Too High a Price for Courage

Berta Cáceres, an internationally respected leader of the movement for indigenous rights, is now living as a fugitive. The Honduran government ordered this soft-spoken dynamo imprisoned on September 20.

From her undisclosed location, she emailed me and a few others. “We’re standing firm against the pressure, the criminalization, the abuse, and the manipulations,” she said.

Her government has charged the nonviolent, principled Cáceres with carrying a weapon, inciting others to riot, and being a danger to the security of the nation. If she is found and jailed, Amnesty International has declared that it will consider her a prisoner of conscience.

Indigenous peoples have so well protected the natural riches under and in their territories, they often get oppressed for standing in the way of companies searching for new profits. Cáceres and many other Honduran indigenous people have been targeted for challenging attempts to dam, log, mine, and develop their territories. In recent years, company goons and U.S.-financed soldiers have murdered, shot, kidnapped, macheted, arrested, and terrorized over 300 people who stood up for indigenous and human rights..

The government installed by military leaders, following the coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya in 2009, granted corporations 41 contracts for work that will damage communities and the environment. Most of those projects went forward without the agreement of the country’s indigenous communities, as required by a treaty to which Honduras is a signatory to free, prior, and informed consent.

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