside from the above-mentioned Karen Silkwood and Judi Bari (who was, full disclosure, a friend), consider the Navajo activist Leroy Jackson, found dead by the side of the road days before he was scheduled to testify before Congress on reservation clearcutting. Or Arkansas Greenpeace activist Pat Costner, whose house was burned to the ground in 1991 after years of threats over her opposition to hazardous waste incineration. Or Floridian Stephanie McGuire, who was raped, beaten, and tortured (http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=8sFWAAAAIBAJ&sjid=aOoDAAAAIBAJ&pg=5434%2C3357388) by three men in 1992 who told her they were doing so as retaliation for her opposition to a Proctor and Gamble paper mill dumping effluent into the Fenholloway River. McGuire later said that the men cut her throat, then dumped river water onto the wound while telling her that "now you've got something to sue about."
Global Witness' report may not cover murders of American environmentalists, but it's a chilling glimpse into the widespread problem of retaliatory killing of environmentalists. It's also a reminder of how deadly the consequences of inflamed and violent rhetoric can be.
That reminder's much needed this week in particular.

Peter Lemkin
03-05-2016, 01:48 PM
More Than Two Environmental Activists Were Killed Each Week in 2014

David Stout (http://time.com/author/david-stout/) @david_m_stout (https://twitter.com/david_m_stout)

April 20, 2015


Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty ImagesDiana Rios Rengifo, the daughter of one of the four indigenous Ashéninka leaders murdered in the Peruvian Amazon in early September, speaks during a ceremony in New York on Nov. 17, 2014A majority of deaths were tied to disputes over hydropower, mining and agri-businessThe killing of environmental activists jumped by (https://www.globalwitness.org/campaigns/environmental-activists/how-many-more/) 20% in 2014, with at least 116 deaths around the world tied to disputes involving land and natural resources, the London-based advocacy organization Global Witness claimed this week.
“[That’s] almost double the number of journalists killed in the same period,” its report said. “Disputes over the ownership, control and use of land was an underlying factor in killings of environmental and land defenders in nearly all documented cases.”
According to How Many More?, the majority of deaths took place in Central and South America; Brazil topped the list with 29 cases followed by Colombia with 25.
Global Witness dubbed Honduras as “the most dangerous country per capita to be an environmental activist,” where during the past five years 101 individuals have been killed in relation to their advocacy work.
The organization urged governments across the globe to take bolder measures to tackle the issue ahead of the U.N. Climate Change Conference that will be held in Paris later this year.
“Environmental and land defenders are often on the frontlines of efforts to address the climate crisis and are critical to success,” said the report. “Unless governments do more to protect these activists, any words agreed in Paris will ultimately ring hollow.”

Peter Lemkin
03-05-2016, 01:52 PM
Dozens of environmental activists are murdered every year

http://static2.businessinsider.com/image/540dd319eab8ea4876dbc955-50-50/chelsea-harvey.jpg (http://www.businessinsider.com/author/chelsea-harvey)

Chelsea Harvey (http://www.businessinsider.com/author/chelsea-harvey)

Feb. 4, 2015, 5:14 PM

Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:LeatherbackTurtle.jpg)
Mora's work focused on protecting the eggs of endangered leatherback sea turtles.

On January 26, the outcome of a Costa Rican murder trial sparked outrage among environmentalists around the world.
Seven men, tried for the 2013murder of 26-year-old Jairo Mora (http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-adventure/nature/Blood-in-the-Sand-Costa-Rica-Hunting-Sea-Turtles.html)Sandoval (http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-adventure/nature/Blood-in-the-Sand-Costa-Rica-Hunting-Sea-Turtles.html), were acquitted following a botched prosecution complete with mishandled evidence, Outside Magazine reported (http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-adventure/nature/Jairo-Mora-Sandoval-Murder-Trial-Ends-in-Acquittals.html).
At the time of his death, Mora was an environmentalist working with an organization calledWIDECAST (http://www.widecast.org/), which focuses on sea turtle conservation. When Mora's battered body showed up on the beach the morning after a late-night sea turtle patrol, many believed he'd been murdered by egg poachers, who steal sea turtle eggs and sell them on the black market for up to $1 a piece. The seven men tried for his murder were allegedly part of a known poaching ring, Outside reported.
Mora's tragic story, unfortunately, is not unique. His case is a symbol of a problem that's happening around the globe.
A global problem

Each year, dozens of environmentalists are murdered. In the majority of these cases, no information ever comes to light about the killers. In other cases, like Mora's, suspects are eventually identified, but no one is ever convicted and held accountable.
A 2014 report (http://www.globalwitness.org/deadlyenvironment/) published by Global Witness (http://new.globalwitness.org/), an international organization that works to expose the systems that enable corruption, conflict, and environmental destruction, cataloged environmental killings around the world between 2002 and 2013.
The victims are often people on the front lines of environmental struggles. Some are killed during protests gone wrong, but others are murdered in cold blood, their bodies turning up after a mysterious disappearance.
In June 2012, Almir Nogueira de Amorim and João Luiz Telles Penetra were murdered (http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/18768) while leading the efforts of a group called the Association of Sea Men, which was fighting to protect the rights of fishermen in Rio de Janeiro. The group was fighting in particular against the construction of gas pipelines in the area, and had reportedly received numerous threats from people with interests in the pipelines. Both leaders disappeared on June 23, and their bodies were found separately in the days following.
And in 2011, a man named Frédéric Moloma Tuka died in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/makingwaves/conflicts-and-logging-in-congos-rainforests-t/blog/37687/) during a violent crackdown on protests. The Yasilika community, which Tuka belonged to, had been working to stop the Danzer group, a timber company which was logging in the area without fairly compensating the people in the area. The company asked national authorities to intervene, and in May 2011, members of the military and the police arrived in the village and began beating and raping its inhabitants, Greenpeace reported (http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/makingwaves/conflicts-and-logging-in-congos-rainforests-t/blog/37687/). Tuka died from injuries sustained during the event.
REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly
Logging is still a major threat to forests in the Congo Basin.
These types of killings have only increased in the past decade. In 2012, the deadliest year reported, 147 environmentalists died — nearly three times as many as 2002. Altogether, between 2002 and 2013, 908 people were killed in 35 different countries for their work in environmental issues.
Brazil is by far the most dangerous country, according to the Global Witness report, accounting for 448 of those 908 murders. It's not altogether surprising, either. Farmers, ranchers, and large-scale agricultural groups are cutting down large swaths of the rainforest to plant crops and raise cattle, which has put environmentalists in the way of their making money.
Honduras, the Phillipines, Peru, and Colombia round out the top five deadliest countries in the report. Various other nations in Central and South America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania account for the other incidents.
BBC World Service (https://www.flickr.com/photos/bbcworldservice/2848947364/in/photolist-bsK1kk-bsK1HF-bmgQMn-HJPjn-5Z6uvQ-nx38W-dqSEEJ-3zDKwr-ofWqaZ-63CCVV-6oSQHE-5tvPbe-bfnknx-5kKAN9-3ajXjw-uqHxN-3ajXVu-bzEjae-3ajXzm-7bjNxN-o3XKTQ-fmiT3G)
Deforestation in Brazil. The Amazon, Roraima State.
Causes for tension

According to Global Witness, two-thirds of the recorded murders were spurred by conflicts over land — who owns it and what they can do with it. The authors of the report write:
Unlike most other commodity trades, the agribusiness industry is not regulated. Voluntary commitments to end land grabbing...have not been met, so laws are needed to protect the environment and local people, and they must be enforced. This research shows that in the absence of such measures, citizens are increasingly left to defend these basic rights themselves, often with lethal consequences.
"Land grabbing," which is when companies buy or lease large tracts of land in developing countries, can be a major problem for native communities who depend on the local environment to survive. This means the people who are defending the environment in these cases are often also defending the rights of local inhabitants.
Indigenous groups are often at the center of environmental tensions, Global Witness reports. When agribusiness threatens the land they depend on for survival, indigenous groups have a high interest in protecting the local environment. Their efforts mean they face a disproportionate level of violence: Global Witness reports that 115 of the reported victims belonged to an indigenous group.
REUTERS/Lunae Parracho
Guarani Kaiowa Indians hold up banners for passing drivers to read about their claims to the land they consider ancestral, but which is controlled by large-scale farmers, in their makeshift camp near Dourados, Mato Grosso do Sul state, June 17, 2014.
Mining and other extractive industries, as well as illegal logging and deforestation, are also listed as main drivers of the kinds of conflicts that result in lethal encounters. Almir Nogueira de Amorim and João Luiz Telles Penetra, the two murdered men who fought against pipelines in Rio de Janeiro, are examples of what can happen to people who get in the way of these kinds of industries.
Another well-known story was the case of Sister Dorothy Stang (http://www.edlc.org/cases/individuals/dorothy-stang/), who was killed in Brazil in 2005 after spending years championing the rights of indigenous groups in the Amazon and working to stop logging in the area. She was shot to death in February 2005, apparently on orders from a Brazilian rancher.

