Yesterday, it had been a year since Berta Cáceres was murdered in her home. Berta was an environmental and indigenous people activist, winner of the Goldman award in 2015 for her dedication and troubles. Her dedication and troubles led her to have armed guards (which should have been issued by the police but never was) after receiving numerous death threats (33 to be exact, as reported by Berta herself) from, what seems, was a mob hired by Desarrollos Energéticos SA (Desa), the company building the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam, which Berta had been opposing, and whose owner is Roberto David Castillo Mejía, a former military intelligence officer, and secretary is Roberto Pacheco Reyes, a former justice minister.
It hit the headlines on a worldwide scale, with even last year’s Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio mentioning it in the Grammy Awards. Musicians from Latin America such as Café Tecuba and Calle 13 both spoke up, too. Human Rights Watch and Global Witness have ramped up their voice on an international scale in recent weeks much to the dismay of the current Juan Orlando Hernandez government who have wanted to push this somewhat “difficult issue” under the carpet for the past year, especially as his election campaign is now in full swing and he’s throwing his might around to be re-elected which not so long ago was against the Honduran constitution and was one of the main reasons why former president Mel Zelaya was ousted from power back in 2009.
Here too, Berta Cáceres hasn’t really gone away. In fact, the title of the protest suggests just that, Berta Vive (Berta Lives), which is a genius name really, because if I were somewhat responsible for her death, it would give me the coldest of tingles down my spine. Her name and face can be seen in graffiti about the country, but especially on government buildings and property, with good reason, too.
But what has really changed since last year? Seven more murders of environmental activists to begin with, more or less 120 since 2010. Eight arrests have been made, two of which are ex-military and another a soldier who was in service at the time of the murder but has since been disbanded, all of whom were trained by the US. All of this sits very uncomfortably close to President Juan Orlando, who gives large chunks of government funding to the military (as opposed to education and public health) and makes no secret of his support for them, constantly thanking them for the dropping crime levels supported from what I am told are bogus statistics.
What’s more, Hondurans will feel even more less likely to march and protest, after President Juan Orlando himself somehow managed to pass an act that can try protesters for acts of terrorism, due to the growing criticism of the current government. I have no idea if this puts myself and this blog in a precarious situation, although I doubt it because hundreds of other blogs are saying much the same. Watch how fast this law is overturned, however, if Juan Orlando loses the next election. I hate to say it though, with the scams that JOH has already pulled that make Machiavelli’s guide look like an outdated pamphlet in the art of political trickery, he’s a cunning man and is unlikely to lose.
Sadly, a year on, nothing politically has changed. If anything, it’s worsened, with Honduras being the closest thing to a police state. One element still persists though, and that is Berta Cáceres memory, and anger.