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Berta Cáceres

Shocking New Investigation Links Berta Cáceres’s Assassination to Executives at Honduran Dam Company

Elisabeth Malkin interviewed by Juan González and Amy Goodman - Democracy Now, November 1, 2017

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We begin today’s show with shocking new revelations about the assassination of renowned Honduran indigenous environmental leader Berta Cáceres. On Tuesday, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, a team of international lawyers released a new report that shows how the plot to murder Cáceres was months in the making and went up to the highest levels of the company, whose hydroelectric dam project Cáceres and her indigenous Lenca community were protesting. The report’s release celebrated the effort to push back against the brazen impunity with which the murder was carried out.

PROTESTERS: Berta no se murió, Berta no se murió. ¡Justicia! ¡Justicia!

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: “¡Justicia! Berta!” “Justice for Berta!” they chanted, upon the report’s release.

In 1993, Berta Cáceres 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 they said were destructive to their ancestral land. Then, on March 2nd, 2016, Cáceres was gunned down just before midnight in her hometown of La Esperanza. At the time of her death, she was organizing indigenous communities to resist the Agua Zarca Dam on the Gualcarque River, saying it threatened to contaminate her community’s water supply.

AMY GOODMAN: Now a team of five international lawyers have found evidence that the plot to kill Cáceres went up to the top of the Honduran energy company behind the dam, Desarrollos Energéticos, known as ”DESA.” The lawyers were selected by Cáceres’s daughter, Bertita Zúniga, and are independent of the Honduran government’s ongoing official investigation. They examined some 40,000 pages of text messages and say the conversations are proof that the orders to threaten COPINH and disrupt its protests came from DESA executives. The investigation also revealed DESA exercised control over security forces in the area, issuing directives and paying for police units’ room, board and equipment. In their new report, the lawyers write, quote, “The existing proof is conclusive regarding the participation of numerous state agents, high-ranking executives and employees of Desa in the planning, execution and cover-up of the assassination.”

For more, we go to Mexico City, where we’re joined by Elisabeth Malkin. She’s a reporter for The New York Times, has read the new report and details its findings in her article, “Who Ordered Killing of Honduran Activist? Evidence of Broad Plot Is Found.”

"Berta Didn't Die, She Multiplied": Indigenous Organizers in Honduras Call for Radical Transformation

Pascuala Vásquez interviewed by Beverly Bell - TruthOut, May 15, 2017; image by Beverly Bell.

"Berta didn't die. She multiplied," is an oft-heard chant in Honduras. The significance of the life of Berta Cáceres, warrior for indigenous peoples and the sanctity of Mother Earth, continues growing. So, too, does the significance of her assassination in March 2016, as more evidence emerges about the role of the US and Honduran governments, and the internationally financed dam company DESA, in the crime.

Also multiplying around the world is hope and action inspired by Cáceres' message that the world needs radical, structural transformation. As she said regarding the fight against capitalism, racism, and patriarchy when she received a Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015, "Wake up! Wake up, humanity! There is no time left."

The organization Cáceres founded 24 years ago, the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), continues multiplying, too. About a dozen new Lenca communities have recently joined the 200-plus communities already united in protecting their territories, waters, communities, and rights from the government and multinational corporations.

Cáceres' family and Gustavo Castro Soto are now compiling evidence for their joint trial against the Honduran government. Castro, director of Friends of the Earth-Mexico, was on a brief visit from Chiapas when he was wounded twice and almost killed in the assault in Cáceres' home. He then spent a month illegally detained in Honduras, where he was tortured. The sole witness to Cáceres' death, Castro told us, "If I hadn't been there that night, it would have been the perfect assassination." As it is, the trial threatens to blow the lid off of impunity the Honduran and US states and transnational capital.

The Honduran government has blocked the plaintiffs' efforts for a fair and transparent trial, denying them access to information, disappearing six months of evidence they had filed with the court, and refusing the Inter-American Court of Human Rights' offer to help.  While eight men have been arrested as suspects -- including one in Castro's home town in Mexico - the intellectual authors of the crime continue to walk freely.

The Berta Cáceres Human Rights Act, introduced into the US Congress this past March, calls for the US to cut off security assistance to the government of Honduras until it makes improvements in human rights. (If your congressperson isn't yet on board, please urge him or her to sponsor the bill.)

Below, Pascuala Vásquez tells more about the Lenca fight, and offers insights into a little publicized part of COPINH and Cáceres' work: reliance on Lenca culture and spirituality to keep the movement strong and the Earth whole. A 75-year-old farmer and organizer, Vásquez is also COPINH's spiritual leader, head of COPINH's Lenca Cultural Committee, and member of the Council of Elders.

Berta Is Dead, But The Movement She Started Lives

By Beverly Bell - Global Justice Ecology Project, April 5, 2017

The Convergence of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) has defied all efforts over the past year, by the Honduran government and the DESA dam company, to destroy it. This past Monday, March 27, 24 years after Berta Cáceres cofounded the Lenca indigenous organization, COPINH hosted an anniversary celebration of rebellion and recommitment.

