They Murdered My Mother for Defending the Environment — Help Me Seek Justice

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They Murdered My Mother for Defending the Environment — Help Me Seek Justice

 

Mourners march for justice after land defender Berta Cáceres' murder in March. (Photo: Getty Images)

In March, my mother Berta Cáceres was murdered in her own home. Her death pains me in a way I cannot describe with words.

She was killed for defending life, for safeguarding our common goods and those of nature, which are sacred. She was killed for defending the rivers that are sources of our people’s life, ancestral strength, and spirituality.

My mother became a woman of resistance, of struggle, so that our deep connection with nature is not destroyed; so that the life of our peoples — the Lenca Indigenous People of Honduras — is respected. Her killers tried to silence her with bullets, but she is a seed, a seed that is reborn in all men and women. She is a seed that will be reborn in the people that follow her path of resistance.

To achieve justice for her death, I need your help.

Please join me in asking U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández to launch an independent investigation into my mother’s murder.

Berta with her four children.

Honduras is the most dangerous country in the world for environmental activists — more than 100 were murdered between 2010 and 2014. (Editor’s note: according to Global Witness, 2015 was the worst year on record for killings of environmental activists. This week, The Guardian reported that a Honduran military unit trained by the United States had been ordered to kill Berta — and dozens of other environmental activists — months before her death.)

These figures make me shiver. These activists lost their lives defending what belongs to us all, and my mother was no exception. She had been threatened and persecuted many times for safeguarding our people’s territory.

Even before my mother’s murder, two of my sisters had to leave the country. But our mother did not stop fighting against the Agua Zarca mega-dam project. If built, the Agua Zarca would lead to the displacement of our people and the privatization and destruction of our territories. It has already lead to the murder of those who have the determination and the clarity to understand that life is not a commodity.

But the dam builders could not stop my mother. With her people beside her, she became invincible. So murderers broke into her house and opened fire against her chest. We are outraged not only because of the bullets that murdered her, but because her killers have walked away with impunity.

The United States has a special role to play in ending this impunity and demanding justice for Berta. The Honduran government receives a significant amount of aid from the United States and will listen to the U.S. State Department — that’s why we need you to ask Secretary of State John Kerry to support an independent investigation into my mother’s death.

Berta Cáceres in the Rio Blanco region of Honduras. Photo by Tim Russo / Goldman Environmental Prize.

Berta used to say: “Defending human rights is a crime in Honduras.”

She knew that what she put her and her loved ones at risk, but she didn’t care. Along with the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) — an organization my mother co-founded — she defended Indigenous communities and gave her life. Today, our family, the Lenca people, and thousands of Hondurans are demanding justice.

We will only succeed if we press my country’s president into accepting that the Inter American Commission on Human Rights investigates the murder. We cannot trust the Honduran justice. 

“You have the bullet … I have the word. The bullet dies when detonated, the word lives when spread.” 

Berta Cáceres

Today, we must be that word. My mother gave her life defending humanity and the planet. Now it’s up to us to seek justice on her behalf.

Salvador Edgardo Zuniga Cáceres

 

Salvador Edgardo Zuniga Cáceres is the son of award-winning Honduran activist Berta Cáceres, who was murdered in her home in March 2016.

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