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berta caceres

Indigenous and environmental leader Berta Cáceres was murdered in her home in Honduras on March 2, 2016. (Photo: Goldman Enviornmental Foundation)

As Key Suspect Tried, Encampment Demands Justice for Berta Cáceres

Honduran movements need our solidarity in demanding justice for Berta.

Chris Morrill

After five long years, social movements in Honduras are finally getting closer to bringing some justice to the assassination of beloved social movement leader Berta Cáceres. Today, David Castillo sits on trial as a key perpetrator of her murder.

Five years ago, Indigenous feminist Berta Cáceres from Grassroots International partner COPINH was murdered for defending Lenca territory against the Agua Zarca mega-dam project. As we've since learned, company officials and Honduran state actors had a hand in her assassination.

"We're here with all of the force, with all of the rebelliousness, and happiness that Berta left us in hearts, in our struggles, and in our organizations."—Katherin Cruz, Red Nacional de Defensoras

She, like many Indigenous organizers, was a water protector. Her murder was, as COPINH calls it, a territorial femicide.

Berta's being "a woman leader of the territories" was "a determining factor in the way in which her entire persecution and murder were carried out," said Bertha Zúniga Cáceres, Berta's daughter and general coordinator of COPINH.

But all of the architects—both physical and intellectual—of her assassination still aren't being prosecuted. Furthermore, there are serious concerns of the court's impartiality given the state's recent history of corruption.

In response, social movements are occupying land outside the Supreme Court of Justice. COPINH (the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras) and OFRANEH (the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras) are joining feminist and human rights organizations in the "Campamento Feminista ¡Viva Berta!" to demand real justice and transparency.

Every day, hundreds have joined from all different parts of the country to remember Berta's legacy. They share meals made from foods carried from Indigenous territories. They share equal parts in laughter and resolve as the smell of traditional herbal burnings fills the air around them. And they aren't giving up.

The prosecution of Castillo is a significant step forward. As the president of the DESA (Desarrollos Energéticos Sociedad Anónima) corporation, he oversaw and stood to profit from Agua Zarca's development.

But the corruption goes much deeper than even Castillo. The entire structure of Honduras' coup government has made the country one of the most dangerous places in the world to be an environmental activist. DESA's Board of Directors, with its deep ties to the state, is not being prosecuted.

So social movements have encamped.

"This is an encampment of resistance, an encampment of dignity, of struggle and of the demand for justice," said Miriam Miranda from OFRANEH. "It demonstrates the need not only to fight for justice but also to fight against this corrupt model, against impunity from the application of justice."

As ever, the Afro-descendent Garifuna and Indigenous peoples of Honduras have seen their fates as linked. The presence of Miriam, in COPINH's words, "along with dozens of colleagues from the Garífuna community, has filled this legitimate fight for justice for Berta Cáceres and for the peoples with light and strength."

The Honduras Solidarity Network is running an online campaign to support the Campamento Feminista's demands.

According to Katherin Cruz of the Red Nacional de Defensoras, the encampment will remain for the duration of Castillo's trial. In a radio interview she emphasized how important raising visibility of the deep corruption and complicity of the state, the dimensions of patriarchal violence, is to this case.

Honduran movements need our solidarity in demanding justice for Berta. The Honduras Solidarity Network is running an online campaign to support the Campamento Feminista's demands.

Those encamping know the trial will be long, but they're in it for the long haul. They've been waiting for 5 years already, said Cruz, and they will carry on—until justice is won.

"Sixty-three months ago Berta was unjustly taken from us," wrote COPINH. "They wanted to bury her, but they didn't know she was a seed—a seed of change that flourishes in the rebellious hearts of the peoples, because memory is a way to keep going, to keep fighting. Berta has made herself into millions."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Chris Morrill

Chris Morrill

Chris Morrill is the Donor and Online Communications Coordinator at Grassroots International and a political organizer based in Boston, MA.

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