“In our world-view, we are beings who come from the Earth, from the water and from the corn.
The Lenca people are ancestral guardians of the rivers, in turn protected by the spirit of the young girls, who teach us that giving our lives in various ways for the protection of the river is giving our lives for the well-being of humanity and of this planet, walking alongside people struggling for their emancipation validates this commitment to continue protecting our waters, the rivers, our shared resources, and nature in general …
Let us wake up, humankind! We’re out of time. We must shake our conscience free from 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.”
– Berta Cáceres
Honduran indigenous and environmental organizer Berta Cáceres has been assassinated on 3 March 2016 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 (COPINH). For years the group faced a series of threats and repression.
In 2015 Berta Cáceres won the Goldman Environmental Prize, the world’s leading environmental award. In awarding the prize, the Goldman Prize committee said, “In a country with growing socioeconomic inequality and human rights violations, Berta Cáceres rallied the indigenous Lenca people of Honduras and waged a grassroots campaign that successfully pressured the world’s largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam.”
Press statement by COPINH (National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras)
It is with the most profound and sincere pain that we share information of the vile assassination of our comrade, mother, guide, sister, leader, and friend, Berta Cáceres, founder of COPINH.
Our dear Berta was assassinated by bullets of injustice; she was assassinated by the hate and racism that govern our country.
Today we mourn her death, as well as the deaths of the other comrades who have died in defines of the Gualcarque River and the territory of the Lenca people. Berta lived the life of a fighter, a warrior without fear who confronted the most perverse powers of the exploitative and inhumane capitalist system—this system that understands neither motives nor struggles, neither life itself nor respect for the existence of we the people who wish to live in peace and tranquillity, with dignity and full humanity.
Berta Cáceres was recently awarded the Goldman prize for her defence of the environment in Honduras. It is this defence that today they are trying to silence with Berta’s death.
COPINH has confronted assassinations, death threats, criminalization, persecution, stigmatization, and discrimination since its founding. Although such threats against Berta and other members of the organization have always been denounced nationally and internationally, Honduran institutions have done everything possible to impede justice and deny the very existence of COPINH. Despite the cautionary security measures assigned to Berta by the Inter-american Court of Human Rights, her assassination was not prevented.
We reject any form of exculpation by the Honduran government, its institutions, and its oppressive authorities; in fact, we directly blame them for the cruel assassination of our leader.
We know very well who murdered her. We know it was DESA and the Hydroelectric project Agua Zarca, financed by the Dutch Development Bank (FMO), the Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation Ltd. FINNFUND, the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (BCIE), the German corporations Siemens and VoithHydro, the company CASTOR (Castillo Torres) Constructora Cerros de Comayagua, the Honduran bank FICOHSA, the corporate group of the Atala family, the government of the United States through the USAID program and the project “Mercado,” as well as SERNA, in complicity with the National Government of Honduras. These are the authorities behind the physical disappearance of Berta. Their hands are stained with indigenous blood and with the blood of the Lenca people.
From COPINH we call for national and international actions that contribute to stopping such acts of political aggression and the systematic violation of the rights of the Lenca people. We call for actions that denounce the strategies used by corporations to control and privatize the commons and nature itself. We summon the Honduran people to gather around this tragedy, to fight for our rights, and to express that we will no longer tolerate such events.
We reaffirm our struggle for the Gualcarque River!
We reaffirm our commitment to life!
We demand justice!
We demand an end to impunity!
We demand an end to the persecution of those who defend indigenous and human rights!
We demand the changes that are necessary in our country!
We demand life!
They tried to finish with Berta’s life, but she is more alive in each one of us today than ever before.
With the ancestral force of Iselaca, Lempira, Mota, and Etempica, we raise our voices full of life, justice, dignity, liberty, and peace!
Urgent Action: We urge immediate protection for Gustavo Castro, injured during the assassination of Berta Cáceres
Embassy of Honduras in Mexico
Mexican Consulate in Honduras
Inter American Commission on Human Rights
Early this morning, March 3, 2016, armed individuals forcibly entered and assassinated Honduran activist Berta Cáceres, founder of COPINH, in her home in La Esperanza, department of Intibucá in southwestern Honduras.
Our friend and colleague Gustavo Castro Soto was injured during the attack. Gustavo is Mexican and a member of the organization Otros Mundos Chiapas/Friends of the Earth-Mexico, the Mexican Network of Mining-Affected Peoples and the Mesoamerican Movement against the Extractive Mining Model (M4). Gustavo survived the attack and has become a key actor in the investigation into the murder of our friend Berta.
Berta and Gustavo are two people known for their role in international social and environmental struggles, evidence of their dedication to defending the rights of Indigenous and campesino peoples, who have accompanied processes of organized and peaceful resistance to prevent territories within Mesoamerica from being appropriated by regional governments at the service of the neoliberal project being implemented through extractivist projects, considered projects of death.
In the context of the terrible assassination of the much loved Berta Cáceres, we call on the government of Honduras to pay immediate attention, to intervene, and to follow up on this devastating moment for the Honduran people. We also call for all legal and political measures possible to guarantee the immediate protection of our friend and colleague Gustavo Castro so that, once he has given his testimony to the Honduran state, he can safely return to Mexico.
Right now, it is fundamentally important to guarantee the life of our colleague Gustavo Castro given the risk he faces a key witness to this horrible assassination.
The security of all of the members of the Coordinating Group of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) must also be guaranteed.
Mesoamerican Movement against the Extractive Mining Model
Mexican Network of Mining-Affected Peoples
Otros Mundos Chiapas