Open Letter: SOE members denounce the murder of Berta Cáceres and condemn Gustavo Castro Soto’s incarceration in Honduras.
For Press Release: Monday, March 28, 2016
From: The Society of Ethnobiology
Re: Society of Ethnobiology (Scholars and Professionals) denounce the murder of Berta Cáceres and condemn Gustavo Castro Soto’s incarceration in Honduras.
On March 3, 2016 armed men entered the home of Berta Cáceres in La Esperanza, southern Honduras, and fatally shot her while and wounding houseguest Gustavo Castro Soto. As a leader of the Lenca people, in 1993 Berta co-founded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). Since 2009 she has received countless threats against her life and was granted precautionary measures by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (Hendrik Voss, SOAW). It is believed that the killers were paramilitary hired by the Agua Zarca dam company, DESA, whose dam project is financed by Dutch Bank FMO and the Finnish Bank Finnfund. DESA officials openly talked about the need to get rid of Berta. See links below for more information.
During the past ten years Berta was fearless in resisting the dam because it would flood the ancestral lands of the Lenca people. For them the Gualcarque River is sacred, inhabited by powerful spirits of their female ancestors who have died defending the river. The dam is being built to provide energy, not for the Lenca people, but for mining operations, occurring all over other areas of Hondouras (Hendrik Voss, SOAW). Gustavo Castro Soto, a Chortí Mayan leader from Chiapas, Mexico, was the only witness to Berta’s murder. He is currently being held prisoner in Honduras under very dangerous conditions, and is pleading for his life. Like Berta, Gustavo is another well-known environmental campaigner and coordinator of Friends of the Earth Mexico, as well as being a board member of Other Worlds Are Possible.
As we reflect on the contributions of all Indigenous poeple to our Society, as members and colleagues, we recognize our responsibility to speak out when violations against the sovereignty and human rights of these communities occur. We strongly condemn the assassination of Berta Cáceres and offer our deepest condolences to her family, friends and allies. Our Society’s mission to promote and perpetuate the interdisciplinary study of the relationships of plants and animals with human cultures worldwide is built on an intellectual understanding that Indigenous peoples have a physical, cultural and spiritual connection to the land that calls them to resist the destruction and desecration of their homelands.
As a professional international organization of scientists and scholars, many of whom work in Latin America, we support the safe release of Gustavo Castro Soto back to Mexico. We ask the allied global communities join together to denounce the attacks and support the surviving members of COPINH. As Berta herself has said: “In our worldview, we are beings who come from the Earth, from the water, and from corn…Our Mother Earth – militarized, fenced-in, poisoned, a place where basic rights are systematically violated – demands that we take action.” When a leader like Berta is shot down, her blood calls on us to take a stand.
Members of The Society of Ethnobiology
For more information or to take an individual stance please access the following links:
Help Gustavo Soto