Because there's no protection against double jeopardy in Costa Rica, Outside Magazine reports (http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-adventure/nature/Jairo-Mora-Sandoval-Murder-Trial-Ends-in-Acquittals.html)that Jairo Mora Sandoval's accused killers could be retried. For many others, though, there's no trial in the first place. Global Witness reports that in 656 of the 908 killings it identified, there is no information available about any suspected killers. In fact, the organization only identifies six cases in which a killer was tried, convicted, and punished for the crime.
The statistics highlight what appears to be a growing problem in a world that is increasingly aware of — and concerned about — its environmental health. The Global Witness report ominously concludes that if governments and other international bodies don't improve the economic models currently placing so much strain on the environment, "more killings will take place, and perpetrators will continue their violence, secure in the knowledge it will go unnoticed and unpunished."

Peter Lemkin
03-10-2016, 06:51 PM
The Honduras Killing Field March 8, 2016

The murder of prominent Honduras environmental activist Berta Caceres recalls Hillary Clinton’s role in supporting a right-wing coup in 2009 that ousted an elected progressive president and turned Honduras into a killing field, writes Dennis J Bernstein.
By Dennis J Bernstein
An apparent resurgence of death-squad violence in Honduras, including the March 3 murder of prominent Honduran indigenous rights activist Berta Cáceres, is a harsh reminder of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s role in defending a 2009 coup that ousted leftist President Manuel Zelaya and cleared the way for the restoration of right-wing rule in the impoverished Central American nation.
Caceres, the recent winner of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, was murdered in her hometown of La Esperenza, Intibucá, in the highlands near the Salvadoran border. Her good friend and close associate, Gustavo Castro, was shot twice but survived the assassination and is now being held against his will by the Honduran Government.
https://consortiumnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Unknown-1.jpeg (https://consortiumnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Unknown-1.jpeg)Slain Honduran environmental activist Berta Caceres.

