Berta Caceres was a hugely influential and high-profile activist against land dispossession of the Honduran government. She lived everyday of her later life fighting for human rights and protecting the land that she and her fellow neighbors lived and survived off of. In 2013 Caceres led a peaceful campaign in efforts to halt the world’s largest dam builders in building the Agua Zarca Dam. If built, this dam would have cut off water, food, and medicine supply to all Lenca people of Southwestern Honduras. Caceres’ efforts won, earning her the Goldman Environmental Prize. In recent years prior to her death, Bertas Caceres was gaining ground in her efforts to save the earth she lived on, while simultaneously quickly becoming a “high-profile” environmental activist to the increasingly reactionary and violent Honduran government. Sadly, on March 2, 2016 Berta Caceres was shot and killed in her home in Honduras.
“This shows the high level of impunity in Honduras. Beyond the high homicide levels in society, there is a clear tendency for indigenous campaigners and human rights activists to be killed”, said The United Nations consultant for indigenous rights, Victoria Tali-Corpuz. Since 2009, violence in Honduras has grown to an extreme level, becoming one of the most violent places in the world. This violence is due to the 2009 military coup ordered by the Honduran Supreme court and carried out by Honduran military, which seized democratic President Manuel Zelaya and sent him to exile. The coup government took their stand in place of President Zelaya and sent Honduran army and police to bring violence upon anyone who went against them, in a huge act against human rights. Those that were against this government were arrested, if not beaten or even killed, the same violence that killed Berta Caceres.
There was a widespread outcry upon the death of Berta Caceres, however in major new sites many details were spared, stories were brief, and one important piece of information of the U.S. involvement in the 2009 governmental coup, was left out. It was never covered in major media outlets how the U.S. was providing the Honduran government with armed forces, or how Hillary Clinton used her power of the office to make sure President Zelaya would not return to office. It was not covered that 15 House Democrats signed a letter to end the military coup, asking for the State Department to acknowledge that a military coup has in fact taken place, and it was not covered that the coup continued even after this concern grew.
In a 2014 Democracy Now! Interview, Berta Caceres speaks about the U.S. involvement in the 2009 coup. (Translated) “We’re coming out of a coup that we can’t put behind us. It just kept going…there were going to be elections in Honduras. And here, she, Clinton, recognized that they didn’t permit Manuel Zelaya’s return to presidency. And the international community-the 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 witness to this.”
These are exactly the dangerous conditions in Honduras that killed Berta Caceres. This was the detail that is not found in any major media news sites, that needs to be acknowledged. A woman was killed in her heroic, and brave efforts to fight for the land she lived off of, to stand up her rights as a citizen, and was relentlessly willing to use her voice for good, no matter what the consequence. In a 2015 interview, Berta Caceres explained, “We must undertake the struggle in all parts of the word, wherever we may be, because we have no other spare or replacement planet. We have only this one, and we have to take action.”
Amy Goodman, “Before Her Assassination, Berta Caceres Singled Out Hillary Clinton for backing Honduran Coup” Democracy Now!, March 11, 2016, http://www.democracynow.org/2016/3/11/before_her_assassination_berta_caceres_singled
Jonathan Watts, “Berta Caceres, Honduran human rights and environment activist, murdered” The Guardian, March 4, 2016, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/03/honduras-berta-caceres-murder-enivronment-activist-human-rights
Additional Background Sources:
Amy Goodman, “Exclusive Interview with Manuel Zelaya on the U. S. Role in Honduran Coup, WikiLeaks and Why He Was Ousted” Democracy Now!, 2011 http://www.democracynow.org/2011/5/31/exclusive_interview_with_manuel_zelaya_on
Mark Weisbrot, “Hard Choices: Hillary Clinton admits role in Honduran coup aftermath” Aljazeer America, 2014 http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/9/hillary-clinton-honduraslatinamericaforeignpolicy.html
Student Researcher: Ellen Buley (University of Vermont)
Faculty Evaluator: Rob Williams (University of Vermont)