By Josefina Salomon, News Writer at Amnesty International
The armed men who burst into the house of Honduran Indigenous leader Berta Cáceres on 3 March had a simple plan: find her, kill her, and leave.
What they didn’t expect, however, is for Gustavo Castro, a human rights activist working with Friends of the Earth Mexico and a close friend of Berta’s, to be in the next room.
“I was working on a presentation when I heard a loud bang,” said Gustavo, who is now in Mexico. “I thought something had fallen, but when Berta screamed, ‘Who’s there?’, I knew it was bad, that it was the end.”
When they heard him, one of the armed men rushed to Gustavo’s room. He pointed a gun at his face, shot him and ran.
“Everything happened so quickly, I didn’t have time to think,” said Gustavo. “When the hitman arrived, I covered my face. He was three metres away. I moved as he fired, and the bullet passed my ear. He thought he’d killed me. It’s a miracle I survived.”
“It’s been hard, because it’s not easy to bear being spat at in the face, being pushed and shoved, the tear gas, the tussles with the police, and we women having to throw ourselves on the ground. That is tough. It’s tough and it’s not easy to bear it, but we do it because we believe in our struggle and in asserting our rights.”
Yolanda Oqueli, a leader from San Jose del Golfo in Guatemala, shared those words with me last year, describing her community’s ongoing struggle to compel the Guatemalan government to respect their rights in the context of a Canadian-initiated mining project.
Canada has a large stake in Guatemala’s mining sector, accounting for 88 per cent of all current mining operations. The country’s mining production was valued at over US $600 million in 2012.
How could anything be wrong with Canada playing such a huge role in the country’s growing mining sector, one could wonder? It is all about human rights.