WASHINGTON – The daughter of murdered Honduran environmental activist and indigenous leader Berta Caceres was in Washington on Wednesday to appeal to U.S. lawmakers to back demands for an independent international probe of the killing and to end security assistance to the “corrupt” government in Tegucigalpa.
Laura Zuñiga Caceres spoke at a briefing on Capitol Hill arranged by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.).
“The U.S. government has a great deal of power to pressure the Honduran government,” Zuñiga told activists and congressional aides, advocating an immediate end to Washington’s financial support for the “military and security apparatus” in Honduras.
The funds Honduras receives from foreign governments “are absorbed in corruption, in repression and in the sale of the country without listening to the population,” she said.
“It’s a lack of respect for United States people that the U.S. gives money to the police in Honduras, which is marked by violating human rights,” the 23-year-old Zuñiga said.
“There’s little will among authorities in Honduras to investigate the murder of my mother,” Zuñiga said.
Berta Caceres, 44, was fatally shot in the wee hours of March 3 at her residence in the western city of La Esperanza.
As a founder and coordinator of the indigenous organization Copinh, Caceres led demonstrations against hydroelectric projects that she said threatened the environment.
Caceres, a Lenca Indian and mother of four, was awarded the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize in recognition of her grassroots efforts to protect natural resources in western Honduras.
She also led protests against the June 28, 2009, coup that ousted then-President Manuel Zelaya.
Authorities never investigated any of the more than 30 death threats Berta Caceres received before her murder, Zuñiga said Wednesday.
Another of Berta’s children, Olivia Zuñiga Caceres, has blamed the killing on DESA-SINOHYDRO, the company that aims to develop the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project in Rio Blanco, a community in the western province of Intibuca.