This month marks the one year anniversary of Berta Cáceres death. In solidarity for all indigenous communities around the world fighting to protect their land and water rights, and in remembrance of the life and achievements of Berta we have put a banner up on the front of our Melbourne headquarters.
Berta Cáceres (d. 2016) is known and remembered for her involvement in mobilizing the indigenous Lenca people of Honduras and as the co-founder of National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), the grassroots campaign that successfully pressured the world’s largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam.
The Honduran Congress passed a law in 2010 that allowed private companies to gain contracts to build multiple hydroelectric dams across the country. Agua Zarca Dam situated on the Gualcarque River, known indigenous territory and inhabited by the Lenca people, was one of the proposed sites.
If the Agua Zarca dam was to go ahead it would have had devastating impacts of the local community; cutting off water supplies, as well as food and medicine which support the Lenca people. This would be a complete violation of the communities fundamental right to sustainably manage and live off their land.
Berta described the territory as a “mountain region [that] has a strong relationship with the Lenca people, the forests are alive, the mountains are alive. This is a live river that is threatened by the construction of six hydroelectric dams... From the Lenca cosmovision, water is a fundamental element, just like land is part of balance and creation, the spirits live in the water. That is why it is crucial to respect and care for the water as a being just like us.”
Berta had been receiving death threats over her opposition to a hydroelectric dam and knew that her life was at risk.
On the 3rd of March 2016 Berta was assassinated in her home in La Esperanza, Honduras while supposedly under state protection. Since the attack, total of eight men have been arrested, including one serving and two retired military officers.
Berta's death echo's the constant struggle faced by indigenous communities and activists and further reflects the systematic targeting of environmental defenders in Honduras who are standing up to hydropower, mining and agri-business corporations.
According to a report published by the Global Witness at least 116 environmental activists were murdered globally in 2014 and nearly three-quarters of these deaths being recorded in Central and South America. From those figures a devastating 40% of victims were indigenous. Honduras was identified as the most dangerous country per capita to peruse environmental activism with 101 deaths recorder between 2010 and 2014.
Despite her passing, Berta's legacy continues. COPINH and fellow activists, are determined to continue the fight for the rights of the Lenca people in Honduras and stand up to companies proposing irresponsible development and destruction of the land.
As this week marks the one year anniversary of Berta Cáceres death, in an action of solidarity Friends of the Earth Melbourne's has hung a banner at their Headquarters on Smith Street in Collingwood that reads: "Stop Killing Activists - #JusticeForBerta". Join the us in a week of actions to from 2nd to 8th March 2017. Take to the streets or show your support via social media as we strive to highlight the injustices faced by many indigenous environmental activists around the world.
"Let us come together and move forward with hope as we defend and care for the earth and it's spirits"
Berta Cáceres (1972-2016)