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Another flower in the garden of Environmental Defenders was crushed by the dark forces committed to destroying our common home and a sustainable future.
Berta Cáceres, the gallant fighter for human rights and the environment in her native Honduras, fell victim to the business interests behind her assassins.
On March 2nd, an armed squad of armed men burst into her modest home in La Esperanza and riddled her with bullets. While local police are referring to the murder as an event that occurred during an armed robbery, Berta’s family has no doubt that she was the victim of a targeted assassination.
Berta was a member of the Lenca, the indigenous people who live in the southwestern part of Honduras and eastern El Salvador. Her exemplary work, giving voice to the most vulnerable people of that part of the globe, brought her threats and persecution for many years. Her recent opposition to the hydroelectric dam in Rio Blanco ramped up those threats. She led an uneven fight against the interests of the Honduran company, Desarrollos Energeticos, and the Chinese Sinohydro Corporation, the largest hydropower construction company in the world, among other Dutch, Finnish and German industrial giants. However, the high-profile opposition campaign had garnered results. It was instrumental in causing the withdrawal of China’s Synohidro and the World Bank’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation, from the project.
The government of Honduras has been willing to sell the rights to the rivers and many other natural resources to anyone willing to pay the best price…actively violating the human rights of the people to have access to water, the essence of life. Crucial in this dispute, is the involvement of the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, which is subsidized by the U.S. government, along with other countries.
Berta knew her life and family were in danger. They were forced to leave their country for a while. Despite the risks to her life, she never gave up and urged others to fight as well. She was the recipient in 2015 of one of the most distinguished awards in ecology, the Goldman Environment Prize, for her successful battle against the projected Agua Zarca Dam.
In an interview with The Guardian at the time of her award, Cáceres stated, “We must undertake the struggle in all parts of the world, wherever we may be, because we have no other spare or replacement planet. We have only this one, and we have to take action.”
At 43 years old, she now joins the ever-growing pantheon of brave souls and fallen heroes who offered the best of themselves for the betterment of humanity and our besieged planet.
We at NAPF pay our humble respects to this distinguished woman and express our deepest condolences to her family and the people who love her. The world is a poorer place for her absence.
Ruben Arvizu is Director for Latin America of Nuclear Age Peace Foundation