"They follow me. They threaten to kill me, to kidnap me, they threaten my family. That is what we face." - Berta Cáceres
We started 2016 having just lost one of our founders, Terry Backer, your Long Island Soundkeeper. As we struggled to come to terms with the loss of a great hero, I’m proud of our team’s work in the current issue of Waterkeeper magazine to provide a strong, fitting farewell to Terry.
Now, we find ourselves face to face with the death of a river hero from Honduras. Rather than be taken away by a health issue, Ms. Berta Cáceres was senselessly murdered for standing up for her community. Berta - a 2015 Goldman Prize winner - was a relentless defender of Honduran rivers, land rights, and indigenous communities. Despite incredible odds against them, Berta and members of her community stopped the construction of a dam on the Gualcarque River, which would have cut off the supply of water to indigenous communities and violated their right to sustainably manage and live off their land. For her fearless work, she was assassinated.
Too many brave souls like Berta have been murdered for standing in the way of greed. It is estimated that in 2014, 116 environmental advocates in 17 countries were killed over issues like dams, logging, agriculture, mining and other disputes over the future of our natural resources. Berta’s assassination is a grim and sad reminder of the dangers that advocates face. With her passing, we read many stories of Waterkeepers who have been threatened in their line of work and the solidarity we have with one another to have each others’ backs.
Our team is actively working to find ways that we can help ensure the safety of Waterkeepers and partners, investigating proactive measures, conference training opportunities and more. We welcome your input and participation. Concurrently, our team is working with partners to shine a light on Berta’s murder and demand justice. We see and share the widespread frustration and anger over this pointless act of violence. It is critical that those responsible and the special interests behind them are found and held accountable.
Thank you to the many of you who joined in the letter calling on the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to:
- Pressure the Honduran government to sign an agreement with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to create an independent international investigation into the murder of Berta Cáceres, as requested by her family;
- Urge the Honduran government to immediately institute and fund a system of protection for other Hondurans who have received credible threats;
- Immediately stop all assistance to Hondurans security forces, including training and equipment;
- Review and reconsider the United States’ support for loans to projects in Honduras from U.S.-funded multilateral development banks; and
- Immediately and permanently stop the Agua Zarca dam.
And thank you to all of you who called your representatives and asked them to sign on to the Congressional “Dear Colleague” letter to Secretary Kerry. As President Theodore Roosevelt said: “To befoul the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day."
The gutless cowards who took Berta’s life may think their action will dim our spirits, but they are wrong. They in fact strengthen our resolve to carry forward the fight.
To clean water,
Enlaces de Interés
- Waterkeeper Alliance
- Ministerio del Medio Ambiente y Desarrollo Sostenible
- Corporación Autónoma Regional de Cundinamarca (CAR)
- Secretaría Distrital de Ambiente de Bogotá
- Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Medio Ambiente
- Programa de las Naciones Unidas para los Asentamientos Humanos
- Instituto Alexander von Humboldt
©Fundación Rio Urbano
Cra. 13 #134A-16