from Melo in Honduras and Phil out West

(this morning I awoke to this distressing email from my friend Melo, a Jesuit priest in Honduras. One day in 2013 while accompanying Melo I met Berta at a meeting and was surprised to see her. Just days earlier there was the revelation of a government list of persons to be eliminated and Berta was number 1 on that list. She was a strong feminist and indigenous community leader and she led her community to successfully block a hydroelectric project of a Chinese consortium on a major river in Lenca indigenous territory. She was feared and opposed by foreign transnationals and the traditional oligarchy, and even the highest authority in the Catholic Church, Cardinal Rodriguez, had publicly denounced the campesino organization COPINH and had instructed Catholics that they should not listen to the community radio stations that were independent of government control. Berta was assassinated by professional assassins in the early hours of March 2 in her home.  This is a translation of the letter of Melo, below is the original in Spanish.)

Hello friends.  I reach out to you to share my pain and my anger that the murder of Bertha Cáceres causes me, and all of  us. Berta was a great leader and insightful guide in the struggle in defense of the common natural environment and the struggles of indigenous peoples. Berta and the organization  COPINH confronted the transnational companies from China, USA and Canada, who were exploiting the natural mineral resources and the rivers. Last year Berta was awarded the Goldman Global Award.

Berta was a friend, a sister, and a companion of Radio Progreso and ERIC, and in a personal way we shared a close friendship and the same struggle. In her were incarnated the struggles of diverse groups : indigenous peoples, feminists, community organizations and environmentalists.

We are all badly bruised. She was constantly being threatened. Being the woman with the highest international recognition among the social and popular movements of Honduras,  her murder illustrates and leaves  naked the defenselessness of the people and the organizations that fight for human rights and the defense of the common natural order and against the sale of national sovereignty. Berta fills us with pride. But her murder leaves us shocked
I share with you a photo that was taken of us together in 2013 at Rio Blanco near the river Gualcarque. And Berta, with her sense of dry humor said to me as we looked at the photo: “Which one of us will they get first?”

I send you my embrace and I trust in your solidarity with the struggles that we must continue to confront. From today onward,  in loyalty to Bertha Cáceres, our sister and companion in the journey.


(references not part of original letter- acceptance speech )

———- Forwarded message ———-

Hola amigas y amigos. Un saludo para compartir con ustedes mi dolor y mi rabia que me deja, y nos deja, el asesinato de Bertha Cáceres, altísima lideresa y conductora de procesos de lucha en defensa de los bienes naturales comunes y de las luchas de los pueblos indígenas. Ella se enfrentó con su organización de COPINH a las transnacionales chinas, estadunidenses y canadienses explotadoras de los bieneas naturales, especialmente de ríos y minería. El año pasado fue galardonada con el premio Mundial Goldman. Fue una amiga, hermana, compañera de Radio Progreso y el ERIC, y de manera particular tuvimos una historia de estrecha amistad y lucha en común. En ella se encarnan muchas de nuestras luchas indígenas, feministas, populares, comunitarias, ambientalista. Estamos muy golpeados. Ella fue constantemente amenazada. Siendo la mujer con más alto reconocimiento internacional entre el movimiento social y popular de Honduras, su asesinato muestra y deja al desnudo la indefensión de las personas y organizaciones que luchan por los derechos humanos y la defensa de los bienes naturales comunes y en contra de la venta de la soberanía nacional. Ella nos llena de orgullo. Pero su asesinato nos deja impactados.
Les comparto una fotografía que nos tomaron a ella y a mi en el año 2013 en Río Blanco cerca del río Gualcarque. Y ella, con sus bromas, me dijo mientras miraba la fotografía: “Haber quien de los dos se va primero”. Les mando mi abrazo y confío en su solidaridad con las luchas que nos toca seguir profundizando. A partir de hoy en lealtad a Bertha Cáceres, nuestra hermana y compañera de de camino. Melo

One Response to “ “from Melo in Honduras and Phil out West”

  1. Sister Lea says:

    Melo, Berta is a saint, for certain, if that is any consolation to you.

    Surely you feel as the early Church did when they crucified Jesus. That is what evil does: it keeps beating us down one by one, with every intention of frightening us into submission and silence.

    Call upon the name of your Berta. Call upon the names of all the everyday saints who have endured your loss. Give them opportunity to help you in your efforts to do the very work they too desire.

    Gracias for your sharing.

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