Castro held Cáceres in his arms as she lay dying and played dead to avoid his own execution. He has since been forcibly stopped from leaving Honduras.
The Honduran Government has characterized the killing of Cáceres as a common burglary gone bad, but her friends and close associates reject the government claims as preposterous and part of an emerging cover-up.
In a statement, COPINH, the indigenous rights group that Cáceres was closely associated with, characterized her close-range murder as an assassination. In a press release the day after the murder, the group talked about the multiple death threats that Caceres faced prior to her slaying.
“In the last few weeks, violence and repression towards Berta, COPINH, and the communities they support, had escalated,” COPINH stated. “In Rio Blanco on February 20th, Berta, COPINH, and the community of Rio Blanco faced threats and repression as they carried out a peaceful action to protect the River Gualcarque against the construction of a hydroelectric dam by the internationally-financed Honduran company DESA.
“As a result of COPINH’s work supporting the Rio Blanco struggle, … Berta had received countless threats against her life and was granted precautionary measures by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights. On February 25th, another Lenca community supported by COPINH in Guise, Intibuca was violently evicted and destroyed.”
Cáceres received the Goldman Environmental Prize after she led a high-profile, peaceful campaign to stop one of the world’s largest dam builders from pursuing the Agua Zarca Dam, which would have effectively cut off the ethnic Lenca people from water, food and medicine. When Caceres won the Goldman Prize last year, she accepted in the name of “the martyrs who gave their lives in the struggle to defend our natural resources.”
Friends, co-workers, intellectuals and activists are outraged by the killing and many track this and many other murders of activists in Honduras back to the tenure of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. They say Clinton’s lead role in supporting the 2009 oligarch-backed coup that drove the elected progressive President Zelaya from power. Zelaya’s ouster opened the door to a restoration of right-wing rule and out-of-control “free trade.” Honduras soon became the murder capital of the world.
When the Honduran military removed Zelaya from power, the international community – including the United Nations, the Organization of American States and the European Union – condemned the coup and sought Zelaya’s restoration. But Secretary of State Clinton allied herself with right-wing Republicans in Congress who justified Zelaya’s removal because of his cordial relations with Venezuela’s leftist President Hugo Chavez.
In her memoir, Hard Choices, Clinton took credit for preventing Zelaya from returning to Honduras, as if it were a major victory for democracy instead the beginning of a new era of death-squad violence and repression in Honduras.
“We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras,” Clinton wrote, “and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot.” In other words, rather than support the right of the elected president to serve out his term, Clinton allowed his illegal ouster to lead to an interim right-wing regime followed by elections that the Honduran oligarchs could again dominate.
Since then, the violence in Honduras has spiraled out of control driving tens of thousands of desperate Hondurans, including unaccompanied children, to flee north to the United States where Clinton later supported their prompt deportation back to Honduras.
On Tuesday, I spoke with Beverly Bell from Other Worlds who worked closely with Berta Cáceres and Gustavo Castro. She was deeply concerned about the safety of Castro and other close associates of Cáceres. She described the situation as follows:
“One person saw the assassination, Gustavo Castro Soto, coordinator of Otros Mundos Chiapas / Friends of the Earth Mexico. A Mexican, Gustavo had come to Berta’s town of La Esperanza to provide her with peace accompaniment, and spent the night at her house on her last night of life. Gustavo himself was shot twice and survived by feigning death. Berta died in his arms.
“Gustavo was immediately detained in inhumane conditions by the Honduran government for several days for ‘questioning’. He was then released and accompanied by the Mexican ambassador and consul to the airport in Tegucigalpa. He was just about to go through customs when Honduran authorities tried to forcibly grab him. The Mexican government successfully intervened, and put Gustavo into protective custody in the Mexican Embassy.”
But according to Bell, the matter didn’t end there: “The Honduran government issued a warning that Gustavo may not leave the country. In a gross violation of international sovereignty, the Honduran government has reclaimed Gustavo from the Embassy, taking him back to the town of La Esperanza for questioning.”
In a March 6 note to close friends, Gustavo Castro wrote, “The death squads know that they did not kill me, and I am certain that they want to accomplish their task.” Shortly after the murder of Berta Cáceres, I interviewed her close friends Beverly Bell, Adrienne Pine and Andres Conteris.
The interviews follow in two parts below, first the interview with Beverly Bell and Adrienne Pine, an associate professor at American University and a Fulbright Scholar who has been doing research in Honduras for nearly two decades. She is the author of Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras.
The second interview is with Conteris, a producer with Democracy Now! Spanish language programming, who lived for years in Honduras and was there throughout the military coup in 2009. He worked as a human rights advocate in Honduras from 1994 to 1999 and is a co-producer of “Hidden in Plain Sight,” a documentary film about U.S. policy in Latin America and the School of the Americas.
DB: Beverly let me start with you. … There was more than one person shot, correct, Beverly Bell?
BB: There were actually three people shot … in addition to Berta, who was shot fatally. Her brother was also shot and a third person, who will be familiar with many of your listeners, and that is Gustavo Castro, who is the coordinator of the social and economic justice group, Otros Mundus, “other worlds” in Spanish, in Chiapas, who has also worked very closely with Berta for years. He spent the night in Berta’s house, as part of a peacekeeping team, which Berta had had for many years now, off and on, because her life has always been so at risk.
And he was shot in the ear, he is okay from that, but the concern that you mention is Gustavo went down this morning to give his testimony to the local court, and he is a very inconvenient witness to them. … So there is an international alert out right now to guarantee Gustavo Castro free passage back to Mexico, together with his wife.
DB: Now, that’s a double-edged sword, because if they hold him, he’s in danger, his life is in danger. And if they release him, his life is in danger. His life is in danger as being a witness to the murder, right?
BB: That’s absolutely correct. In Honduras, pretty much anybody’s life is in danger for anything that relates to peace, to justice, to indigenous rights, to participatory democracy, and notably to opposing the role of the U.S. We are working with peace accompaniment teams right now to try and guarantee Gustavo’s safe passage to Mexico, if the government doesn’t let him go. …
DB: We know that the United States government, Hillary Clinton played a key role in overthrowing the duly elected president, leading us down this path of regular mass murder of human rights activists, and anybody who resists sort of free trade government so what can we say? Has the U.S. expressed its deep concern about the killing?
BB: Yes, cynically and sickly, the U.S. came out … lamenting the murder of Berta Cáceres. And yet, we know that the U.S. has funded to the tune, well this year alone of more than $5,500,000 in military training and education. We know that many of the people who have threatened Berta’s life over the years have been trained at the School of the Americas.
We know that the U.S. government has stood fiercely by the horrible succession of right-wing governments that followed the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Zelaya. And as you mentioned, Hillary Clinton was deeply involved in that. In fact, she even bragged about it in her recent book.
DB: I know, that is shocking that she is proud, this self-declared human rights activist and sophisticated diplomat was proud to brag in her book that she played the key role in keeping Zelaya from going back and assuming his legitimately won presidency. So this is your, as we have called her before, the deposer in chief. And, on that note, let’s bring into the conversation anthropologist Adrienne Pine, who has spent many years, written extensively about Honduras. Adrienne I know that you’re at an airport now, but let me get your initial response to what happened here.
AP: Well, with Bertita, it’s hard to talk about her in the past tense. She’s one of the most amazing activists and advocates I’ve ever met. And also, one of the most compassionate, wonderful people. The fact that they would kill her really sends a message. I mean this is an intentional message that all Hondurans, I think, would understand as such that nobody is safe. Berta, has a sort of, what those of us in the international solidarity community had considered…she had just some sort of protection because she was so well known, because she had won the Goldman prize.
And, of course, we have learned since the coup, the U.S. supported military coup, and I think Beverly laid that out very well, we’ve learned that the international protective measures actually don’t count for much, in Honduras. But this is really ramping up of the criminalization of activism that has occurred since the U.S.-supported military coup in 2009, and it really speaks to the incredible impunity that reigns right now in what is in fact a military dictatorship, a U.S.-supported military dictatorship. That, I think you’re right, it would not have been possible without the direct intervention of Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State.
Berta Cáceres blood is on Hillary Clinton’s hands.
DB: And, of course, Donald Trump could not have been more violently right-wing when it comes to what happened in Honduras. He could have never out-done her. Because she was more sophisticated, and understood better how to solidify the right-wing, representing corporate America, and make sure that things continued ever since the Monroe Doctrine. Let me come back to you, if I could, I’m getting a little bit angry, Beverly Bell. Let me ask you to talk a little bit about Berta. How you met her, when’s the last time you spoke with her?
BB: I spoke with her, I guess, a couple of months ago, and it was the same content as so many of our conversations have been over the last 15 years, or so, that we’ve worked with each other, which was yet another threat. And how we were going to get protection for her, from what was a long, long, long journey of hideous oppression. She has been terrorized, she just a week or two ago, she and a whole team of people who were at the site of a river which the Honduran government and a multi-national corporation had been trying to dam, but which had been blocked by the organization that she headed, the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras or COPINH.
A bunch of them were put into a truck and taken away. And it was certainly shaky hours there for a while until they emerged free. So just to answer your question, I have worked with Berta, very, very closely for about 15 years. I’m sitting right now in a house in Albuquerque where she used to live with me. We have fought together, like so many others, against the World Bank, against the U.S. government, against so-called free trade accords, against Inter-American Development Bank, against the Honduran government, against the Honduran oligarchy.
Basically Berta has stood for pretty much anything that any of your listeners would believe is right. She has been at the forefront for decades of the movement for indigenous rights, for indigenous sovereignty, for the environmental protection of land and rivers, for women’s rights, for LGBQ rights in a country that has grossly persecuted and assassinated LGBQ activists. She is, as Adrienne said, just the most extraordinary person, certainly one of the most that I have ever known and it is impossible to speak of her in the past tense.
And, in fact, I have refused to because Berta’s spirit has impacted so many people around the world. If you could be in my in-box today and see the countries from which condolences and denunciations have come, it’s amazing who she has touched, and that spirit will live on in the fight of all of us, for justice, for indigenous rights, for a world that is not tyrannized by the U.S. government, by trans-national capital, and by the elites of various countries.
DB: I’m sure, Beverly Bell, her spirit will be on the tongues and in the hearts of many women as they celebrate, if you will, International Women’s Day. … I’m sure she had some plans for that. It’s an amazing assassination. It’s troubling. Adrienne Pine, when is the last time you saw Berta? What did she mean to you?
AP: It’s so hard for me to accept. I think, like Beverly said she was somebody who I stood with side by side on more times than I could count … protesting the U.S. military base. We’ve been tear gassed together. And she’s helped me through a number of very dangerous situations. It’s hard. It’s hard to lose somebody who was not just such an amazing leader, but also such a good friend, and not just to me but to so many people.
Bertita lives on, with all of us. And I think the most important thing right now if you look at the social network…Beverly is right. My in-box is exploding with condolences, as well. And if you look at the social networks right now, Honduras is ready to rise up, at the murder of somebody who was so dear, so beloved by so many people. And I think one of the things that’s special about Berta which Beverly also mentioned is that she has a much longer trajectory than many of the activists, in Honduras. I mean, she has been on it for many decades fighting the forces that only recently following the coup the massive number of Hondurans came out to join her to fight the forces of corporatization, destruction of indigenous land, the violence of the patriarchy as Beverly mentioned. I mean she has been right all along.
And people in Honduras are furious. There are lots of different protests around the country that have been organized. There’s a protest in Washington, D.C. tomorrow, at the State Department, that’s been organized. And I think it’s going to be pretty big. She’s just moved people around the world, so deeply. And I think if Honduras is giving a signal that nobody is safe in Honduras then around the world we need give a signal that this regime cannot stand, any longer. And the U.S. has to stop supporting it.
DB: And, Adrienne, say a little bit more about the way in which she resisted. … I mean, it’s important for people to understand that in the face of so many threats…the idea that she won the Goldman Environmental prize here, given out here with huge fanfare in San Francisco. I mean, it really is clearly a message to everybody on the ground. But say a little bit more about what she meant to the people on the ground, how she worked with people. What were some of the actions that she helped to organize? You mentioned some protests and demonstrations, but is there one issue? This was about this dam. I guess resisting this dam was huge in Honduras. It means a lot to the corporate 1%, and a lot to the people who were resisting it.
AP: Well, absolutely. I mean the Aqua Zarca Dam, that Berta and her organization, COPINH. managed to successfully stop was an incredible victory for the Lenca people, and for the people of Honduras against the corporatization that is part and parcel of the U.S.-supported military coup of 2009, which was fundamentally a neo-liberal coup, and which vastly increased vulnerability of the already most marginalized groups, that Berta herself was part of, the indigenous groups of Honduras.
And so as somebody who had been organizing to resist this kind of government and corporate intrusion on sovereign indigenous lands and waters for decades, Berta was a natural leader. After the coup, when those forces became even stronger, against the participatory democracy, in Honduras, and Berta really stood alone in that. She was a woman leader among mostly male leaders.
And you’ve got a social movement that has traditionally been male led and there were a whole lot of feminists during the resistance movement that stood up against that. But Berta was just amazing. She held her own in very male-dominated forum, and it was through her inclusive insistence on fighting the patriarchy alongside the fight against the predatory violence of capitalism and neo-liberal capitalism, and U.S. militarism.
I mean, she tied it altogether in a way that very few Honduran leaders have managed to do. And yet she was uniquely not about her ego. I mean, she was somebody who gave so much to so many people. And I think that’s why in the protests people weren’t afraid to go up to her. She would … it’s hard to put into words. I mean I’m devastated by this loss and I’m not the primary mourner. I think there are thousands of people today who are devastated just as much as I am.
DB: And back to you Bev Bell. So maybe describe a little bit from your perspective what this loss looks like.
BB: As Adrienne said it’s huge. There are two indigenous movements in Honduras, and both of them have really been about the construction of indigenous identity. Which is to say that both the Garifuna people, that is the afro-indigenous people who reside on the Atlantic coast, and the Lenca people of which Berta was one, had had their indigenous identity stamped out. And Berta, and remarkably another woman, Miriam Miranda, who has also been terrorized and persecuted, who was head of the Garifuna indigenous movement had been able to shape together, with so many other people whom they pulled into participatory leadership, as Adrienne said.
They really were not about the sort of top down leaders that we see, well certainly in the U.S. government, but also in so many social movements, and in the NGO context in the U.S. They really were about empowering everybody, and led with humility. It’s huge. There is not anyone else in COPINH who is anywhere close to the capacity or the stature of Berta.
Most campesinos indigenous peoples are denied the right to education. They’re denied a lot of things that would allow them to also become leaders. That Berta who grew up in a very, very humble home, was able to become a leader was remarkable and really was due to her mother who was a fierce fighter. She was the mayor of the town, and the governor of the state, in a time when women were neither of those things.
And Berta grew up, for example, listening to underground radio from Cuba and Nicaragua that they had listened to, secretly, during the revolutions there. She was very engaged in the revolution in El Salvador. She has just had an incredible history that is really unparalleled. So the loss is huge. It’s irreparable, and as we said it’s not just a loss for Honduras, but for social movements everywhere, because Berta was all over.
I mean, she just met with the Pope in Italy, a couple of weeks ago. She was a leader in global social movements, not just Honduran ones, and not just indigenous ones. However, it is important to say and I know that Berta would say this: That the social movements in Honduras are strong. She loved to say that Honduras is known for two things. First, for having been the military base for the U.S.-backed Contra, and secondly for Hurricane Mitch. But in fact Honduras holds another fact which is that it is home to an extraordinary movement of feminists, of environmentalists, of unionists, of many sorts of people. And they are much stronger because of the life of Berta Cáceres. And that is not hyperbole. She single-handedly helped shape the strength of that social movement. But they will live on, and they are a part of the legacy of Berta Cáceres.
DB: Well, I know Adrienne it’s not going to be the last word on this subject. But, for the moment, what do you think you’re going to be doing in the context of fighting this fight, and standing with your friend and friends, where you’ve worked so long…how you’ve worked so long within Honduras. I swear there’s a traffic jam between my heart and my mind here, but final words, from you for now.
AP: You know I think we need to stand by the people of Honduras, who have been given a clear message that their lives are at risk, if they stand up for their own rights. And in part, a big part of what that means is standing up for democracy here in the United States. And if we had had a democratic system, and if we had been able to decide for ourselves as a people if we wanted to allow that coup to stand, I don’t think that would have happened.
And instead Hillary Clinton who is now running for president, is…and she proudly made sure that that coup would stand. I think we need to fight here at home for democracy, just as strongly as it is fought in Honduras, and in solidarity with people around the world. I mean, this is a call to action. We have to honor Berta’s life, by continuing to fight, and fighting even stronger. …
DB: It’s a tragedy that is has to be in this context and I hope we can continue this dialogue about these important issues and I’m sure there are going to be many people on the ground who are going to need these microphones, who are going to need the support of all of us, to resists this policy that was really instituted by Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State.
DB: We are now joined by Andres Conteris who is the founder of Democracy Now en Espanol, and who was in Honduras during the 2009 coup, all through the coup. We spoke to him many times, several times from the palace as the coup was in progress. …
AC: It’s a very difficult day because of the news that we’re talking about, and the horrible assassination of dear Bertita.
DB: Tell us a little bit about your time with her, your impression of what her work was like, what she was like?
AC: Well, I’m very glad to follow both Beverly and Adrienne, who have spoken very eloquently about Berta’s life. I go back a little bit further because I lived in Honduras from 1994 to 1999. And when I met Berta was in May of 1997. I can recall it very clearly. And it has to do very much with the context of what just happened today, in Honduras.
At that time there was a horrible assassination of an indigenous leader, in Honduras. He was part of the nation of the Chorti, the Mayan Chorti people. It’s 1 of 8 different indigenous communities in the nation, in Honduras. … His name was Candido Amador. He was assassinated in May of 1997 and what Berta, and her partner, Salvador, at the time, and other indigenous leaders did is, they gathered all indigenous nations in Honduras at that time, and they organized the most amazing pilgrimage to the capital.
And, Dennis, it was so awesome to be there at the time, and to see the stalwart nature in which these people were willing to risk everything, and leave their communities, and not even know how they would get back home. And go and camp in front of the presidential palace. It was incredible. And that is the context in which I met Berta. And she was such a leader of her people. And the entire indigenous peoples that gathered together, and collaborated with one another very closely to resist this kind of repression, that slaughtered Candido Amador at that time.
And what happened, Dennis, was truly amazing. The President, because he was going to go to receive this human rights prize had to do everything to get rid of them. And he ordered a military eviction, a forced, militarized, brutal repression against the indigenous who were camped out in front of his presidential palace. But they refused to leave the capital. And they only moved 2 miles away, and then just continued to camp out there.
And that put him, the president, in a dilemma whereby he was then forced to negotiate. And this is where Berta’s skills just really came forward. She was part of a negotiation of an accord that the president signed. And representatives from each of the indigenous nations also signed it. And what they did is they put together what they called a commission of guarantees or a guarantors commission, which was an signed by international leaders and human rights leaders in order to guarantee the compliance of this accord.
I was invited by Berta and Salvador to be part of that guarantors commission. And as part of it, then, in the following months one of the clear memories that I have is that the government, of course, was not living up to the agreements that it had promised for education, for electrification, for health. And most of all, for land for the indigenous people. And they were not living up to these accords. And so I was part of non-violent training of the indigenous who were rising up. And they engaged in occupations of embassies, like the Costa Rican embassy for one. And they also did a blockade of the tourist attraction that is most popular in Honduras which are the Mayan ruins.
And I spent the night with the Chorti people and with Berta Cáceres, in front of those ruins, blocking them so that tourists could not go, so the government would be forced to negotiate in a much more honest way, with the indigenous. And that is how I knew Berta, living her life in her country. She was always there accompanying her people. She would make sure that everyone had enough to eat and she would not tend to herself until she knew …
Well what Berta would do is just make sure that the people were really as cared for as much as possible. And this she showed in so many clear ways. But one thing that needs to be said is that she was not only a leader of her people, a leader in the environmental movement, a strong model for women, a strong model for indigenous leaders, but she was an amazing mother herself. She’s a mother of four children, and one of whom I was just with last week. It’s her oldest, her name is Olivia.
And I was there in the town La Esperanza where Berta was assassinated. And Olivia is turning out to be the spitting image of her mother, in so many ways. She’s 26 years old. She’s the age now when I met Berta in 1997. And Olivia is now basically becoming one of the women leaders, one of the indigenous leaders that is leading her people. And it’s just incredible and impressive to see that.
I remember joking with Olivia just last week about her mother, Berta, being concerned for her during the coup, because she was at the university protesting the violent military coup. And, Berta, of course, was concerned, as a mother for her daughter. And her daughter said “Hey, you lived out in El Salvador, for instance, the revolution. Give me a chance to live out my revolution during my age.”
So, of course, Berta wanted to do that but she also is a mother and she’s got two children who are studying medicine in Buenos Aires. Another, a daughter, who is in Mexico City, studying. And then her oldest daughter, Olivia, is there in La Esperanza working with indigenous people and organizing them.
DB: A huge, huge loss, that the family is probably devastated. We know that people are rising up right now in Honduras and the loss to the community is hard to evaluate.
AC: It’s really unspeakable. I’ve not been able to talk to Mama Berta, who is Berta’s mother, who I saw last week. Mama Berta, as Beverly shared was the Mayor of La Esperanza, the Governor of the Department…but also Mama Berta is this incredible midwife. She helped to give birth to probably over 1,000 people over the decades. And she is an incredible woman herself. And I cannot imagine how devastated she is right now, with this incredibly horrible, horrible news. …
One other thing before I go, and it’s important to point out that there’s a petition going around on social media to sign to make sure that the U.S. Congress guarantees an international investigation into this brutal murder and also, Senator [Patrick] Leahy has already signed a statement with regard to this assassination. You know, Berta was in Washington, D.C. and met with over 30 members of Congress, many of whom she met personally including Senator Boxer.
So Berta’s name is familiar in Washington. And so this should be a very important event that causes change in U.S. policy towards Honduras, which I’m so glad both Adrienne and Bev mentioned the complicity of Hillary Clinton in the coup in Honduras. And not pressuring, at all, this horrible regime of Juan Orlando Hernandez, who is very, very complicit in the horrible human rights violations against LGBT, against women, against journalists, and against Indigenous and against others in the country.
It’s been documented that Honduras is near the murder capital of the world, outside of hot wars going on. And it’s very much related to the militarized situation that this man, Juan Orlando Hernandez, who came to power in an illegitimate way. Hillary Clinton did not denounce that, she did not denounce the coup strong enough.
DB: Did not denounce? … She made sure that the coup was sustained and it is really troubling Andreas, on the one hand her work as deposer in chief sent people running out of the country, and turned it into the murder capital. …

