Today, on World Water Day, we honor the memory of Berta Cáceres, a fellow fighter for environmental rights who was assassinated in Honduras last year for her activism.
Berta devoted her life to defending the rights of Honduras’s native peoples, courageously defying a corrupt government that failed to protect her and continues to ignore the rights of these indigenous groups even to this day. Berta fought for indigenous rights, environmental equity, feminism, LGBT rights, and other human rights. In 2013, when a hydroelectric dam project was undertaken without consulting the local indigenous groups, Berta launched a campaign to protect these local communities access to water, food, medicinal materials, and their traditional way of life. Berta Cáceres was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015 for her role in this successful grassroots campaign which persuaded the builders of the Agua Zarca Dam to abandon the project.
Since 2013, Berta was aware that her life was in danger. She received numerous threats, and many of her fellow activists and friends were murdered. Undeterred, Berta continued her work in the most dangerous country in the world for environmental activists.
After her murder on March 2, 2016 four individuals were arrested: two worked for Desarrollos Energéticos S.A., the Honduran company behind the dam; and two were in the Honduran military. Since then little has changed in Honduras. Over a year later, activists and journalists critical of the government continue to be targets of violence. Following such attacks, prosecutors fail to conduct proper investigations and the government shrugs it off as just another example of the country’s rampant violence. Unfortunately, the United States continues to provide tens of millions of aid dollars “directed to the police and military, both of which are heavily implicated in violence against land and environmental activists.” Millions more of our tax dollars are directed toward economic assistance meant to attract foreign investment. This is money that supports business interests at the expense of vulnerable communities and indigenous groups.
Recently, the “Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act” (H.R. 1299) has been re-introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. This bill, first introduced in the wake of Berta’s tragic murder, would suspend U.S. funding to the Republic of Honduras for their police and military operations, until the Honduran government begins an investigation into law enforcement violating human rights in Honduras.
Today, we honor the work and legacy of Berta Cáceres by asking you to join us in supporting this bill. Please also consider supporting the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), which Berta co-founded. Donations can be made through Other Worlds, a U.S. nonprofit that works closely with COPINH.