Interview with Bertha Zúniga, four months after the assassination of her mother, the indigenous leader Berta Cáceres.
By Giorgio Trucchi I LINyM
On the night of this past March 2nd, on the outskirts of the city of La Esperanza in western Honduras, the indigenous leader and coordinator of Copinh, Berta Cáceres, was felled by assassin bullets from those who wanted to silence her commitment and struggle against the extractive model that privatizes and plunders the public resources provided by nature . Four months later, her daughter Bertha says that there are still a lot of things missing in order to guarantee truth and justice.
- Four months after the assassination of your mother, how is the struggle going so that this crime doesn’t remain in impunity?
It has been four intense and difficult months, not only the emotional impact of such a great loss, but also because of all the barriers we have encountered on the path towards profound justice and truth. We have confronted diverse obstacles, mainly created by the State of Honduras.
Four months after the assassination of my mommy they continue to exclude us from the investigations and we do not have access to any information. The detentions that have occurred seem to be a reaction by the State to try and get out from under the strong pressure that has been generated at the national and international level. There is no doubt that the intellectual authors of the crime are still free.
In addition to demanding access to information, our family as well as Copinh (Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras) want to see something that indicates that they are really taking steps to guarantee justice, for example, stopping the hydroelectric project of Agua Zarca, analyzing all the factors and elements that led to the death of my mommy, what relation is there between her death and the attempt to stop the struggle of Copinh.
But not everything is negative. There is a world wide mass clamor demanding justice that has been a determining factor for achieving some victories. If there have been detentions involving employees of the company Desarrollo Energéticos S.A. (DESA) and active duty military, in a country where the rate of impunity is extremely high, it is because there has been a strong mass pressure and many expressions of solidarity with our family and with Copinh.
- The Global Action campaign by Copinh on June 15 was a total success.
It was a collective action that transcended borders and was a complete success. The response was impressive. In at least 30 cities in 20 countries around the world there were well attended actions in front of the Honduran Embassies or in public places. There was a lot of participation and a marked creativity. It helped support, at the worldwide level, the demands of our family and of Copinh to create an independent and impartial investigative commission through the IACHR (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights), and to definitively close the Agua Zarca project.
- It is a demonstration of a great appreciation of Berta’s and Copinh’s struggle.
It is, and it is mixed with deep feelings of indignation and the active desire of many people to do something in light of this crime. These are very important spaces for our family and for Copinh, as voices that tirelessly push the demand for justice.
This is why, with Copinh, we are launching a “world wide Twitter storm” for July 4th with the hashtag #JusticiaParaBerta #4MesesSinJusticia #ComisionIndependienteYa.
- What have been the most difficult moments?
We have confronted institutions that, rather than imparting justice, are characterized by high levels of impunity. They have closed off access to information and continue to see the case of my mother in a very limited manner, without an integral vision, and at all costs reducing the magnitude of her assassination. Furthermore, the investigation has shown many irregularities and this feeds the lack of confidence in it.
The State has not reacted to the proposal to form an independent investigative commission. Two months ago the IACHR declared that it is in favor of the proposal and is available, but the State of Honduras has not even mentioned this possibility.
What reigns only and always is silence towards the victims.
- What impression does this silence give you?
We have never hidden our conviction about the burden of responsibility that the State has in the assassination of my mother. Obviously the State is not going to investigate itself, much less investigate its own negligence in the case.
But we also believe that it is about a contest of strength between the social and peoples’ movements and the political and economic oligarchy in the country which is represented by the State institutions.
If this remains in impunity they will continue to murder many more people.
- What is happening with DESA and the Agua Zarca project?
The company has tried to wash its hands of everything having to do with the assassination of my mother. In all its communiques it leaves out the company name DESA, signing instead as the Proyecto Hidroelétrico Agua Zarca (The Aguan Zarca Hydroelectric Project). Despite the project being half-suspended we know that DESA does not intend to close it.
A few days ago on a television program on a national channel the guest was an engineer from DESA. For more that an hour she spoke about the benefits of hydroelectric energy, of how fantastic the Agua Zarca project will be for the Lenca community while criminalizing the struggle of Copinh.
She said that there are only about 20 people against the project and that those who oppose Agua Zarca do not have to be recognized as a legitimate entity representing a belligerent party in the conflict.
It is evident that this is about a strategy to clean up the image of DESA and weaken Copinh. The most shameful thing is that they didn’t, at any moment, refer to the assassination of my mother.
- A mission from the Dutch bank FMO, one of the principal funders of the Agua Zarca project, arrived in the project zone to gather opinions from the communities. What information do you have about this visit?
To date, the mission has not put out any public report. There was a previous pronouncement that they were withdrawing from the investment but we don’t know what exactly that means.
We have information that they may triangulate the money to be able to continue to finance the project. This concerns us. Meanwhile we continue the strong campaign against any type of financing for Agua Zarca.
- And how is Copinh?
Copin has suffered a hard blow and it has been difficult to recover the dynamics of the work to channel all the indignation that the assassination has generated in the communities. It is recuperating after this blow and it is again setting the scenario for the struggle even though aggression against the organization is growing.
There is much enthusiasm and great firmness. Today, more than ever, there is a strong commitment to continue and to strengthen the struggle at the community level.
- These have been difficult months for you, your sisters and brother, the family, for Copinh. Have you been able to maintain a certain amount of balance between the before and after of your mother’s assassination?
They have been very complicated months and we have found ourselves doing things that we never planned to do, things that we never thought could happen. But the lessons from our mother have been very important. They inculcated us with the values to continue on this path, and I have tried to maintain a certain balance even though it has not been easy.
Last week I finished my semester evaluations at the university in México where I lived at the moment of the assassination. I was very far behind but I did it. I will return to Mexico to continue my studies, but without leaving the struggle.
Wherever we are, we will never abandon the struggle. Even though our life has taken an unexpected turn, we continue with the enthusiasm and energy of my mother.