Peter Lemkin
03-11-2016, 02:22 PM
We turn now to Honduras, which is still reeling from last week’s assassination of Berta Cáceres, one of the country’s most well-known indigenous environmental leaders. She was gunned down in her home early Thursday, less than a year after she won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize. She is at least the 110th environmental or land defender to be killed in Honduras since 2010 in the wake of a U.S.-supported coup. Her death has sparked protests across the Americas. A demonstration is scheduled today outside the United Nations.
At the time of her assassination, Berta was with another well-known environmental campaigner, Gustavo Castro Soto, coordinator of Friends of the Earth Mexico. He was shot twice in the attack. Over the weekend, Castro attempted to leave Honduras, but authorities blocked his exit, even though he was accompanied by the Mexican ambassador. Castro was eventually ordered to return to the town of La Esperanza, where Berta Cáceres had been gunned down. Castro has been held there ever since for additional questioning, the Honduran government says.
Well, for more, we’re giong to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where we’re joined by Beverly Bell, longtime friend of both Gustavo and Berta. She’s currently the coordinator of Other Worlds, a social and economic justice organization. Bell is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.
Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Beverly Bell. What is happening right now in the wake and the horror of the Berta Cáceres assassination? What’s happening to Gustavo Castro Soto?
BEVERLY BELL: Well, the first thing to point out is that Gustavo is not only the sole witness, he also was a target for assassination. He was, as you mentioned, Amy, shot twice. And in the one letter that he has been able to get out to a few of us, he said, "They tried to assassinate me, and they are still trying to assassinate me." Gustavo feigned death after having been shot twice. The death squads, who were sent, we are certain, by the Honduran government, thought that he was dead. They left. Berta died in Gustavo’s arms. He was then immediately picked up for questioning. He is now in his fifth day of questioning. It reads like the worst horror movie you could ever imagine. It’s just been crazy, where Gustavo was locked up in horrible conditions, horrible, denied food and drink and other things, which I have been asked not to report until he leaves the country, for his security.
He then, as you mentioned, was taken by the Mexican ambassador, was given safe haven in the Embassy of Mexico, because he’s a Mexican citizen, for one day. He was being escorted by the ambassador to the airport. He was on his way to pass customs. He had just hugged the ambassador goodbye, when suddenly this gang of Honduran authority thugs showed up and took him back. It was crazy. There has been this supposed diplomatic tug-of-war between Mexico and Honduras. I should say the Mexican government had absolutely no right to return him to the Honduran authorities.
He is now back in the little town where Berta lived, which was the headquarters of her organization, which is an indigenous grassroots organization. And he is now held again for questioning. We are certain that they want to keep Gustavo out of the way. He said that my life—quote, "My life is in extreme danger right now." And it absolutely is.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to—
BEVERLY BELL: The government of Honduras wants to pin Berta’s—
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to—Bev, I want to go to Gustavo Castro Soto in his own words. He has long stood up to multinational mineral extraction companies in Mexico, where he’s involved with the M4 movement, or the Mesoamerican Movement Against the [Extractive] Mining Model. This was from last year.

