By Laura Carlsen and cross-posted from Counterpunch.org
Six months after the murder of Berta Caceres, far from forgetting, people throughout the world demanded justice and vowed to continue her organizing work in defense of land and territory locally, regionally and internationally.
Berta’s work focused on the defense of the Gualcarque River against the construction of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric plant in indigenous Lenca territory. Her battle combined resistance with the active challenge of imagining and building alternatives. She also worked to link communities and peoples fighting to protect natural resources in Honduras, in Central America and around the world.
We often remember Berta as an environmentalist—winner of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize–, a feminist and a human rights defender. But she was also an internationalist, firm believer that even the smallest local effort to the save land and territory has international relevance. She constantly emphasized this in her organizing, and traveled throughout the world to global forums and to meet and exchange experiences with people in foreign countries without ever losing her roots.
From La Esperanza, Honduras, she guided the construction of networks between people across America. We met through these networks as together hundreds of us worked to weave a continent-wide analysis that covered the many realities of each country, but acknowledged the common threats. U.S. foreign policies of drug war militarization under the Merida Initiative, the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) and Plan Colombia; the Patriot Act-style anti-terrorism laws that violated the right to protest; and free trade agreements were at the center of this global analysis. In this context, we faced increasing land and resource grabs and defenders of land and territory became targets for repression.
Berta’s assassination reflects the face of the international system she fought against. She opposed the Agua Zarca project to eventually build 17 dams on her beloved river and others in the area. A new legal framework adopted immediately following the 2009 military coup d’état in the country, which was ultimately supported by the U.S. government, facilitated the project and many others like it.
The General Water Act of 2009 allows the government to grant giant private-sector concessions to the country’s water resources. At various stages, the project has received funding from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, which granted a loan to the Honduran company Energy Developments SA de CV(DESA), and capital from a Chinese company, a German company and several European development financing funds. Berta’s tragic story reveals the dynamic that exists throughout the region–to dismantle protection of the commons, allowing the entry of corporations that plunder natural resources, foment conflict with indigenous and rural peoples defending their resources and ancestral ways of life, and criminalize defenders…