“The Honduran government has blood on its hands with the murder of Berta Cáceres.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Filipino climate activists today, April 7, joined global calls for justice for slain Honduran activist Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores, whose life and death resonated with those of slain Filipino environmentalists who also resisted development aggression.
Progressives led by Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) and the International League of People’s Struggle (ILPS-Philippines) staged a picket in front of the Honduran Consulate in Pasig City, calling for justice for Caceres and other slain Honduran activists.
The groups also submitted a Letter of Appeal to the consulate, which demanded “the urgent resolution of the case, the creation of an independent investigative body, and the immediate arrest and prosecution of the suspected gunmen.”
Cáceres, 43, was shot dead on March 3 in her home in La Esperanza, Honduras by suspected state security forces. Cáceres, an indigenous Lenca, was co-founder and coordinator of the environmentalist group Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). Her group had successfully resisted the construction on the Gualcarque river in Rio Blanco of the hydroelectric Agua Zarca Dam owned by Honduran company Desarrollos Energéticos S.A. (DESA).
“The Honduran government has blood on its hands with the murder of Berta Cáceres,” said Clemente Bautista, Kalikasan PNE national coordinator.
“The recent series of murders of Honduran anti-dam activists demonstrate the impunity of the Honduran government against the rights and safety of its people,” he said.
Two weeks after Cáceres’ death, another leader, Nelson Garcia was also killed. COPINH has condemned the state’s “manipulation” of the investigation on Cáceres’s killing, as COPINH members were even treated as suspects.
Bautista cited the latest report of the British NGO Global Witness, which classified Honduras as “the deadliest country in the world to defend the natural world,” where even an internationally renowned activist like Cáceres is not safe. The report said at least 109 activists were killed in Honduras from 2010 to 2015. At least four other members of COPINH were killed during their campaign against Agua Zarca.
The groups also called for the scrapping of the Agua Zarca Dam Project “for its worsening atrocious human rights track record, lest another Berta or Nelson’s life is taken once again by big business and the corrupt government.”
“We believe the killings and other human rights violations perpetrated against Honduran activists are sanctioned by the government to deter public opposition to its corruption-laden and environmentally destructive mega-projects,” Bautista said.
The groups also gave tribute to Cáceres and other Honduran environmental martyrs.
“We honor the life and legacy of our fellow environmental defender, Berta. She exemplified what a genuine human rights and environmental defender should be…She pursued her advocacy in spite of the terror and harassment from state and corporate security forces. Not once did she waver in fighting injustice and oppression in her country,” Bautista said.