Statement of the National Network of Women Human Rights Defenders in Honduras: Two months after our comrade defender Berta Cáceres was killed

Two months since your cowardly murder, companion Berta Caceres, is much and little time, at the same time. It is a long time for your murderers remain hidden in the silence and secrecy and so little to recompose your irreparable loss...

Tegucigalpa, May 2, 2016 - In 2010, we began to work in the National Women Defenders Nework in a space of our own. We are women in struggle, feminists, women organized in mixed spaces or in women’s networks against violence. There are a lot of us. It would be too ambitious to say we represent all women, but many of us have been struggling for a long time and many others, just recently. Together we meet and think how to protect ourselves from the risks we face because of our defense work.

From the beginning we realized it was important to accompany COPINH and Berta Cáceres, and we argued with her. For example, in 2012 she was being pursued and rumor had it that she would be prosecuted, which did happen in 2013. How could we justify her staying in the risk zone when the organizations with experience in this work said it would be prudent to “get her out of there, even if only for a short time”? Then we got into discussions about the sustainability of struggles in absence of leadership, how to generate more horitzontal and diverse forms of leadership, and the famous self-care, when urgent tasks meant there was no letting up for the body or the mind or the heart crushed by so much abuse. So we moved along, sorting out information, political positions, and experiences as we worked and got closer together.

We went to the risk areas with a car for our office, backpacks, hiking boots, and the desire to walk, talk, learn and express our purpose clearly. This was questioned by some comrades who thought we needed a schedule, an office and a reception area –in effect, a little more “institutionality.” But Berta Cáceres, Miriam Miranda, Rosalina, María Santos, Karen, Margarita, Consuelo and many other women defenders taught us another way to accompany people at risk – building by doing, by getting to know each other, by trusting bodies and ideas that intersected. And maybe we were only reiterating ways to build other kinds of power, a world turned upside down that looks more like the utopias of our dreams.

In Vallecito, ancestral power marked us. There we saw a possible place with defects, with merits, with hard work and a lot of feminine power, not only of women, but definitely anti-patriarchal, because it was part of decolonizing an “institutionalized” way of thinking that could imprison us even though we were wanderers.

Our Women Defenders Network, like COPINH, is sustained by women who take things over, make the tortillas, conduct the assemblies and develop the discourse. These women are our base and the sustenance of what we call “autonomy.” We learned from Berta that we shouldn’t look down or subject our bodies to a submissive position. Instead, we should stand up straight, because we understand that this territory is ours, that it begins in our own bodies, flows in the river, grows strong on the land and lasts forever in the challenges implied by being autonomous women consructing autonomous territories.

This territory is you, Berta Cáceres. We learned from your words and your practice: In the arrogance of Western thought, what’s been on the verge of killing us for more than 500 years is the patriarchalized capital colony that made us believe in participatory democracy as the opportunity that would include, recognize, respect and consult us. Based on this model they had to invent Conventions, Treaties, coups and democràtic elections, in which people don’t vote but that produces white men with presidential orders that manipulate laws. Others are then invented, and amidst prayers and yawns, the Convention or Constitution is forgotten, but in the name of God and Country, we’re once again enclosed in the democràtic lie and finally, and irremediably, neither consulted nor represented nor recognized nor respected.

That’s why in the territories we keep on constructing your justice, Berta, that other jusiece outside imposed legality, which will mean the departure of DESA and its current partner. SINOHYDRO was once obliged to get out thanks to the struggle of COPINH. But whether it’s VOITHYDRO or the company that intends to dam up the Gualcarque River again with the dirty financing of FMO, Fin Found and BCIE or some other transnational bank disguised as development and charity, it will have to understand that the firm decision of the Lenca people is to let their rivers flow through the veïns that crisscross their territories. These rivers are sacred accoring to the indigenous cosmovision, which has nothing to do with the cost-benefit, white, banking logic that aims to take over the natural resources of the ancestral peoples, who are the sole legitimate owners of the territory.

Two months after your departure, Berta, the National Network of Women Human Rights Defenders in Honduras shares your determination, which is that of the Lenca people organized in COPINH. We proudly raise the same banner of self-determination of the indigenous peoples to be autonomous, to configure the justice you deserve, to be free under their own cultural and espiritual cosmovision, which we joyfully embrace as part of the inner constructive force. It is the concept of human rights that legitimizes our being defenders in the way we feel and act, because we are still committed to defending our right to defend rights.

Two months after you were violently snatched away from our human and political lives, this suspense in the soul is action in our autonomous bodies. In being reborn in our feminist and women’s structures, we understand that our autonomous bodies are the first liberated territories from which to construct other autonomous territories, free from the patriarchy, capitalism and colonialism that keep us down.

With the ancestral force of Iselaca, Mota and Etempica, we hold your imatge on high, comrade Berta Cáceres, committed to the utopia forged by COPINH, an active member of the National Network of Women Human Rights Defenders in Honduras.


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