GUSTAVO CASTRO SOTO: [translated] We are finding many challenges in Chiapas around dams, around the issues of climate change, mining, monoculture, exclusion of different sectors of farmers, of the indigenous. And I believe a very important part of this will be to see the young people themselves, and students of universities and social processes, involved in the struggle and resistance, but especially in the search for alternatives. Young people have much to contribute, and the academy also has to be linked to social struggles.
AMY GOODMAN: So that is Gustavo Castro Soto. He was speaking in his own words last year. So, Bev Bell, in these last minutes we have—he’s been shot twice. The Mexican ambassador tried to get him out of Honduras, after Berta Cáceres—and he witnessed this assassination—was assassinated, but he survived. He’s now been taken again back to La Esperanza, where he was shot and she was assassinated. What are you calling for now?
BEVERLY BELL: We are calling for his safe passage out of Honduras back to Mexico. We are also calling for an independent investigation of the assassination of Berta Cáceres, because so far it’s been grossly manipulated by the Honduran government, which is seeking to target and blame other members of Berta’s group, who themselves had been detained and are now being investigated and interrogated without lawyers being present. And we are also calling for the decriminalization of the indigenous and popular group, COPINH, that Berta led.
I want to say that this is not just a horrible human rights crisis happening in Honduras right now. It is also a battle for the future of Central America, which is the epicenter of extractive industries. So, on the one hand, you have multinational corporations that are in Honduras to take over forests, mines, waters, indigenous lands and intellectual property rights, which others call indigenous knowledge, and on the other hand, you have social movements, which in Central America have been led by Gustavo Castro and by Berta Cáceres for the protection of these indigenous lands, for rights and for participatory democracy.
AMY GOODMAN: Bev Bell, because this is International Women’s Day, I want to end with the words of Berta Cáceres when she won the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize.

BERTA CÁCERES: [translated] Our Mother Earth, militarized, fenced-in, poisoned, a place where basic rights are systematically violated, demands that we take action.
AMY GOODMAN: Again, that was the assassinated Honduran indigenous environmentalist, Berta Cáceres. And I also will continue—we will continue to cover what is happening to Gustavo Castro Soto, though the Mexican ambassador tried to get him out of Honduras. He survived the assassination attempt on him, but he’s been shot twice. The Honduran authorities are continuing to keep him. Bev Bell, thanks so much for joining us from New Mexico.

R.K. Locke
03-11-2016, 08:25 PM

Before Her Murder, Berta Cáceres Singled Out Hillary Clinton for Criticism

The presidential candidate has ignored criticism of her role in enabling the consolidation of the Honduran coup.

By Greg Grandin

People hold up photos of slain Honduran indigenous leader and environmentalist Berta Cáceres outside the coroner’s office in Tegucigalpa. (AP Photo / Fernando Antonio)

Before her murder on March 3, Berta Cáceres, a Honduran indigenous rights and environmental activist, named Hillary Clinton, holding her responsible for legitimating the 2009 coup. “We warned that this would be very dangerous,” she said, referring to Clinton’s effort to impose elections that would consolidate the power of murderers.

In a video interview, given in Buenos Aires in 2014, Cáceres says it was Clinton who helped legitimate and institutionalize the coup. In response to a question about the exhaustion of the opposition movement (to restore democracy), Cáceres says (around 6:10): “The same Hillary Clinton, in her book Hard Choices, practically said what was going to happen in Honduras. This demonstrates the bad legacy of North American influence in our country. The return of Mel Zelaya to the presidency (that is, to his constitutionally elected position) was turned into a secondary concern. There were going to be elections.” Clinton, in her position as secretary of state, pressured (as her emails show) other countries to agree to sideline the demands of Cáceres and others that Zelaya be returned to power. Instead, Clinton pushed for the election of what she calls in Hard Choices a “unity government.” But Cáceres says: “We warned that this would be very dangerous.… The elections took place under intense militarism, and enormous fraud.”

The Clinton-brokered election did indeed install and legitimate a militarized regime based on repression. In the interview, Cáceres says that Clinton’s coup-government, under pressure from Washington, passed terrorist and intelligence laws that criminalized political protest. Cáceres called it “counterinsurgency,” carried out on behalf of “international capital”—mostly resource extractors—that has terrorized the population, murdering political activists by the high hundreds. “Every day,” Cáceres said elsewhere, “people are killed.”

Interestingly, Hillary Clinton removed the most damning sentences regarding her role in legitimating the Honduran coup from the paperback edition of Hard Choices.

According to Belén Fernández, Clinton airbrushed out of her account exactly the passage Cáceres highlights for criticism: “We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot and give the Honduran people a chance to choose their own future” (see Fernández’s essay in Liza Featherstone’s excellent False Choices: The Faux Feminism of Hillary Rodham Clinton).

