SANSAD News-release March 8, 2016
Grief and condemnation for the murder of Berta Caseras
On this International Women’s Day, 2016 South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD) grieves for and condemns the murder on March 4 of Berta Caseras, a great human being and champion of environmental and indigenous rights in Honduras, in her sleep in her hometown, La Esperanza. She was shot in her bed in a house where she had gone for the night as a safety measure against the death threats that she had been receiving as a part of her practice of not sleeping in the same place. We condemn the police for their attempt to cover up this assassination by claiming that it was a result of a robbery.
As a leading human rights activist and a founder of the Council of Indigenous Peoples of Honduras (Copinh), Berta Caseras had been opposing mining and hydroelectric projects that were destroying the lands of her Lenca people. In particular her organization was opposing the construction of the Agua Zanca dam in the community of Rio Blanco that would have flooded large areas of indigenous land and cut off water for hundreds of people. For this opposition people from her organization were being harassed and threatened by the energy company DESA that was operating the hydroelectric project, the mayor, the police, and the military. She and her family of five children had been receiving threats of sexual violence and murder for several years, about which the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights and the UN special rapporteur for indigenous rights had notified president Hernandez of Honduras last year in their appeal for her protection.
Berta Caseras’s work had pitted her against local landlords and international corporations that were engaged in mining and the Agua Zanca project, including Siemens, Voith-Hydro, Dutch FMO, and Fin Fund. The Honduran government, which enabled these projects was brought into power by a military coup in 2009 with the covert support of the United States under the guidance of then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. The US since then has been training and funding the police and the military in Honduras while the country has become the most dangerous place on earth for human rights defenders and environmental activists.
Berta Caseras was awarded the Goldman Environment Prize, the highest prize for grassroots environmental activism in the world, in 2015. Mindful of the atmosphere of threat she lived under, she had said in her acceptance speech, “giving our lives in various ways for the protection of rivers is giving our lives for the well being of humanity and of this planet.” We, members of the South Asian diaspora in British Columbia, Canada, where strong resistance is taking place against pipelines, fracking, and the construction of the Site C dam on indigenous lands, stand in solidarity with the people who have protested her assassination, the students at the University of Honduras who have clashed with the police in anger, and the thousands who have marched in her
funeral to celebrate the life of Berta Caseras, condemn the forces that brought it to its untimely end, and demand an end to the destruction of the environment, genocidal displacement of indigenous people, and the regime of terror against human rights and environmental activists in Honduras.
Board of Directors