PBI-Canada remembers when Berta Caceres marched in Quebec City against the Free Trade Area of the Americas

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo of Berta Caceres at a protest in Honduras by COPINH.

“Free trade deals are legal tools to impose a model that advocates taking control over the planet’s natural resources for profit.”: Berta Caceres

As we remember Berta Caceres on what would have been her 50th birthday, we note that she marched in opposition to the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) at the Summit of the Americas that took place on April 20-22, 2001 in Quebec City.

Daniel Fireside was hired by Rights Action to be her driver and translator.

He writes: “Before the Summit, Berta and I traveled to cities across Canada, staying in the homes of local activists and speaking in church basements, Fair Trade cafes, and school auditoriums.”

Fireside adds: “After almost two dozen speaking events in half as many towns, we ended up in Quebec City. There we met up with the co-directors of Rights Action, Grahame Russell and Annie Bird, as well as the leader of an environmental activist NGO based in Chiapas, Mexico, the sociologist Gustavo Castro Soto.”

He further recalls that the five of them – Caceres, Fireside, Russell, Bird and Castro – slept on the floor of a sympathetic family in Quebec City.

Fireside also shares this story of when they joined the protest at the 10-foot-high fenced perimeter of the conference zone.

“[After I was teargassed] Berta squirted my eyes with a cleansing solution and gave me an approving smile. ‘Adelante compañero’, she said. ‘You’ll recover from this soon enough.’ And then she added with a laugh, ‘At least it isn’t the stuff your government sells to Honduras. They add a chemical that makes us vomit.’”

Journalist and author Nina Lakhani adds: “Berta and Gustavo stood in front of parliament facing the impenetrable chain of riot cops, among protesters drumming and singing. It struck Berta that the demonstration was too far back.”

“’¡Hermano! Let’s get closer. Vamos,’ she shouted, grinning at Gustavo, grabbing one end of the blue and white Honduran flag. Gustavo seized the other end and they rushed forward into a cold jet of water from a cannon behind police lines.”

“They were pushed back and soaked, the flag went flying. But Berta jumped up and yelled, ‘Let’s go again.’ This time, blinding tear gas forced the pair back. But they surged forward again and again, recalled Gustavo. ‘That was Berta. Always tenacious and always willing to put herself in the middle of every act of resistance. She never lost that energy.’”

Fireside writes: “Fifteen years later, Berta would die in Gustavo’s arms as he himself was shot and left for dead by Berta’s assassins.”

For more, please see: The remarkable life and legacy of indigenous leader Berta Cáceras (by Nina Lakhani) and In the Trenches with Berta Cáceres (by Daniel Fireside).

Additionally, Peace Brigades International-Canada has pointed out in this article that some are pushing for a hemispheric “free trade” agreement to be on the agenda of the virtual Summit of the Americas scheduled for this April.

PBI-Honduras now accompanies COPINH, the organization Caceres co-founded and led at the time of her death on March 2, 2016.

Photo: Police fire teargas at the protest against the FTAA on April 21, 2001 in Quebec City.

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