Berta Cáceres – Honduran environmental campaigner
04 March 2016
Award-winning environmentalist Berta Cáceres campaigned against illegal logging and against the Agua Zarca Dam on behalf of the indigenous Lenca people. On 3rd March, she was shot dead a couple of days before her 46th birthday.
Since the 2009 coup, Honduras had seen an increase in major projects that would have impacts on indigenous communities. The government approved hundreds of dam projects to meet demands for energy.
One of these was the Agua Zarca Dam, a joint project of the companies Desarrollos Energéticos and Chinese-owned Sinohydro. The proposed dam would cut off supplies of water, food and medicine for the Lenca people.
Cáceres campaigned against the dam. She lodged complaints with the government and led protests. The campaign reached out to the project’s funders, including the International Finance Corporation (IFC).
In 2013, work on the site came to a halt when Sinohydro pulled out, citing ongoing community resistance, and the IFC withdrew funding over concerns about human rights violations. Berta Cáceres was awarded the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize for her work.
But she continued to receive death threats, and at 1am on 3rd March gunmen entered her home and shot her dead. The police suggested that the incident was an attempted robbery, but her family say that there is no doubt it was because of the struggle against the dam.
Honduras has achieved the unhappy reputation of being the most dangerous country in the world for environmental campaigners. Cáceres’ death is a reminder that resisting unsustainable development is still a life or death activity for some, in an age when there is no excuse or justification for that being the case.