Human rights activist Berta Cáceres was assassinated March 3, 2016 in her hometown of La Esperanza, Intibuca in Honduras, a loss felt strongly in Houston’s Rothko Chapel, where she had been honored last November. The Rothko Chapel awarded Cáceres, along with Mirian Miranda, with the 2015 Óscar Romero Award in recognition of her heroic efforts in the area of human rights.
The Chapel held a vigil in honor of Berta's life and witness on March 4.
Cáceres was raised in a violent climate in Central America in the 1980s. Her mother, a midwife and social activist, cared for refugees from El Salvador and taught her children to defend disenfranchised people. Cáceres became a student activist and in 1993, she cofounded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). In the last few weeks, violence towards Cáceres, COPINH, and the communities they support, had escalated. On February 20, 2016, Cáceres, COPINH, and the community of Rio Blanco faced threats as they carried out a peaceful action to protect the River Gualcarque against the construction of a hydroelectric dam by the internationally-financed Honduran company DESA. On February 25, 2016, another Lenca community supported by COPINH in Guise, Intibuca was violently evicted and destroyed.
Cáceres spent the past 20 years fighting to protect indigenous communities. Honduras experienced a growth in environmentally destructive megaprojects have displaced indigenous communities since the 2009 military coup that was carried out by graduates of the U.S. Army School of the Americas. Almost 30 percent of the country's land was earmarked for mining concessions, creating a demand for cheap energy to power future mining operations. Repression of social movements and targeted assassinations are rampant in Honduras. Human rights organizations report there have been more than 10,000 human rights violations by state security forces, and most murders go unpunished.
The Chapel stands in solidarity with the COPINH and the Fund for Global Human Rights in demanding an immediate investigation into Cáceres’ murder. For information on how to donate to her family, please click here. To help COPINH, please click here.