Five years after water protector Berta Cácere’s brutal murder, Honduran courts have finally brought a degree of justice in convicting the alleged “mastermind” behind the plot, Roberto David Castillo Mejía, military intelligence officer and former general manager and president of the Desarrollos Energéticos (DESA) hydroelectric company.
“This historic ruling takes on even greater importance because it highlights the value of the defence of nature and the rights of indigenous peoples and rural communities. It is a landmark ruling that exposes through the courts the responsibility of companies, not only of their devastating role in the destruction of vital resources, but also in the persecution and elimination of people and organisations that oppose their destructive greed. The ruling highlights the strength of unity and struggle in the demand for truth and justice; a struggle that had as great protagonists the courage and dignity of her family, of COPINH, of all the people who gave themselves to this cause of humanity. I join in the joy that Berta vindicated, the joy of victories. This is a victory with the taste of a feat, because achieving truth and justice in the courts that have historically favoured the crimes of power is a feat. This victory is transcendental, but it does not mean the end of the road in the fight against impunity for the assassination of our comrade Berta“, said Reynaldo Villalba, Vice President of the International Federation for Human Rights.
In memory of Berta’s fearless Lenca spirit, we relay links and writings from an earlier DP:
From her speech in acceptance of the Goldman Prize, the year before she was murdered:
And finally, a video of the entire speech: Berta Cáceres, presente!
Our title descends from Isaac Asimov, “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” So it goes with the varied forces of “order” deployed at Standing Rock, and their unhinged use of excessive weapons, better suited to the battlefield. Using such weapons against unarmed, peaceful Water Protectors is both cowardly and criminal.
Consider the violence committed against Sophia Wilansky, a recent college graduate who joined the Water Protectors in expression of her own deeply held conviction that the ongoing exploitation of fossil fuels amounts to wanton ecocide. While exercising her constitutional right to assemble and protect the water supply, Ms. Wilansky was viciously attacked by police with rubber bullets and an explosive concussion grenade, severely injuring her arm.
Here is the testimony of volunteer medic Brandi King, who served as an Army medic for eight years, upon witnessing the wounds inflicted upon the young woman:
The Morton Sheriff Department, compounding the cowardice of using such a weapon against Ms. Wilansky by fabricating a ludicrous explanation from some delusional alternative univese, released the following statement:
Democracy Now asked Ms. Wilansky’s father, Wayne Wilansky, to respond to such explanations:
As for the use of water as a weapon deployed in sub-freezing weather conditions, we turn to Angela Bibens, a coordinator with the Water Protector Legal Collective, as quoted in The Los Angeles Times:
Next comes Jesse Lopez, a surgeon and volunteer medic at Standing Rock, as quoted in The Intercept:
Such actions constitute a criminal abuse of power; the perpetrators must be held accountable, and brought to justice. Returning to Mr. Wilansky:
On this Indigenous People’s Day, we open our ears to the words and songs of the Water Protectors at Standing Rock and elsewhere around the world.
We are grateful to the DP reader who steered us to an essay by Chickasaw Nation writer-in-residence Linda Hogan, excerpted below. The images are from a No Dakota Access Movement video that can be accessed by clicking within any of the frames.
We also take time today to honor the memory of Berta Cáceres and other brave protectors of sacred and essential resources who have been murdered over the past year by the agents of ecocidal capitalism. Let us wake up!