TEGUCIGALPA – Family, friends, and supporters marked Friday’s one-year anniversary of the murder of environmental activist and indigenous leader Berta Caceres with renewed demands for Honduran authorities to identify and punish everyone responsible for the crime.
Commemorative events took place here in Tegucigalpa and in the western city of La Esperanza, where the activist lived and died.
“Partial justice is not justice,” the slain activist’s mother, Berta Austra Caceres, told reporters in La Esperanza.
“We have eight possible murdering gunmen in custody,” she said. “But that isn’t enough for us, because what we want is that they pursue this to the ultimate consequences, to the real actors – those who sent them (the gunmen), those who paid them to murder her.”
Berta Austra also said she was certain that “all the powerful forces in the country” were complicit in the killing of her daughter, the 2015 recipient of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, which honors grassroots protectors of the environment.
President Juan Orlando Hernandez said Thursday that the Honduran government will continue to provide whatever support prosecutors need to ensure that Caceres’ murder “does not go unpunished.”
Berta Caceres, a founder of the indigenous alliance Copinh, was fatally shot on March 3, 2016, inside her home in La Esperanza. Mexican environmental activist Gustavo Castro Soto was wounded in the attack and survived only by playing dead.
Supporters and associates say they think Caceres was killed for leading a campaign against construction of a hydroelectric dam on the Gualcarque River, which is sacred to the Lenca indigenous people.
Authorities have suggested that nobody beyond the eight people already in custody played a part in the murder, an idea rejected by the victim’s family.
The investigation has not even addressed the possible involvement of the companies and individuals who were pushing the dam project, Caceres family attorney Victor Fernandez told EFE.
The approach adopted by the prosecutors “leaves intact the institutional, political, economic, and financial structures that could have been part of a murder the magnitude of the killing of Berta Caceres,” the lawyer said.
“That is our demand, that of the family, of the social movement organizations, of Copinh, of the broad movement – that we be part of this process,” said Fernandez, himself a former government prosecutor.
He pointed out that while the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had urged the Honduran government to protect the Lenca Indian activist after she received death threats, there was no security presence at her home in La Esperanza on the day she was murdered.
International organizations have joined in criticizing the way Honduras has conducted the murder probe.
In late September, the case file went missing after a judge was carjacked in Tegucigalpa, while the Mexican environmentalist who is the only eyewitness to the crime spoke out in January to complain that Honduran prosecutors had yet to seek his help in identifying the killers.