Who Killed Berta Caceres?
This article originally appeared in NACLA.org
BERTA CÁCERES HAD SEEN the signs. She knew, better than most, that her time was running out. But the threats being leveled against Honduras’s most famous land and human rights defender—the venomous messages on WhatsApp, the armed stalkers—had become so regular that, even as the danger escalated late in 2015, her family and friends thought nothing would ever come of them. Any illusions of invincibility were shattered the night of March 2, 2016.
Berta’s assassination marked an ominous new era. As early as 2002, police or military-affiliated death squads in Honduras—resurrecting the tradition of state killings carried out by groups such as Battalion 3-16 in the 1980s—would execute low-level political activists or teenagers accused of gang activity. But Berta was different. She’d been famous on an international scale: waging successful campaigns against powerful dam corporations, traveling the world raising awareness of those struggles, meeting the pope, and winning the Goldman Prize—the “Green Nobel”—for her work. If they could kill her, it meant no one in Honduras was safe.
Her murder added another macabre chapter in the history of Honduras, which in the wake of a 2009 U.S.-backed military coup has become one of the most dangerous countries in the world—especially for human rights defenders.