Guest editorial by Bert Schouwenburg, International Secretary, GMB, UK
In a grim prelude to International Women’s Day on March 8, the celebrated Honduran indigenous and environmental rights campaigner Berta Cáceres (pictured left) was murdered in Honduras, barely a week after she was threatened for opposing a hydroelectric project.
She is the latest in a long line of victims in Honduras since a coup, sponsored by the US and supported by the then secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, overthrew the reformist President Mel Zelaya in 2009. Human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, trade unionists, gay rights activists and political opponents of subsequent regimes have been singled out for abduction, disappearance, torture and murder in a climate of almost complete impunity.
Particularly shocking is a femicide rate that increased by 260% between 2005 and 2013. In 2014, 513 women were killed and in 2015 it was estimated that a woman lost her life every 16 hours. According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, impunity “perpetuates the social acceptance of violence against women”.
In this context, it is hypocrisy of the first order for President Hernández to say that Ms Cáceres’ demise has “caused mourning among all Hondurans”. He himself has been accused of swindling millions of dollars from the cash-starved public health fund to bankroll his election campaign and on his watch transnational companies, such as those against whom Ms Cáceres was campaigning, have trashed the environment and exploited their workers.
Meanwhile, US ambassador James Nealon is on record as saying that relations with Honduras are “perhaps the best they have ever been”.
For more information (in Spanish) on the assassination of Berta Cáceres see the REL-UITA website.
This article first appeared as a letter in the UK Guardian.