About 150 people from throughout Honduras and at least five other countries joined for a Lenca ceremony; a forum on challenges and advances; a concert; a film festival; and a humble feast of roasted pig, rice, tortillas, and birthday cake. The event closed late at night with an open-air performance of “Ancestras”, a new play by the Teatro Taller Tegucigalpa (Tegucigalpa Theater Workshop) about COPINH’s fight to defend the Gualcarque River, and structural injustice by the government and oligarchy.

COPNH has not only survived, it continues to serve as a source of inspiration for indigenous and other movements throughout Honduras and the world. As with Berta Cáceres’ life work, COPINH’s goes far beyond environmental defense. Its aim is to transform the political, economic, and environmental landscape of Honduras, and – in conjunction with movements elsewhere – of the world.

Gustavo Castro Soto, the director of Friends of the Earth-Mexico and Otros Mundos who was shot and almost killed in Cáceres’ home the night she was assassinated, said, “The death of Berta has not been the death of the struggle. On the contrary, it’s been a wake-up call.”

Environmental activists in Honduras refuse to submit

By Michael Phoenix - ROARMag, March 3, 2017

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.

These are the words of Berta Cáceres, the community organizer, human rights defender, environmental activist, indigenous Lenca woman, leader and rebel who was shot dead one year ago, on March 3, 2016, by unidentified gunmen at her home in La Esperanza, the capital city of the department of Intibucá in southwestern Honduras.

Berta was a co-founder of the Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (COPINH), an organization fighting neoliberalism and patriarchy in Honduras and working for respect of human rights and the rights of indigenous peoples in particular. She was a long-term opponent of internationally funded exploitative development projects in indigenous territories in Honduras, such as the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam, set to be built on the territory of the Lenca people in the Río Blanco.

Berta’s name had been on a hit-list of social and environmental activists given to a US-trained specialist military unit in Honduras months before her death. Recent information leaked from court proceedings suggest a leading role was played in her assassination by Honduran military intelligence services.

The killing of the celebrated indigenous activist led to widespread and sustained coverage in the Honduran, Central American and international media. In its aftermath, eight people have been arrested, including employees of the Agua Zarca dam and current and ex-military officers. However, no convictions have materialized and the intellectual authors of her assassination remain untouched.

Serious failings in the investigative process, including the failure to call on the sole eyewitness of the killing to identify suspects, have held back any movement towards justice for Berta’s family, community or her colleagues in COPINH. Similarly, the widespread outcry of indignation at Berta’s murder has not resulted in any steps towards greater protection for the indigenous peoples in Honduras who are fighting for their right to exist and the safeguarding of the open, communal, sufficient and balanced nature of our environment.

America The Not So Beautiful

By Richard Mellor - Facts For Working People, February 8, 2017

The US is a country of extremes. It is the porn capital of the world where young 18 year-old women and men can bare all on screen or be sent to fight in wars yet can’t buy a bottle of beer at a convenience store.

It is also the richest and most powerful nation in history and its defense budget at $608 billion annually, dwarfs all others. China is a poor second at a little over $215 billion with the Russians lagging at third with a paltry $66 billion.

God Bless America is a familiar phrase in these United States but when we look at quality of life, God’s blessing has been very selective. We have more billionaires than anyone else and more people in prison than anyone else. The incomes of the most blessed, a tiny section of US society, are staggering. The wealth displayed at the Superbowl for the world to see is not America. It was bizarre to see these players kissing this oblong silver object passed along as if it was some oracle from above. Sport should be a cultural event.

Trump makes much ado about the loss of jobs and especially blue-collar post war jobs that were the traditional home for white males although this changed to a degree after the rise of the CIO and the Civil Rights movement that followed. It is to this constituency that Trump has appealed as these jobs have disappeared due primarily to innovation and technology and moving production oversees where human beings come cheaper.

But as Sarah O’Connor points put in today’s Financial Times, “…prime-age male participation has been falling in the US for 60 years without much panic. What tempered this to a degree was the entrance of women in to the workforce. Immediately after WW11 less than one third of US women were in the workforce and by 1999 that had risen to 60%. *As most workers are aware, back in the 1950’s one income covered a mortgage, today that is almost impossible certainly when we throw in childcare and other related expenses.

But women’s labor force participation is declining along with men and was just under 68% by 2012.This is not the case in most advanced capitalist (OECD) countries as O’Connor points out and the US now has a lower female labor force participation than Japan. Similar factors that have affected male rates affect women’s but there is another major factor and that is the barbaric nature of US capitalism.

In the age of the Internet most people are aware of the disparity in statistics like health care, infant mortality, crime, homelessness working hours, incarceration and basic social services between the US and other OECD countries; even tiny Cuba has a better infant mortality rate than the US. It is this human/family hostile free market haven that is also forcing women out of the workforce reversing the trend that began after WW11. US policy is  “…particularly unsupportive of women who want to stay in work when they have children — with the result that many drop out.”, O’Connor writes.

Despite major gains, women still bear the brunt of housework and basically caring for the family. In the US, pregnancy is almost treated like an illness. Meanwhile it is the expansion of “family friendly” leave policies in other advanced capitalist economies that O’Connor cites as the cause of why US female labour force participation had fallen behind.”

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