Berta Cáceres was one of Honduras’s leading indigenous 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.
Cáceres was the recent winner of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize.
The environmental and rights activist was, at the beginning of March, assassinated in her hometown of La Esperanza, Intibuca. At least two individuals are reported to have broken down the door of the house where Berta was staying, and then shot and killed her.
Her friend and associate, Gustavo Castro, was also shot twice but survived and is currently being held against his will by the Honduran Government. Before her murder on March 3rd, Cáceres had specified Hillary Clinton as being responsible for enabling the 2009 military coup that Honduras is still living under.
In a video interview, given in Buenos Aires in 2014, Cáceres affirms that it was Clinton who helped legitimise and institutionalize the coup.
Cáceres also claimed that Clinton’s Honduran regime, guided from Washington, 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.
Cáceres’s murder on March 3rd occurred amid a reported resurgence in ‘death squad’ violence in Honduras. Social movements and activists are being harshly repressed and targeted assassinations routinely carried out (see more: https://consortiumnews.com/2016/03/08/the-honduras-killing-field/).
Honduras now has the world’s highest murder rate. Homicides have risen by 50 percent since the 2009 coup.
Human rights groups say there have been over 10,000 human rights violations by state security forces, with most murders going unpunished. Ties have been 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 dozens of members of the LGBT community, more than a hundred land-rights activists, dozens of journalists, labor activists, human rights lawyers, labor activists, and a number of opposition candidates and community organisers.
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 now also includes assisting the regime in the upgrading of its surveillance technology.
Hilary Clinton’s role in all of this in the first instance cannot be understated.
Various associates of Caceres and other activists trace her death and the many other activist murders back to Hilary Clinton’s diabolical run as Secretary of State, in which she took a lead role in backing the 2009 coup that forced the democratically-elected President Zaleya out of the country and allowed a right-wing regime to take control.
As Consortium News notes, ‘Honduras soon became the murder capital of the world. When the Honduran military removed Zelaya from power, the international community – including the United Nations, the Organization of American States and the European Union – condemned the coup and sought Zelaya’s restoration. But Secretary of State Clinton allied herself with right-wing Republicans in Congress who justified Zelaya’s removal because of his cordial relations with Venezuela’s leftist President Hugo Chavez’.
The democratically-elected president was forcibly taken from his home (in his pajamas), put on a plane and sent out of the country by the Honduran military in June 2009.
Robert Naiman wrote at the time in Huffington Post; ‘The United Nations, the European Union, and the Organization of American States condemned the coup… Under longstanding and clear-cut US law, all US aid to Honduras except democracy assistance, including all military aid, should have been immediately suspended following the coup… On August 7, fifteen House Democrats, led by Rep. Raúl Grijalva, sent a letter to the Administration which began, “As you know, on June 28th, 2009 a military coup took place in Honduras,” and said: “The State Department should fully acknowledge that a military coup has taken place and follow through with the total suspension of non-humanitarian aid, as required by law.”…’
But Washington didn’t suspend American aid following the coup.
‘The justification given by Clinton’s State Department on August 25 for not suspending U.S. aid to Honduras was that events in Honduras were murky and it was not clear whether a coup had taken place. Clinton’s State Department claimed that State Department lawyers were studying the murky question of whether a coup had taken place’. Naiman continues, ‘This justification was a lie, and Clinton’s State Department knew it was a lie. By July 24, 2009, the State Department, including Secretary Clinton, knew clearly that the action of the Honduran military to remove President Zelaya on June 28, 2009 constituted a coup’.
Hilary’s much talked about leaked emails provide a partial behind-the-scenes look at how she cleverly acted out trying to back the restoration of democracy in Honduras while simultaneously undermining efforts to get President Zelaya back into power.
In her memoir, Hard Choices, Clinton openly admits to and celebrates her key role in preventing Zelaya from returning to Honduras; but what she depicts as a great triumph of ‘democracy’ was in reality a move that helped bring violence, repression and murder to Honduras.
But this kind of sleight-of-hand in geo-political schemes is Hilary Clinton’s specialty, as would be witnessed in Libya two years later, where she would play equally diabolical games to ensure the fall of Gaddafi and the collapse of Libya.
Today, seven years later, Honduras still hasn’t recovered, but is still suffering; and the murder of Berta Cáceres is just one among many. As Just Foreign Policy notes, ‘That’s a key reason that refugees have fled Honduras to the United States, only to find themselves hunted by the Department of Homeland Security raids that Secretary Clinton supported’.
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.
Over the decades, the United States has routinely interfered in Latin American societies, overthrowing left-wing governments and propping up right-wing dictators, either for the sake of fighting Communism or for the sake of corporate interests; whether it was Argentina 40 years ago (where some 30,000 civilians were killed by the US-backed Argentine regime) or the bloody horrors sponsored by the Reagan administration in El-Salvador in the 1980s. Or Guatemala, Nicaragua, and others.
In 1964, Brazil’s democratically elected left-wing government was overthrown by a United States-aided military coup.
In the 1970s, the socialist Salvador Allende was the democratically elected president of Chile, at the head of a coalition of leftist parties. Far-right Chilean military forces – backed by the CIA and the Nixon Administration – staged a bloody insurrection. President Allende was found dead in the presidential palace. Thousands of Chileans were then tortured or killed in the military rule that followed.
It took 17 years for the Washington-backed military dictatorship under General Pinochet to be removed and for Chile to regain democracy. One wonders how long it will take the people of Honduras.