Aside from Hard Choices’ shape-shifting account of the crisis, Clinton has ignored criticism of her role in enabling the consolidation of the Honduran coup. That is, until Cáceres’s murder forced a response. Last week, her campaign answered my Nation post on her broader responsibility for Cáceres’s execution: “simply nonsense,” a spokesperson said: “Hillary Clinton engaged in active diplomacy that resolved a constitutional crisis and paved the way for legitimate democratic elections.”

We still don’t have a clear idea of the events surrounding Cáceres’s murder. There is one witness, Gustavo Castro, a Mexican national, activist, and journalist, who was with Cáceres when gunmen burst into her bedroom. Berta died in his arms. Castro was himself shot twice, but survived by playing dead.

The Honduran government—that “unity government” Clinton is proud of—has Castro in lockdown, refusing him contact with the outside world.

Since he is the only witness to a murder that will implicate many government allies, if not the government itself, Castro’s life is clearly in danger. An international campaign to release Castro is being mounted by a number of high-profile groups, including Amnesty International and the American Jewish World Service. The organization Other Worlds worked closely with Cáceres and her Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras. Here’s a link for how to take action to demand Castro’s safe passage.

In the interview cited above, Cáceres was asked: “Facing this wave of assassinations, do you fear for your life?” She answered (at 14:15): “Yes, yes. Well, we are afraid. In Honduras, it isn’t easy. It’s a country where you see a brutal violence.” The threats are constant, she said: legal intimidation, attempts on lives, rape, fear of being thrown in jail, assaults, and the smear campaigns carried out by the oligarchic media.

“But we are not going to be paralyzed,” Cáceres said.

Peter Lemkin
03-18-2016, 04:32 PM
Another indigenous environmentalist has been murdered in Honduras, less than two weeks after the assassination of renowned activist Berta Cáceres. Nelson García was shot to death Tuesday after returning home from helping indigenous people who had been displaced in a mass eviction by Honduran security forces. García was a member of COPINH, the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, co-founded by Berta Cáceres, who won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize last year for her decade-long fight against the Agua Zarca Dam, a project planned along a river sacred to the indigenous Lenca people. She was shot to death at her home on March 3. On Thursday, thousands converged in Tegucigalpa for the start of a mobilization to demand justice for Berta Cáceres and an end to what they say is a culture of repression and impunity linked to the Honduran government’s support for corporate interests. At the same time, hundreds of people, most of them women, gathered outside the Honduran Mission to the United Nations chanting "Berta no se murió; se multiplicó – Berta didn’t die; she multiplied." We speak with Cáceres’s daughter, Bertha Zúniga Cáceres, and with Lilian Esperanza López Benítez, the financial coordinator of COPINH.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show in Honduras, where another indigenous environmentalist has been murdered, less than two weeks after the killing of renowned activist Berta Cáceres. Nelson García was shot to death Tuesday after returning home from helping indigenous people who had been displaced in a mass eviction by Honduran security forces. García was a member of COPINH, the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, co-founded by Berta Cáceres. She won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize last year for her decade-long fight against the Agua Zarca Dam, a project planned along a river sacred to the indigenous Lenca people. She was shot to death at her home on March 3rd. In a statement, Honduran police said the two killings were unrelated. They called Nelson García’s murder a, quote, "isolated" act.
But Honduran activists disagree. On Thursday, thousands converged in Tegucigalpa for the start of a mobilization to demand justice for Berta Cáceres and an end to what they say is a culture of repression and impunity linked to the Honduran government’s support for corporate interests. Ten buses of indigenous and black Hondurans were reportedly stopped en route to the capital. Activists said some began walking toward Tegucigalpa after being forced to leave the buses.
In the capital, demonstrators walked past the Mexican Embassy to show solidarity with Gustavo Castro Soto, the sole witness to Berta Cáceres’s murder, who remains inside the embassy. After Cáceres died in his arms at her home, Castro was interrogated and blocked from leaving Honduras to return to his native Mexico, even though he was accompanied by the Mexican ambassador and shot twice himself. One of Berta Cáceres’ daughters, Olivia, spoke to Democracy Now! at the mobilization in Tegucigalpa.
OLIVIA ZÚNIGA CÁCERES: [translated] Today, we are here to demand justice and an explanation for the crime of the death of my mother, Berta Cáceres. I’m her oldest daughter. And we’ve launched a struggle, a battle at the international level, to exert pressure in order to demand that the aid agencies that fund these multinational corporations that come to plunder, to exterminate our people, to spill our blood in our territories, to create territorial conflicts, that they stop being financed and that they leave our country, because we don’t want international companies that come to finance death, blood and extermination in our communities.

AMY GOODMAN: In a victory for Berta Cáceres’s supporters on Wednesday, the Dutch development bank FMO and the Finnish development bank Finnfund said they would suspend their funding of the Agua Zarca Dam. In a statement, FMO said it was "shocked" by Nelson García’s murder and would halt all activities in Honduras.
Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., two activists scaled an art installation in front of the U.S. Agency for International Development Monday to oppose the agency’s support for the dam. They unfurled a banner reading "Stop funding murder in Honduras." Honduran activists say eight members of COPINH working to stop the Agua Zarca Dam have been murdered since construction began in 2013. On Wednesday, at another action in Washington, D.C., two activists interrupted a meeting of the Council of the Americas. They targeted the U.S. ambassador to Honduras, James Nealon, saying he has blood on his hands.
PROTESTER 1: He has the blood of Berta Cáceres! He has the blood of Nelson García! The United States has been funding—the United States has been funding .

AMY GOODMAN: In New York City on Thursday, hundreds of people, most of them women, gathered outside the Honduran Mission to the United Nations, chanting "Berta didn’t die, she multiplied." Among those who participated was one of Berta Cáceres’s three daughters, also named Bertha, and a Lenca activist from Berta Cáceres’s organization COPINH. We’re going to speak with them shortly, but first, in an international broadcast exclusive, we turn to new footage filmed by COPINH members and its supporters in the hours before and days after Berta’s assassination in Honduras. The video begins with Berta Cáceres herself conducting a training on March 2nd. Only hours later, she would be assassinated.
BERTA CÁCERES: [translated] We have to understand why these projects are so important. The government has all of its institutions at the service of these companies, because they are capable—as in Río Blanco, in the defense that we had in Gualcarque—because these businesses are capable of moving antiterrorism commandos, like the Tigre commandos, the military police, the national police, security guards, hit men, etc. It’s not a simple thing. There has to be something else deeper, underneath the surface, that moves all of that power. And we want to understand that better. We have to understand that, because we have the obligation as members of COPINH to have these debates anywhere. And this will help these resistance struggles that you’re fighting there in your communities.

AMY GOODMAN: Only hours later, early in the morning of March 3rd, Berta Cáceres was murdered in her home in La Esperanza. As the authorities took her body away, her brother Gustavo reacted to her death.

GUSTAVO CÁCERES: [translated] And what I ask of Juan Orlando Hernández, look, here lies a true Lenca, who was never ashamed to be indigenous. What she did was defend her people with her life, and she gave her life. And now we have her here in the back of a truck in a bag, in a plastic bag, like any thing. This can’t happen in our country. What is happening? We demand, we demand, we demand, in the name of my family, my mother, this people, thousands and thousands of us, that they immediately investigate and that they not say things that aren’t true, and that they stick to the truth of what happened to my sister.

AMY GOODMAN: Berta had been a frequent voice on the local community radio station, La Voz Lenca. After her death, fellow activists took to the airwaves to denounce the murder.

ACTIVIST 1: [translated] We have to be alert, compañeros and compañeras. And we are not to be brought to our knees. At no point will we surrender. At no point will they sell us. If the dictatorship of Mr. Juan Orlando Hernández Alvarado, if the executives of the company DESA and the hit men, if they are thinking that they are going to stop the struggle of our organization, ladies and gentlemen in power, you are wrong.

PROTESTERS: ¡Justicia! ¡Justicia! ¡Justicia!

AMY GOODMAN: The news of Berta’s assassination spread quickly, and on March 5th, thousands gathered for her funeral in La Esperanza.

PROTESTER 2: [translated] We reject the patriarchal victimization that the Honduran state and the states in the region want to impose on us. We, the women and the people, reject it, together, brothers and sisters. We reject it because we are criminalized women, who are also living under death threats for shattering this power imposed by neoliberalism in our territories.

AMY GOODMAN: People took to the streets across Honduras to denounce her killing and to accuse the state of being complicit in her murder. Outside the local public prosecutor’s office, activists said authorities have repeatedly ignored their reports of death threats.

