By Claudia Lagos Lira
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Berta Cáceres (44) was a member of the Lenca indigenous group in Honduras. She was a mother, a daughter, a friend, and an environmental rights campaigner internationally awarded for her activism. As a co-founder and leader of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras, Copinh), she led the protest against the Agua Zarca Dam on the Gualcarque River, an hydroelectric project developed by the local company, Desarrollos Energéticos S.A. (DESA). Cáceres was murdered in her home in La Esperanza, in March 2016, while supposedly under state protection after receiving several death threats over her opposition to the project.
Intelligence squads in agreement with corporate power are suspected to be responsible for the crime: Several men have been arrested in connection with the murder, “including one serving and two retired military officers,” as court documents revealed, according to an investigation by The Guardian. Among the civilians charged with murder or attempted murder are Roberto David Castillo and Sergio Rodríguez, the executive president of DESA and the manager of environmental and social issues at DESA at the time Cáceres was killed.
Unfortunately, hers is not an isolated case: Nelson García, also a member of Copinh, was murdered two weeks after Cáceres was killed; a few years before, Tomás García, another Lenca indigenous leader and member of Copinh, was shot dead by the Honduran Army as he participated in a peaceful protest. The killings triggered international investors to drop or stop their funding to the Agua Zarca project, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has been investigating human rights violations in the country, denouncing impunity, and recommending the government to take action.