Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr
It can be dangerous to be an activist for the environment or even for human rights: particularly in a country where foreign-trained Death Squads are working directly for the corporations whose interests you’re interfering with.
I covered the murder Honduran activist Beta Caceres here in 2016.
I covered the Honduras coup in that article too: and revisited it recently again here in relation to the current Migrant Caravan from Honduras to the US/Mexico border.
The short recap is that the US State Department in 2009 provided cover for a right-wing military coup in Honduras that overthrew the elected government and has been in power ever since: engaging in mass suppression, state violence and general dictatorship.
As noted previously, in addition to the political cover provided by Hillary Clinton‘s State Department, ties were also exposed between the US-backed Honduran police and security forces and the ‘death squads’, with American military training and aid for those security forces ongoing. Among those murdered have been members of the LGBT community, more than a hundred land-rights activists, journalists, human rights lawyers, labor activists, and a number of opposition candidates and community organisers. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch both documented the killing spree in Honduras.
The 2009 military coup was carried out by graduates of the highly dubious ‘US Army School of the Americas‘. In the years since the coup, US support for the Honduran regime has continued and also included assisting the regime in the upgrading of its surveillance technology.
I reiterate all of that here because it has been confirmed that Caceres was killed in a pre-planned conspiracy, involving US-linked Death Squads. As reported in The Guardian, the court ruled the murder was ordered by executives of the Agua Zarca dam company Desa because of delays and financial losses linked to protests led by Cáceres.
The murder was contracted to a group of hitmen who were paid to kill Cáceres. The seven men convicted of orchestrating her murder are Sergio Ramón Rodríguez, (‘communities and environment manager’ for Desa), Douglas Geovanny Bustillo (described as an ex-US trained army lieutenant), Mariano Díaz Chávez (a US-trained special forces major); Henry Javier Hernández (former special forces sergeant), and an Edwin Rapalo, an Edilson Duarte Meza and Oscar Torres.
The verdict confirmed that a Desa executive coordinated with Bustillo before and after the murder. The Guardian reports that, ‘During the trial the executive was identified as company president David Castillo, a US-trained former military intelligence officer. Castillo faces trial separately, accused of masterminding the murder.’
Last year, it was also reported that a former Honduran soldier said he had seen Cáceres’s name on a hitlist that was passed to US-trained units. And that Berta Cáceres’ court papers show murder suspects’ links to US-trained elite troops.
As discussed previously, Honduras now had the world’s highest murder rate. Homicides had risen by 50 percent since the 2009 coup.
Why was Berta Cáceres targeted?
Because she was getting in the way: Cáceres was one of Honduras’s leading environmental activists and spent the better part of her life campaigning for the rights of indigenous people, especially concerning the struggles for land and natural resources.
Shortly before her murder, Cáceres explained that the illegitimate, US-backed Honduran regime passed oppressive laws that effectively criminalised political protest and social activism. Cáceres characterised it as ‘counter-insurgency’ conducted on behalf of international corporate interests and their seizure of Honduras’s natural resources, with the population being terrorised and hundreds of political activists being murdered.
Since that event, Honduras has also been subject to a massive rise in environmentally destructive ‘mega-projects’ and displacement of indigenous communities. An estimated 30 percent of Honduran land has been taken for such projects across the country, with land and rivers being privatised and communities being uprooted.
Cáceres’s murder on March 3rd 2016 occurred amid a reported resurgence in ‘death squad’ violence in Honduras. Social movements and activists were being brutally repressed and targeted assassinations routinely carried out.
What’s particularly illustrative about this case is that, here, we had an environmental and human rights activist being murdered essentially on behalf of corporate interests: corporate interests that were able to call on hitmen, who themselves had received training from the US for very purposes of containing opposition or dissent.
Meanwhile, as previously argued, it seems without question that the present exodus of Hondurans – and the Migrant Caravan on the United States’ doorstep – is a direct consquence of the right-wing/military coup in that country. A coup that was not only backed by the US State Department under Hillary Clinton, but which has been continously supported from the outside: including in its extra-judicial killings and its targeted murder of environmental activists and political opponents.
Most Americans – certainly all of the ‘Build the Wall’ crowd, anyway – probably have no idea about any of this: of the US role in Honduras’s situation, of the corporate seizure of vast lands, the mass displacement of indigenous populations, the US-trained Death Squads, or the general plight of people in post-coup Honduras.
I’m not sure they would care, even if they did know. Which is fine. And it’s fine to chant ‘Build the Wall’: but it would be more appropriate to also chant something like ‘And Hooray for the Death Squads!’ at the same time.
It would fit the reality better.