On International Women’s Day, we raise our voices in indignation at the brutal murder of our sister Berta Cáceres – indigenous Lenca leader, community organiser, grassroots feminist and environmental justice activist. Berta was murdered in her home in the Intibuca department, Honduras, early in the morning on March 3, at the side of Mexican activist Gustavo Castro Soto from Otros Mundos/FOE Mexico, who was badly hurt by the same gunmen. Honduras has been the scene of a widening crackdown on peaceful dissent since the coup in 2009. Communities and organisations opposing destructive projects, such as Berta and her comrades at COPINH – the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras – organisation co-founded by Berta in 2003, have been intimidated, persecuted and murdered.
The government is aiding and abetting the theft and appropriation of the commons and peoples’ territories by large transnational corporations. Mining and damming projects are being rolled out with little or no consultation with the peoples affected. Berta Cáceres is a leader who has inspired us for many years as an indigenous woman activist raising her voice in the defence of women’s bodies – our primary territory – and community territory, land, water and the commons. Through her actions, she has strengthened the role of women in resisting destructive transnational corporation activities and state-level repression, and in constructing alternatives based on centuries-old knowledge and collective practices.
Berta has shown us in practice that there is no environmental justice without an end to all forms of violence against women and to the exploitation of women’s reproductive and productive work. Violence is used as a tool to control women’s lives, bodies and work within the patriarchal, racist capitalist system, just as it is used to control community territories and the commons. Capital accumulation in a time of multiple crisis – economic, social, environmental – is made possible through the oppression and domination of both nature and women’s work: both are considered infinite, elastic resources, to be exploited according to the interests of elite groups.
We take the lead from COPINH in supporting the following list of demands: We demand justice; we demand an end to impunity; we demand an independent investigation into Berta’s assassination, with international judges and experts; we demand an end to paramilitary activities and training in the country, supported by foreign governments; We demand an end to the persecution of those who defend the rights of the indigenous people and the entire population; we demand the necessary changes in Honduras; and we demand respect for life.
We express our solidarity with our sisters around the world who are fighting for sustainable societies and for equality between women and men. We stand in solidarity with Berta’s family and the Lenca community and renew our commitment, as women and men FOE activists, to continue the feminist and socialist fight for an end to violence against all women, and against environmental human rights defenders who are harassed, threatened or killed for their activism around the world.
This article has been excerpted from: ‘On International Women’s Day and everyday... we are all Berta Cáceres!’