Mar 3, 2016

Entrevista con Berta Cáceres Flores

Berta Cáceres Flores
Coordinator, Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH)


My name is Berta Cáceres Flores, and I am from an organization called Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), we are of the Lenca people.  We are in a process of fighting, of activism, for the defense of the rights of indigenous peoples.  It is an organization that became into being precisely for this, its origin is here: the territorial, cultural and spiritual defense of the rights of women and young people.  And we have been in a process of resistance; well, as the indigenous people have been doing for more than 500 years and we continue to confront modern day colonialism with all its aggressiveness, militarism, transnationalization and privatization.  And of course, as an organization we establish at the root of the debate that our fight should not only be against predatory capitalism but also, against patriarchy and against racism as forms of domination.

The Lenca are an ancient people that inhabited this region of Mesoamerica, southwest and central Honduras and also a large part of El Salvador.  This is a people strongly dedicated to the earth.  Our worldview is centered in the earth, corn and in the equilibrium that we must keep with all living things.  We do not see other living things or species as being inferior to us human beings.  It is based in a profound gratitude for what the earth provides.  This gratitude is expressed through spiritual and cultural practices that are celebrated even today and that are condemned by the sectors of religion, power, racism and discrimination.

02:07 – 04:07

And, the Lenca people since the invasion have risen in resistance.  They are a people that have raised large indigenous insurrections.  One of their greatest feats known in Honduras is the one lead by [chieftains] Lempira, Mota and Entepica that united various indigenous Lenca armies and fought against colonialism.  Thus the Lenca people fiercely defended all of these territories.  They were not displaced to another location.  Here, they stood their ground and that meant that the church as an institution of colonial power treated the Lenca people with great cruelty.  One of the things that accelerated and exacerbated this cruelty was the loss of the Lenca language.

We come from various parts, we also come from the south, from ancient cultures: the Macro Chibchas; and we have a mix as well, an influence of Mayan spirituality.  But also the Lenca people have always been dedicated to commerce because we are in the center of the country, thus commercial movements of the indigenous people, trade, bartering was very important.  Thus the Lenca have conducted various insurrectional feats at different times.   And we, as COPINH began in… well, we are about to complete 19 years in this fight as a part of this people who have much resistance, much rebellion and who still maintain this desire to exist.

04:08 – 06:41

Well, we have had an uneven battle because the powers we confront are strong: transnationalization.  Transnational corporations want to invade our territories and want to privatize our rivers, the water and the forest through hydroelectric dam projects to privatize energy, to privatize rivers and territories, to displace people and violate community titles and to end the autonomy of self-determination by indigenous people.   They want to enter with projects labeled “ecological” such a REDD-plus sponsored by the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme, the European Union and various northern governments among them United States, Canada, Finland, Spain, Japan and others.  Also we are facing the threat of mining, the threat of wind projects for green energy, and which also imply displacement, violation of communities because they are big corporations and businesses such as AMPER, Minerco, Terra and others that want to invade our territories.  Besides this, militarization has increased; the army, the powerful political class, the economic class and military class of this country have had in their mind something ridiculous but at the same time dangerous; this idea that the Lenca people are militaristic in their DNA, that they love war.  And they do not understand that what is happening is that the Lenca people have been a people in resistance, in other words, rebellious and strong against aggression, against colonialism.  Thus their historians and anthropologists, who we laugh at, think we have that in our DNA.  Thus they have devised a plan against the Lenca people to fill the battalions, the same as the churches; the fundamentalists have thought that the indigenous are only to fill the churches, equally they have thought that the Lenca people serve as nothing more than to fill the army battalions and the police.

06:41 – 09:37

Thus, faced with a situation so desperate in this country, so tremendously full of misery, of exclusion, of discrimination, of racism, of terrible unemployment: in a country of a little over 7 million almost 3 million Honduran men and women are unemployed.  This situation is incredible.  Thus for the youth, especially the youth that are almost children, they are children with rifles including young women.  They are presented with the desperate option of only finding employment in the army or the police.  That is a grave threat to indigenous people but furthermore they are doing this because they want to strengthen the logic of militarization: that not only is it the uniform, not only is it to dress in green and to have a rifle, but for us the larger sense one must see is that it imposes a culture that is seen in the media, in the television, in electronic games for boys and girls, in the games they buy, that they see, that are sold by these businesses.  This culture is in the churches, the schools, in the university, in the streets; it is in the family.  In other words, this culture is built for military logic; a culture of militarization that is strongly reinforced by patriarchy and racism.  Therefore, for us, it is a threat and furthermore obliges the youth to leave the communities and to stop thinking of the work of the land, of caring for the forest and all the forms of life, thus their way of life has no meaning anymore.

But we are facing other aggressions besides all of these aforementioned megaprojects that want to bring the big tourism industry to the indigenous territories, large mountain hotels; they want to privatize sacred mountain ranges important in terms of biodiversity such as the Celaque.  The same President of Congress has offered that because they think, because they went on a stroll to Singapore and I don’t know where else, they believe that such model cities, as they call them, are the solution for this country.  For us it is another colonial enclave and a plundering.   This even encompasses rural communities; this is going to be imposed on the Garífuna indigenous territories.