ACTIVIST 2: [translated] When we come here to the public prosecutor’s office—I’ve been present many times when people have come here to report complaints; I’ve come here to accompany comrades—and the public prosecutor’s office, or the people who work here, say that they are rabble-rousers and that they are against development. What kind of development, my friends? Killing comrades? Is that development?

AMY GOODMAN: One of the activists to denounce Berta’s murder was Miriam Miranda, a leader of the Garífuna community in Honduras. The Garífuna are descendants of indigenous Caribbean people and African slaves.

MIRIAM MIRANDA: [translated] We want our children to breathe clean air for generations to come. We want to have rivers. We don’t just want to wash our clothes. We also want to be able to drink the water, to be able to have water in our homes! That is the struggle we are fighting. For that, they kill us. For that, they killed Berta Cáceres.

AMY GOODMAN: One of Berta’s three daughters, Laura, resolved her mother’s fight would continue.

LAURA ZÚNIGA CÁCERES: [translated] My mother has not been killed. My mother has been planted, and she is born and reborn. And this, which they tried to put out today, this fire that is the struggle of the people, the only thing they did was ignite it more, because they tried to put out the fire with gasoline!

PROTESTERS: [I]¡Justicia! ¡Justicia! ¡Justicia!

AMY GOODMAN: Karla Lara, "La Casa de la Justicia," "The House of Justice." This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re talking about Honduras, where another indigenous environmentalist has been murdered, this less than two weeks after the killing of the renowned environmental activist Berta Cáceres. Nelson García was shot to death Tuesday after returning home from helping indigenous people who had been displaced in a mass eviction by Honduran security forces. García was a member of COPINH, the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, co-founded by Berta Cáceres. She won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize last year for her decade-long fight against the Agua Zarca Dam, a project planned along a river sacred to the indigenous Lenca people.We’re joined right now by Berta’s daughter, by Bertha Zúniga Cáceres, and by Lilian Esperanza López, financial coordinator of COPINH, the organization Berta co-founded.
We welcome you both Democracy Now! Bertha, first of all, and Lilian, my condolences on the death of your mother.
BERTHA ZÚNIGA CÁCERES: [translated] Thank you, and I’d like to thank you for giving us this opportunity, the media that follow up on the struggles and don’t just put out news.
AMY GOODMAN: Bertita, Bertha, why are you here in the United States?
BERTHA ZÚNIGA CÁCERES: [translated] We’re here because we want to continue denouncing what happened to my mother. We want to tell the truth about her assassination. In Honduras, the situation is very much manipulated by the media, and the way the government is dealing with it is truly lamentable. So we want to struggle with those who are engaged in social struggle, women and men, but also with authorities and persons who can listen, so that the demands that we have put forward to the government of Honduras can actually receive attention and be acted upon.
AMY GOODMAN: What are you demanding of the U.S. government?
BERTHA ZÚNIGA CÁCERES: [translated] Well, I think one of the key demands is that we be accompanied in our demands. We have put forth an array of points that have received very little attention in our country. It seems that the government of Honduras is only concerned about what is said internationally, but not about really following up on or really verifying what it is that happened in the assassination of my mother. So, it’s crucial that an independent investigative commission be formed, that it be made up of experts who enjoy the trust of the family and the organization, for the investigation that has been carried out thus far is very limited, and the results that it might yield would not be considered reliable by us. And we would like the government of the United States and many others to pressure the government of Honduras to make it possible for such a commission to participate in the investigation, for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has said that it is ready and willing, but it needs an invitation from the government of Honduras in order for its investigation to be considered relevant in the overall investigation.
AMY GOODMAN: I really—I really hate to ask you this, Bertita. What do you understand happened to your mother when she was assassinated? She was at your home in La Esperanza, in Honduras. This was two weeks ago. Well-known figure around the world, leading environmentalist. What do you understand happened to her in the home where you grew up?
BERTHA ZÚNIGA CÁCERES: [translated] Well, as soon as I found out about her assassination, I immediately thought, "Who was really behind this?" because we knew of the recurrent threats that she faced. And in the last week, there had been an escalation in threats. And this happened in the context of the struggle against this hydroelectric dam known as Agua Zarca. We’ve always feared for her safety and for her life, because we knew that these threats included participation by or also came from the repressive forces in Honduras, that the police and the military had been safeguarding the facilities of the hydroelectric plant. And rather than seeing how to protect human rights, they’re always trying to figure out how to protect the interests of the private company. So we knew that there were big interests that wanted to bring an end to her life and the struggle of the organization, because the struggle was not only hers, it was the struggle of an entire people and also a struggle of the Honduran social movement.
AMY GOODMAN: Just hours before Nelson García was assassinated—and this was just a few days ago, and this is after Berta’s assassination—more than 60 members of Congress signed a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew calling for a review of U.S. security aid to Honduras and an independent investigation into the killing of Berta Cáceres. They wrote in part, quote, "We are profoundly saddened and angered by the brutal assassination of Berta Cáceres, and appalled by our government’s continuous assistance to Honduran security forces, so widely documented to be corrupt and dangerous." Where does that U.S. military aid go, Bertita?
BERTHA ZÚNIGA CÁCERES: [translated] I think that the military aid is like the classic form of aid that the United States has given to the Latin American region. In Honduras, it was bolstered as of the 2009 coup d’état, which saw an increase in the national budget earmarked to security. But at the same time, they created special forces, supposedly, to watch out for security in the country. But quite to the contrary, what has happened has been an increase in insecurity, violence and repression, very much directed against the Honduran social movement. So I believe that the role of the security forces is extremely important when one looks at the barriers being put up to the Honduran social movement and to the exercise of human rights. We’re also concerned that this is continuing, this cooperation, because it has shown that these security forces do not serve the purpose for which they were supposedly created. For the indigenous peoples, in particular, the presence of armed forces represents a great danger, because they have a different life of harmony, and this merely steps up conflicts within the communities.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to talk about—I mean, something very interesting here in the 2016 presidential election in the United States is there is a relationship between Hillary Clinton, who was the secretary of state who basically accepted the coup of 2009, and the government, the coup government, in Honduras. But before I do that, I want to turn to our second guest, to Lilian Esperanza López Benítez, who is the financial coordinator of COPINH. Now, COPINH is the environmental organization, the indigenous organization, the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, that Berta Cáceres co-founded. Lilian, how many times have you been interrogated since Berta’s assassination?
LILIAN ESPERANZA LÓPEZ BENÍTEZ: [translated] Up until the assassination of Berta, I have been interrogated four times, and I have received many phone calls from the office of the attorney general. And we asked ourselves, why are those of us who are part of this organization being interrogated? And we—they are denouncing members of our organization, COPINH. We ask, why are they interrogating us?
AMY GOODMAN: So they have interrogated you since Berta was killed?
LILIAN ESPERANZA LÓPEZ BENÍTEZ: [translated] Yes. I have been at the office of the prosecutor for whole days in interrogations.
AMY GOODMAN: Why do you think they are questioning you? And who is doing it?
LILIAN ESPERANZA LÓPEZ BENÍTEZ: [translated] Those who interrogate us or question us are the office of the prosecutor, because they want to tie her assassination to some sort of internal problem, even though we’ve never had such an internal problem in the organization during the various years in which I have shared the struggle with her. All that the government wants is to tear the organization apart. That’s what the government wants to achieve. But as women and as a strong organization, we hope that they’re not going to accomplish that. Rather, we have become strengthened to continue working in the organization to defend natural resources.
AMY GOODMAN: Lilian, first Berta Cáceres, the founder of your organization COPINH, was assassinated. Then, tell us what happened to Nelson García just in the last days.
LILIAN ESPERANZA LÓPEZ BENÍTEZ: [translated] The assassination of Berta, these—days earlier, there had also been an eviction in Río Lindo, in the department of Cortés, and persons were displaced once again. The government could have stopped this, because if it does not want to be—had it not wanted to be involved or had it not been involved in the assassination of Berta, they would have detained, they would have arrested the assassination. And there was an eviction by police, by military and by a court. And in the wake of that, our colleague Nelson García was assassinated. Just as he was arriving at his home, paid hit men were there waiting to assassinate him.
AMY GOODMAN: Are you afraid for your life?
LILIAN ESPERANZA LÓPEZ BENÍTEZ: [translated] Yes, we do have fear. We feel fear. Yet this is a struggle that we have undertaken. It is a road that we have headed down, that is to become stronger and to continue working as Berta always did. And this is a tribute to her. We have committed ourselves to continue along the same path to defend the struggle, because if, as women, we are not struggling in Honduras, but we know that it is a violent country and that they assassinate us just for being women and for standing up for the natural resources of the Lenca people.
AMY GOODMAN: Tell us what COPINH does, your organization that Berta founded.
LILIAN ESPERANZA LÓPEZ BENÍTEZ: [translated] For the last 21 years, has been struggling. On 27 March, that will be 22 years. COPINH has been an organization that defends natural resources in the Lenca communities, because the Lenca communities have their own title, their own legal status. They are protected by ILO Convention 169. The only thing we do is support the Lenca communities to defend their own resources and their own rights. This is what we do as an organization, because many communities have had their lands taken from them. Their crops have been destroyed once the company comes into these communities. Those rights are not respected. And that is what the organization has done. It has undertaken a struggle as of a long time ago, and we’re going to continue that struggle, knowing that our colleague, Berta, was assassinated and that many of us women might be assassinated in this effort. But the government will continue to bloody its hands with many women.
AMY GOODMAN: What is your message—what is your message, Lilian, to the U.S. government?
LILIAN ESPERANZA LÓPEZ BENÍTEZ: [translated] My message would be that these countries that are financing and the banks that are financing and providing this aid to the multinational companies should no longer do so, because due to this financing and due to these multinationals that are in our country, Honduras, Berta was assassinated, and many community leaders have been assassinated. They don’t care, but we continue to struggle. And they are not going to stop us women. They are not going to stop us, the Lenca people. We continue in going forward in this strong struggle in order to pay tribute to and honor our colleague Berta.
AMY GOODMAN: Bertha Cáceres, again, Berta Cáceres’s daughter, who has come to the United States, talk about the dam your mother has fought against for so long, the Agua Zarca Dam, and what it actually does, why she was so fiercely opposed to it.
BERTHA ZÚNIGA CÁCERES: [translated] I believe that the position taken not only by my mother, but also by the Lenca indigenous people and the Honduran social movement, is aimed at preserving the life of the communities and to preserve life, not only for ourselves but for the entire world. It’s very important to understand the difference between the worldview of the indigenous communities and an extractivist model that really means dispossession, pillage of the natural goods of nature, and, over time, the death of the communities and of their way of life. That is why my mother so fervently and so firmly opposed these projects, because they don’t bring about the supposed development that they talk about. They really represent death for the communities.
AMY GOODMAN: What role, Bertha, did the coup play in 2009 in what has happened in these years that have ensued, the coup that ousted the democratically elected president of Honduras, Mel Zelaya?
BERTHA ZÚNIGA CÁCERES: [translated] I think that the role of the coup is, well, the reason for the deaths of hundreds of activists and defenders of life, because at the root of the problem that the indigenous peoples are facing is this, for it’s since the coup that hundreds of concessions were given for hydroelectric exploitation, for mining. Model cities were established, also sales of oxygen and a number of projects aimed at dispossessing the population. So, we are actually experiencing the coup d’état now with the establishment of a whole series of projects that are strengthening an economic model that represents the pillage of the common goods of nature. So it is very significant, and we are seeing the consequences in the situations we’re now experiencing.
AMY GOODMAN: Since the coup, Honduras has become one of the most dangerous places in the world. A few days ago, we were speaking to Greg Grandin (http://www.democracynow.org/2016/3/11/before_her_assassination_berta_caceres_singled), who is a professor of history at New York University, and asked him about what Berta Cáceres said about Hillary Clinton’s role in the 2009 coup, when she was secretary of state. In this clip, we hear Berta Cáceres and then the response by Greg Grandin. Juan González and I were interviewing him. Cáceres appeared on the Argentine TV program Resumen Latinoamericano.

