Last week, defender of the environment and human rights, Berta Cáceres publicly denounced the murder of several indigenous leaders and the threats she herself was subjected to daily in Honduras. Today, we woke up to the shocking news of her murder in an attack that also wounded the Mexican environmentalist Gustavo Castro Soto. It is a very sad day for humanity, the environment and peace.
Berta Cáceres was a leader of the Lenca indigenous community. She organized with them in their struggle against the Agua Zarca dam in Gualcarque River, a place sacred to indigenous communities and vital for their survival.
Berta was a tireless fighter. Her opposition to the dam’s construction – in which large multinational corporations had a financial interest – brought her, her family and community death threats. However, her bravery and courage were also recognized last year when she received the Goldman Prize, one of the highest awards in defense of the environment.
Berta never abandoned her struggle. She got the world's largest dam builder to withdraw from the project. She also managed to get the World Bank to abandon the initiative.
Greenpeace expresses its solidarity with the family and colleagues of Berta, we condemn her cowardly murder, and as she did, call for there to be justice and that this crime does not go unpunished. We also demand protection for Gustavo Castro.
Berta's example inspires us and drives us to carry on. Many environmental advocates in Latin America and Mexico are facing serious threats and attacks by governments and criminal groups. Greenpeace Mexico and the Human Rights Centre Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez are supporting Don Ildefonso Zamora, defender of forests who was imprisoned in retaliation for his fight against illegal loggers in the State of Mexico. A peaceful battle for which the indigenous tlahuica leader already lost a son, killed by loggers in 2007, and today has also lost his own freedom.
On days like today, the words Berta said upon receiving the Goldman Prize resonate especially: "¡Despertemos¡ ¡Despertemos Humanidad¡ Ya no hay tiempo."
Miguel Soto is a Communications Coordinator at Greenpeace Mexico.
A version of this blog was originally posted by Greenpeace Mexico.
Update: On 16 March, just weeks after Berta was killed, another member of Berta Cáceres' organisation – Nelson Garcia – was also assassinated. More on this tragic new here.