A large crowd in Honduras accompanied the body of Berta Caceres to its final resting place on March 5 amid calls for justice in last week’s killing of the indigenous leader and environmental activist.
Many of those carrying Caceres’ coffin on their shoulders through the dusty streets of La Esperanza were Lenca indigenous people for whose rights she had fought. Drummers pounded out Afro-Honduran rhythms as mourners chanted “The struggle goes on and on” and “Berta Caceres is present, today and forever.”
The crowd marched more than six miles (10 kilometers) from Caceres’ mother’s home to a chapel where a Mass was celebrated in her memory Saturday, and to the cemetery in La Esperanza about 190 miles (300 kilometers) east of the capital. Her four daughters and her ex-husband were among the procession.
“Forgive me, Bertita,” said Salvador Zuniga, Caceres’ former husband. “Forgive me for not understanding your greatness.”
The previous evening, Austra Flores said she hoped that her daughter’s murder will not go unpunished and that international attention will pressure Honduran authorities to find those responsible.
Caceres, 45, who was awarded the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize for her role in fighting a dam project, had complained of death threats from police, the army and landowners’ groups. She was slain early Thursday by gunmen who broke into her home and shot her four times.
“My mother died because she defended the land and rivers of her country,” Caceres’ daughter Olivia said.
Mexican human rights activist Gustavo Castro Soto was also wounded in the attack. After gunfire grazed his cheek and left hand, Castro pretended to be dead as he lay on the floor so the assailants would not finish him off, according to Security Ministry Julian Pacheco. He is considered a protected witness whose testimony is key to solving the killing.
Pacheco said two suspects have been detained for questioning, including a neighborhood private security guard. Authorities have not said what role they may have played in her killing.
President Juan Orlando Hernandez says authorities are investigating Caceres’ killing with assistance from the United States.
“We have asked for a rapid and exhaustive investigation so the full weight of the law is applied to those responsible,” U.S. Ambassador James Nealon told reporters at the funeral.
Foreign Minister Arturo Corrales vowed Friday in a meeting with diplomats that justice would be done, saying that “there is abundant information to solve the case.”
According to the website of the Goldman Environmental Prize, Caceres “waged a grassroots campaign that successfully pressured the world’s largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam.”
It said the project threatened to “cut off the supply of water, food and medicine for hundreds of Lenca people and violate their right to sustainably manage and live off their land.”