BERTA CÁCERES: [translated] We’re coming out of a coup that we can’t put behind us. We can’t reverse it. It just kept going. And after, there was the issue of the elections. The same Hillary Clinton, in her book, Hard Choices, practically said what was going to happen in Honduras. This demonstrates the meddling of North Americans in our country. The return of the president, Mel Zelaya, became a secondary issue. There were going to be elections in Honduras. And here, she, Clinton, recognized that they didn’t permit Mel Zelaya’s return to the presidency. There were going to be elections. And the international community—officials, the government, the grand majority—accepted this, even though we warned this was going to be very dangerous and that it would permit a barbarity, not only in Honduras but in the rest of the continent. And we’ve been witnesses to this.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres speaking in 2014. She was murdered last week in her home in La Esperanza in Honduras. Last year, she won the Goldman Environmental Prize. She’s a leading environmentalist in the world. Professor Grandin?

GREG GRANDIN: Yeah, and she criticizes Hillary Clinton’s book, Hard Choices, where Clinton was holding up her actions in Honduras as an example of a clear-eyed pragmatism. I mean, that book is effectively a confession. Every other country in the world or in Latin America was demanding the restitution of democracy and the return of Manuel Zelaya. It was Clinton who basically relegated that to a secondary concern and insisted on elections, which had the effect of legitimizing and routinizing the coup regime and creating the nightmare scenario that exists today.

I mean—and it’s also in her emails. The real scandal about the emails isn’t the question about process—you know, she wanted to create an off-the-books communication thing that couldn’t be FOIAed. The real scandal about those emails are the content of the emails. She talks—the process by which she works to delegitimate Zelaya and legitimate the elections, which Cáceres, in that interview, talks about were taking place under extreme militarized conditions, fraudulent, a fig leaf of democracy, are all in the emails.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And particularly what does she say in them?

GREG GRANDIN: Well, she talks about trying to work towards a movement towards legitimating—getting other countries, pressuring other countries to accept the results of the election and give up the demand that Zelaya be returned.
AMY GOODMAN: And let’s go to March 2010. This is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveling to meet with the Honduran president, Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo, whose election was boycotted by opponents of the coup that overthrew Zelaya. Hillary Clinton urged Latin American countries to normalize ties with the coup government. After this, we hear response from professor Greg Grandin.

SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: We think that Honduras has taken important and necessary steps that deserve the recognition and the normalization of relations. I have just sent a letter to the Congress of the United States notifying them that we will be restoring aid to Honduras. Other countries in the region say that, you know, they want to wait a while. I don’t know what they’re waiting for, but that’s their right, to wait.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton endorsing the coup. What is the trajectory of what happened then to the horror of this past week, the assassination of Berta Cáceres?

GREG GRANDIN: Well, that’s just one horror. I mean, hundreds of peasant activists and indigenous activists have been killed. Scores of gay rights activists have been killed. I mean, it’s just—it’s just a nightmare in Honduras. I mean, there’s ways in which the coup regime basically threw up Honduras to transnational pillage. And Berta Cáceres, in that interview, says what was installed after the coup was something like a permanent counterinsurgency on behalf of transnational capital. And that was—that wouldn’t have been possible if it were not for Hillary Clinton’s normalization of that election.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s New York University professor Greg Grandin responding to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. And we heard Berta Cáceres herself talking about Clinton’s role in the coup. We are with her daughter, Bertha Zúniga Cáceres. Was your mother, after the coup, put on a death list in Honduras? Was she the number one person on that list, Bertha?
BERTHA ZÚNIGA CÁCERES: [translated] She was figured on the lists of persons for whom the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued precautionary measures. And these precautionary measures were granted to persons who exercised major leadership in the movement opposing the coup d’état. The entire organization COPINH was also one of the organizations that spoke out entirely against the coup d’état. It participated in hundreds of mobilizations that organized after the coup d’état, and they always declared their opposition to this being called a presidential succession. Also, COPINH called for the population to not participate in elections, which it thought should not be held, because we were in a coup d’état situation, and one could not say that that was any sort of democratic succession.
AMY GOODMAN: Bertha, finally, you have said your mother was not the first activist to be assassinated, and she won’t be the last. Are you afraid for your life.
BERTHA ZÚNIGA CÁCERES: [translated] Well, I believe that fear exists. It is a reality. But now, more than ever, what we insist on is that my mother’s assassination be a precedent for justice. That is why it is so important that this crime be investigated, because we know that the government fears an independent commission coming to say who’s really behind this assassination and that it might reveal the ties under which the oligarchical powers operate in our country, the ties that the companies have that are protected by Honduran institutions, in which a justice system supports these facilities even though they violate human rights. And they are also operating in alliance with security forces.