The following is a message from Fr Ismael Moreno Coto SJ regarding the brutal murder on 3 March 2016 of Berta Cáceres, an internationally renowned Honduran indigenous and environmental leader. Popularly known as Padre Melo, Fr. Moreno Coto is a Jesuit priest and human rights activist in his native Honduras. He directs Radio Progreso and ERIC (Equipo de Reflexion, Investigacion y Comunicacion). Padre Melo spoke at the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice in 2014, and continues to be an important advocacy partner for the Ignatian Solidarity Network and the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the US.
I write to share with you the pain and rage I am left with, we are left with, due to the murder of Berta Cáceres, who led grassroots efforts in the struggle in defence of the natural resources and indigenous peoples. She and her organization COPINH confronted multinational companies based in China, the US and Canada, bent on exploiting natural resources, particularly rivers and minerals. Last year she was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize. She was a friend, a sister, a companion of Radio Progreso and ERIC, and we had a particular history of close friendship and common struggle. In her person many of our struggles were manifest, that of indigenous people, feminists, of the popular movement, of grassroots communities, and environmentalists. We are beaten down.
She was constantly threatened. Being a woman with the highest international recognition among the social and popular movements in Honduras, her assassination shows and lays bare the helplessness of people and organizations fighting for human rights and the defence of the natural resources and against the sale of our national sovereignty. She fills us with pride. But her assassination leaves us shocked.
I share a picture that we took of her and me in 2013 in Rio Blanco near the Gualcarque river. And she, with her jokes, said as she looked at the photograph: “Let’s see which of the two of us goes first.” I send my embrace and trust in your solidarity in the struggles in which we continue. From today on with loyalty to Berta Cáceres, our sister and travelling companion.
Ismael Moreno, SJ