4 Years Seeking Justice: Daughter of Assassinated Indigenous Environmental Leader Berta Cáceres Speaks Out

The Violence of Development website has tried to give regular coverage of the struggle for justice in the case of the assassination of Berta Cáceres, the Honduran environmentalist who led protests against a hydroelectric dam on the Gualcarque River and who was the Director of COPINH, the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras. We reproduce here a report from ‘Popular Resistance’ of this continuing search for justice by Berta’s family.

Popular Resistance, 17 January 2020, making use of a TV news report from ‘Democracy Now’.

In Honduras, a new report by the Violence Observatory at the Honduran National Autonomous University says that at least 15 women have been murdered in the first 14 days of this year. Violence against women, LGBTQ people, indigenous leaders and environmental activists has skyrocketed in Honduras under the U.S.-backed government of President Juan Orlando Hernández. The report comes nearly four years after the Honduran indigenous environmental activist Berta Cáceres was shot dead inside her home in La Esperanza, Honduras, by hired hitmen. Last month in the capital of Tegucigalpa, seven men were sentenced to up to 50 years in prison for her killing in March 2016. At the time of her assassination, Cáceres had been fighting the construction of a major hydroelectric dam on the Gualcarque River on sacred Lenca land in southwestern Honduras. In November 2018, a court ruled that Cáceres’s killing was ordered by executives of the Honduran company behind the Agua Zarca dam, known as DESA, who hired the convicted hitmen.

Cáceres won the Goldman Environmental Prize for her work protecting indigenous communities and for her environmental justice campaign against the dam in 2015. In December [2019] , we sat down with one of her daughters, Laura Zúñiga Cáceres, in Madrid, Spain, where she was receiving a human rights award. “This is a late conviction. It has been almost four years of seeking justice. It is the product of a rather difficult and painful process that has been putting us as victims in direct dispute with a murderous and aggressive state, and they produced the minimum consequences that the state could have given,” Zúñiga Cáceres says.

On the role of the US:

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s talk about the US connection here. Seven men were convicted and sentenced for your mother’s murder. Two of those men, one was a former Army lieutenant trained by the United States, the other a Special Forces major also trained by the United States. US-trained military men, quote, “provided logistical support and a gun in the plot to kill Cáceres.” Can you talk about what you know about the US connection?

LAURA ZÚÑIGA CÁCERES: [translated] I believe that what we have seen since the coup is how extractivism has massively entered into our country. And through that extractivism, we see how the military are able to gain control of these extractive companies. Since the [2009] coup, they became entrepreneurs. And we also witness how the government of the United States is complicit and allows the installation of this coup. Then we see how the United States government continues to support governments in Honduras which are highly repressive and violators of human rights. The United States supports these governments, particularly in the area of militarization.

And at the time of my mother’s murder, one of the things that caught our attention is that it was said that members of the FBI were investigating her killing, which the US Embassy never clarified, even though it was not true, and the US Embassy allowed the Honduran state to create that false narrative.

But the most obvious evidence about how soldiers are trained by the US government to kill land and water defenders is the training that both Mariano Díaz Chávez and David Castillo received from the United States and that aided them in carrying out the murder of my mother. The United States government has also never cut funding for the government of Juan Orlando Hernández, which is a dictatorship that continues to kill and that continues to generate impunity on my mom’s case and other cases.

The full interview by the US television programme ‘Democracy Now’ can be seen at: https://www.democracynow.org/2020/1/17/berta_caceres_laura_caceres_interview