On the eve of International Working Womxn’s Day, Latin America is mourning the death of Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores, a Lenca Indigenous Honduran leader who was assassinated on Mar. 2. Yet, I am wondering, is Hillary Clinton responsible for the assassination of Berta Cáceres?
According to her campaign website, Clinton claims to be a “lifelong advocate for women and families.” But as Secretary of State, her policies regarding Latin America show a complete disregard for human life and dignity. In 2009, she played a significant role in the overthrow of democratically-elected Honduran President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales. She openly admitted in her book Hard Choices that “in the subsequent days [after the coup] I spoke with my counterparts around the hemisphere,” and “we strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot.” The intervention resulted in disastrous consequences for the country, as the newly appointed puppet government commenced an all-out attack on indigenous and Afro communities.
After the coup, Clinton and the corrupt government hosted an international conference called Honduras is Open For Business, which commenced the plunder of the country. Soon after, 30 percent of the country’s land had been designated for mining concessions, creating a large “demand for cheap energy to power future mining operations.” In turn, the government “approved hundreds of [hydroelectric] dam projects around the country, privatizing rivers, land, and uprooting communities.”
Cáceres was also the co-founder and general coordinator of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), which resisted the construction of these dams and mining projects and organized to recover and protect the Indigenous land. In 2013, they successfully resisted and managed to get the World Bank and Sinohydro, a Chinese dam construction company, to withdraw their contract, citing the community's resistance as their motive. During this struggle, Cáceres received countless kidnapping, rape, and death threats. In addition, the Lenca community lost a member, Tomas Garcia, who was shot by the police during a peaceful protest.
In 2015, Cáceres and COPINH engaged in yet another battle, as Agua Zarca (DESA), an internationally financed Honduran company, attempted to construct a hydroelectric dam in their Indigenous community. During this struggle, Cáceres yet again experienced countless death threats and kidnapping attempts, but on Mar. 2, at approximately 11:45 p.m., Cáceres was assassinated while sleeping in her hometown of La Esperanza, Intibuca, Honduras.
At this point, you might be asking, who killed Berta Cáceres, and how is Hillary Clinton responsible for her assassination? Well, the Clinton-backed military coup implanted an illegitimate and corrupt government which, according to University of Northern British Columbia professor Grahame Russell, uses “repression as a tool of societal terrorism to control… and kill hundreds of people.” According to Global Witness, between 2010 and 2014, 101 environmental campaigners were killed by the Honduran government. In addition, the U.S. has contributed to the militarization of Honduras and the increase in state-sanctioned violence against Indigenous, Afro, and Campesina/o communities. This is done through the MERCADO project, which created a specialized police unit Los Tigres. This unit is used by the translation organizations as a security force and repressive measure to silence the voices of the Indigenous and Afro communities. Many human rights organizations in Honduras have reported over 10,000 human rights violations by state security forces, as impunity becomes the norm and “most murders go unpunished.” As a result of the U.S. intervention and militarization, “Honduras [now] has the highest per capita murder rate in the world, and amongst the highest rates of repression, femicide, journalist killings, corruption and impunity in the Americas.”
Clinton's intellectual responsibility in the assassination of Cáceres is rooted in the wave of state-sanctioned violence that came as a result of the 2009 coup. Cáceres’ was a leader in the struggle for indigenous land rights and her work directly challenged the transnational “corporations and investors who conceive of the world—its forests and earth, its natural resources, its rivers, waters and air, its people and all life forms—as exploitable and discardable objects, and then steal, kill and destroy mightily to make their millions and billions.”
Her assassination was meant to silence, stifle, and instill fear about Indigenous and Afro resistance to global capitalism and U.S. imperialism. However, we will not let Berta Cáceres become just another name in the hundreds of activists killed since the coup. As her Lenca comrades said, “The strength of the word and the action of our colleague Berta will remain in the fabric of our resistance.”
Therefore, we must organize to hold accountable the people responsible for both the intellectual and material assassination of Berta Cáceres. The corrupt and U.S.-backed Honduran government must be held accountable for the material assassination while the U.S. government and Hillary Clinton need to be accountable for the intellectual assassination of this great indigenous leader. It is our duty as comrades in the struggle against oppression to come together to denounce the assassination of Berta Cáceres and U.S. intervention in Honduras.
In the words of Berta Cáceres, “Let us wake up! We're out of time. We must shake our conscience free of the rapacious capitalism, racism, and patriarchy that will only assure our own self-destruction … Let us build societies that are able to coexist in a dignified way, in a way that protects life. Let us come together and remain hopeful as we defend and care for the blood of this Earth and of its spirits.”
BERTA CÁCERES VIVE!
LA LUCHA LENCA SIGUE!
Edgar Morelos CM '16 is majoring in Latin American Studies with an emphasis on Politics. His interests include dismantling the systems of domination and imagining an alternative world.