Moving burial of Honduran indigenous leader in her native city

La Esperanza, the Honduran city where Berta Caceres was born 45 years ago and where she began her struggle in defense of the environment, gave a moving farewell to the murdered indigenous leader while her family demanded justice and punishment for the perpetrators of the crime.

Caceres’s remains arrived in her native city Friday from Tegucigalpa, after an autopsy was performed Thursday.

In a solemn funeral on Saturday, thousands bid her their final farewells including representatives of organizations in Brazil, the United States, Switzerland, Mexico and Central America.

The 44-year-old Caceres, leader and co-founder of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, or Copinh, was killed Thursday at her home in the western Honduran town of La Esperanza by two gunmen, according to the preliminary investigation.

Family, friends and political leaders, including Honduran ex-President Manuel Zelaya, traveled to La Esperanza to attend the vigil of her remains at the home of the indigenous leader’s mother whose name is the same as her late daughter’s.

The slow emergence of the coffin from her house was the first step of an impressive popular procession to La Gruta chapel, led by her mother and her children Olivia, Berta, Laura and Salvador, all of whom demanded justice.

“I demand that justice be done and that this horrendous crime does not go unpunished,” the mother of Berta Caceres, accompanied by her four grandchildren, told a press conference.

The funeral procession left the chapel amid the applause and cries of “Justice” and “Viva Berta” from the thousands who came to see the Indian leader off, and who in 2015 was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for her fight in defense of natural resources in Honduras.

One of the daughters of Honduran environmental activist Berta Caceres said Saturday that a Honduran-Chinese joint venture that plans to build a hydroelectric dam was behind her mother’s death.

“This is a political crime. We’ve said it and we vehemently deny that this was a crime of passion,” Olivia Zuniga Caceres told Radio HRN.

Zuniga Caceres placed the blame on the company DESA-SINOHYDRO, which aims to develop the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project in Rio Blanco, a community in the western province of Intibuca.

“We hold that company and the Agua Zarca project responsible … because she (Berta Caceres) always denounced systematic threats by that company,” the daughter said.

She recalled that her mother had benefited since 2009 from protection requested by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, although Honduran authorities said Thursday that the activist had initially accepted that security measure but later asked that it be suspended.

Caceres’ family denies that she no longer wanted protection.

Referring to the investigation, Zuniga Caceres said she was aware that “there are several people detained, but there are no answers, there are no masterminds or perpetrators that tell us with any certainty who is responsible for the crime.”

Honduran police on Saturday announced the arrest of two more suspects in the case, bringing the number detained over the murder to three.

The National Police said the two latest suspects – a man identified as Tomas Gomez and an unidentified female minor – apparently belonged to Caceres’ organization.

On Thursday, the day of the murder, Honduran authorities arrested Jose Ismael Lemus, a security guard who works at the complex where Caceres lived.

The activist’s daughter also said that Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez was “a participant, accomplice and culprit in this political crime.”

“President Juan Orlando Hernandez, let me tell you: They killed Berta Caceres, but your government is dying,” Zuniga Caceres said.

Caceres’ family plans to sue the Honduran government over the killing, she added, while also calling on international investigators to become involved in the murder probe. EFE


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