Berta Cáceres: The environmentalist who triumphed after dying

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In LatinAmerican Post we want to remember the Honduran leader who was killed for her defense of the environment

Berta Cáceres: The environmentalist who triumphed after dying

On March 3, 2016, a group of hired assassins entered the home of Berta Cáceres located in La Esperanza, Honduras. Cáceres was shot dead by the group that invaded her home despite "the high level of security that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had forced to provide," El País reported.

According to Semana Sostenible, the first reports pointed to the murder as the result of a robbery. However, her family and relatives vehemently expressed that the environmental leader was killed for her struggle against the construction of the hydroelectric plant on the Gualcarque River. The hydroelectric project, Agua Zarca, was to be executed by the company Desarrollo Energético Sociedad Anónima (DESA), which had the support of the Chinese corporation Sinohydro.

Leer en español: Berta Cáceres: La ambientalista que triunfó luego de morir

However, its development affected the natural, cultural, and social heritage of the Lenca indigenous community, which inhabits Salvadoran and Honduran territory and to which Cáceres belonged. For this reason, the indigenous environmental leader opposed to this project in collaboration with the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), which she co-founded in 1993.

Cáceres came from a family accustomed to defending human rights. According to the BBC, Cáceres' mother, mayor, midwife, and nurse, helped Salvadoran refugees in the era of repression in the 1980s. That is why it was not surprising her activism and struggle for the protection of the environment, human rights, and the Lenca community.

Also read: To be an environmentalist in Latin America is synonymous of death?

Cáceres faithfully believed in the defense and protection of the environment, which is why she told the BBC that she and the Lenca indigenous people "consider us custodians of nature, of the land, and especially of the rivers." Moreover, the same media reported that Cáceres would not give up her fight "[because of] the threats of raping and lynching her. Neither threats to attack her mother and kidnap her daughters. Nor the murder of her companions."

Her fight was widely known worldwide and, in fact, it made her won the Goldman Environmental Prize, also known as the "Green Nobel", in 2015. Regrettably, having been awarded with the highest recognition for environmentalists did not prevent her voice from being silenced.

Although the outcome of Cáceres was fatal, her struggle paid off. According to Semana Sostenible, the DESA corporation finally gave up the construction of the hydroelectric plant last year, after the Dutch Development Bank (FMO) and the Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation (FINNFUND) withdrew their support for the project. The withdrawal of the company and its decision not to build the hydroelectric plant are a triumph for Berta Cáceres and all those who accompanied her in opposition to this project. While the victory came late, Cáceres accomplished her mission.

Despite the death of Cáceres, her struggle is still alive and inspires many around the world. Her daughter, Berta Zuñiga Cáceres, from last year leads the COPINH and was the victim of an attack from which he managed to get out alive.


LatinAmerican Post | Marcela Peñaloza
Translated from "Berta Cáceres: La ambientalista que triunfó luego de morir"