“Berta vive vive, la lucha sigue sigue.” As the Democratic National Convention kicks off in Philly, 20 organizations participated in the It Takes Roots to Weather the Storm People’s Caravan to show that the fight to get justice for the late Berta Cáceres isn’t over. On March 3, a group of gunmen barged into the indigenous environmentalist’s home and killed her. Well known for tirelessly fighting Desarrollos Energéticos, SA (DESA) – a company trying to build a hydroelectric dam on the Gualcarque River – Berta’s death was quickly tied to her stark opposition of the developers threatening her community, the Lencas. Before her death, she blamed Hillary Clinton – the former Secretary of State and the almost official presidential nominee of the Democratic Party – for her role in the 2009 Honduran coup that still has the country reeling.
Before the caravan took over Philadelphia with an approximately 10-foot puppet of Berta, they stopped by the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. With Donald Trump’s nativist speech defining his presidential campaign, the activists focused on the way immigration and immigrants are spoken about in the United States. At the DNC – where undocumented immigrants are being highlighted and supported – the conversation is different. It’s about the role the United States has played in countries like Honduras, climate change, and a fight for justice – all topics that touch on Berta Cáceres’ life.
“She fought because she believed in the fight,” Berta’s daughter, Laura Zuniga Cáceres, tells me in a phone interview. “And she believed in needing to believe in things. That you need to support the world. Because of that, I am also part of this movement and part of COPINH.” Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (COPINH) – an organization Laura’s mother co-founded – fights for the Earth, women, and indigenous people. During our conversation today, she marched to City Hall. Though she was expected to give a speech at the event that focused on US foreign policy and how it’s impacted indigenous communities around the world, she took 10 minutes to chat with me, because she wants to spread her message as far as possible.
“In Honduras, we continue to defend our land,” she said. “And it’s a lot of people, not just my mom’s daughters. Life is the goal, and there’s been many other murders. And we need solidarity. We need people to hear us and to act. We need support.” Currently, the activists are working toward getting H.R. 5474, the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act, passed. This legislation calls for the suspension of US security to Honduras to pressure the government to allow for an independent investigation into Berta Caceres’ murder, as well as to force the country to evaluate the human rights violations committed by Honduran security forces.
When Laura addressed the crowd on Monday afternoon, she said that some members of Congress have joined them in their fight, but that everyday citizens need to play a role in this movement, too. “That means we need you too to promote and fight for this law,” she said in Spanish, taking a pause to let her interpreter communicate her message in English. “We don’t want the money of the United States to support this violence that is taking our lives. My mother’s life is a symbol of struggle; it’s a symbol of resistance. And her assassination is a symbol of the violence that we’re living today. She’s not the only one. But she is the one on flags, with which we’ll move forward together.”
Fellow Honduran indigenous activist Rosalina Dominguez joined Laura at the DNC protests. Dominguez may not have the same recognition as Berta, but she’s part of the daily fight against developers trying to strip her people of land and resources. In a brief conversation, she criticized the government for its infractions against women and indigenous communities. She also spoke about Berta’s legacy and how participating in an event like this lends support to other disenfranchised groups. “We need to continue our fight,” she said. “We need to move forward, because it’s our responsibility to raise our voice.” Sign the justice for Berta petition here.
Check out images and videos from today’s event and other marches they’ve participated in since Sunday below: