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Daughter of Berta Caceres, Laura Zuñiga says it’s difficult to carry on her mother’s legacy, but it’s also an 'opportunity' to speak against other murders.
The daughter of Berta Caceres, Laura Zuñiga says it’s sometimes difficult to “commit to carry on" her mother’s legacy, but that it’s also an "opportunity" for her to use her voice to speak out against the murders of other activists.
"Being the daughter of Berta Caceres is a commitment. … It is a commitment that’s sometimes difficult … because of our mother’s stature," said Zuñiga.
Zuñiga was 24 when her Indigenous activist mother, coordinator, and co-founder of the Civic Council of Peoples' and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (Copinh), was gunned down in her home in La Esperanza, Honduras on Mar. 2, 2016 by hitmen.
She was a leader among the Indigenous Lenca and fought tirelessly against the unlawful construction of the DESA hydroelectric dam in Agua Zarca in Lenca territory for which she was assassinated by at least seven men, including military and DESA officials. She won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize just prior to her murder, which sparked international attention and outrage.
Laura and her three brothers grew up in a "different environment," says Zuñiga to EFE during an interview at the Washington headquarters of the Organization of American States Human Rights Commission (IACHR). "The truth is, saying I’m the daughter of Berta Caceres means constantly taking charge of what happened to her, of that pain, of that shock, of destruction and of everything that the murder of my mom meant," explains Zuñiga.
"I also take up the fight for the many daughters and sons who have lived through the murder of their mothers or fathers. … I have the opportunity to tell (their stories) for the many daughters or sons who do not," she adds.
Caceres’ killers were convicted of her murder in late November and Laura says that in the weeks leading up to that ruling she experienced an "increase" in threats and violence against her, her family and Copinh.
"We have seen death threats, destruction of crops, persecution and a campaign of discredit and hatred against the people of Copinh," said Zuñiga, in person and over the Internet.
"With the murder of my mom our personal life, our sexuality, our feelings, all were used to attack us as people, to delegitimize us by men," said Laura to reporters.
At first, the Honduran authorities claimed that Berta's death was a "crime of passion" and attributed it to her partner and Mexican activist, Gustavo Castro.
When Caceres’ killers were convicted on Nov. 29 her daughter pledged to continue demanding justice and punishment for the masterminds of her murder.
She and Copinh said in a letter released that same day that, while seven were convicted of the murder of Caceres, DESA’s crimes “go beyond the assassination and comprise a series of criminal acts against Berta Caceres, Copinh, the Lenca people and the state of Honduras.”
Zuñiga told EFE: "From my mom, from my grandmother, I learned to create my path, of what I want in life from my mom and my grandmother. Women defenders of the land have a resistance, a capacity to build from another place,” added Caceres young daughter.