09:38 – 10:57

And, imagine, we are fighting a project of privatization that has been conceived for all of Mesoamerica: the Mesoamerican Electrical Interconnection System as part of the Mesoamerican Project, known previously as the Puebla Panama Plan, but also encompasses the Mérida Plan, ASPA, a copy of Plan Colombia in a project that pretends to launch a project for the security of Central America that provides loans to these governments.  And they are loans we are going to have to pay, in the name of security they say, for the reinforcement of an army, of a police, that murders us, that is violent towards us, that brutalizes us.  It is incredible.   In other words, we ourselves are going to pay so they can repress us, displace us, and so these military institutions can take care of the interests of the oligarchy and the transnational corporations.   Thus, that’s it in broad brushstrokes but the fight is tremendous.  The fight against the lumber dealers, the exploiters of the forest, is also difficult.

10:58 – 13:13 – Women Nobel Peace Laureates

We think that this fight that we see in the community here, in this locale, in this department is not isolated.   It is a global fight and it is a global problem.  It is a problem in this continent not only faced by us but by all people fighting against colonialism and that have a sense of justice and freedom.  We think that it goes beyond the community, beyond the nation; we think this fight needs to be articulated.  When they mentioned to us that the Women Nobel Peace Laureates were coming, well one thinks in certain moments that they are people from far away, in other words they are in another space.  But for them to come here and to know the important work that they do, it is important that these women are recognized and that they fight for the world and that they do not do it for a laureate but rather that they are already in that fight.  We believe they can become one voice denouncing where they stand and becoming a tribunal of compliant about what is happening in Honduras. In other words, it is these women and women activist of the world that have this capacity because we are like an invisible country.  We are like a country that does not exist.  We are only known because we were the base for the Nicaraguan counter-revolution, for the Iran-Contra scandal, for Hurricane Mitch, for a coup d’état; and then came the Cartagena Accords, a discussion for reconciliation and for democracy, and everything was forgotten.  Everybody believes that in Honduras the situation is normal and that is not the truth.  That is a lie.  Here there is human rights violations, there is murder, there is repression, there is kidnapping, there is an advancement of a project to blatantly plunder.  And we know that by them coming here, it is important that they be heard.

13:14 – 14:41 – Wave of Violence

Clearly, of course, not only since the coup d’état but always we have been threatened.  For us, before the coup d’état, they murdered five co-workers and now after the coup d’état, two more.  We have had co-workers violently sexually harassed and raped.   When the women were captured, the army, the soldiers told them they were going to “search” their vaginas, of course they told them that using other words, that they were going to search their vaginas because that was where they carried their weapons.   Well, in another sense, I do think women have weapons in their vaginas but not the ones they were thinking about.    We have a power and energy that men do not know and it is better that they do not know about it, and I think that for us it helps us withstand that level of violence, of total impunity that exists in this country.   Because here we cannot trust, in other words since a coup d’état in the middle of the twenty first century, validated by the United Nations and the OAS, in who can we trust?  We cannot trust in the Public Ministry, in the Supreme Court, in the National Congress, in the executive power, in the police, in the army.  We cannot; we do not have anyone we can trust.  We can only have faith and hope in ourselves, in ourselves as the people of Honduras.

14:42 – 16:01

Women have been since before, not just since 29 June 2009, but always, by hundred of years, have been resisting, defending our lives, our bodies, our territories, our culture, our spirituality, our autonomy because we desire not only territorial autonomy and autonomy for this country, we want autonomy for our bodies, for individuals, for the sovereignty of the body of people.  And the women have been since the coup d’état; and I know you can see the grand majority of the hundreds of thousands of women [in this country] were the exact women in those marches.  And we are the women that still continue in all those spaces, regardless of political conditions, the perspectives we have regarding the processes of National Refoundation, even the process of resistance, the new political electoral vision that is emerging.  It doesn’t matter.  The women are there even now fighting because even inside the social movements and even the National Front of Popular Resistance, the women have to work hard to fight, to dismantle patriarchy, male chauvinism, misogyny; and, with even more reason if the women are indigenous or Lenca.

16:02 – 17:15

Yesterday we had an activity organized by some marvelous co-workers that have remained in the central plaza, the central park of San Pedro Sula, that they have taken, we say they have occupied since 29 June 2009; and since the coup d’état they have not abandoned this place not even for one day.  Yesterday, the 25th of January, the Day of the Honduran Woman, they called upon 600 women to have a debate, a reflection, concerning the contribution of women in the process of National Refoundation; popular, community, and indigenous refounding that exist in the social movements of resistance.  We had a debate concerning this with women from different parts of the country.  We also recognized co-workers like Mrs. Berta Oliva.   And we also shared joy because if there is something that we realized since the coup d’état, it is that if we do not have joy in this, enthusiasm and hope then we are as we say “dead in life”.


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