This Environmental Activist Was Killed 2 Years Ago, and She’s Finally Finding Justice

Family, friends, and activists gather in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, to demand justice for Berta Cáceres.
Family, friends, and activists gather in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, to demand justice for Berta Cáceres.
Photo: AP

Two years ago, a group of gunmen stormed into the home of Berta Cáceres in La Esperanza, Honduras, and fatally shot her. The death of the 43-year-old indigenous environmental activist—who won the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015 for her work to block the construction of a dam on a river sacred to her Lenca people—shed an international spotlight on the dangers activists are facing throughout the world.

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Cáceres’ family and friends have been dedicated to finding justice for her death, and the Honduran government might finally be listening.

On March 3, the second anniversary of her death, the Honduran police arrested Roberto David Castillo Mejia, the executive president of Desarrollos Energéticos S.A., the company building the dam Caceres was working to stop. Though eight others have been arrested, Cáceres’ friends and families have never stopped blaming Mejia and his company for her death. He allegedly “was in charge of providing logistics and other resources to one of the perpetrators already prosecuted for the crime,” the Public Ministry told Reuters.

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“This was due to the international pressure to find justice for my mom,” 25-year-old Laura Zuñiga Cáceres, Cáceres’ daughter, told Earther in Spanish. “This has everything to do with the international solidarity and organizations who haven’t stopped working.”

Honduran police arrest Roberto David Castillo March 3, 2018.
Honduran police arrest Roberto David Castillo March 3, 2018.
Photo: AP

When Cáceres was killed, Honduran authorities tried to say it was a robbery, or that her murder was a “crime of passion,” so this shift from the police’s narrative is encouraging for Zuñiga Cáceres—and it shows how far the country’s law enforcement has come in taking this death seriously. “It’s a significant change,” Zuñiga Cáceres said.

However, there’s a lot left to do. Zuñiga Cáceres doesn’t want authorities to stop with Mejia’s arrest. He’s just one executive. An independent report published last year shows the Honduran government has had enough evidence since May 2016 to arrest an entire network of business executives and state officials for Cáceres’ death—something her family has been alleging all along.

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Now, the Honduran government appears to be trying to legitimize itself, in part, by arresting Mejia on the second anniversary of her mother’s death, Zuñiga Cáceres told Earther. “I think they chose that date to demonstrate they are doing something even if it’s late and insufficient,” she said. “And I also think to quiet down our efforts to arrest all these executives.”

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While Cáceres’ death has received a lot of (much deserved) attention, she’s far from the only environmental activist to meet a grim fate. In 2018, nine activists have already been killed, according to The Guardian, which tracks these murders. Last year, 197 environmental defenders were lost to violence—with indigenous communities hit the hardest. The year Cáceres was murdered, 200 others were killed, too.

A group of 24 Latin American and Caribbean nations adopted a legally binding regional agreement Sunday with the hopes to stop these senseless killings. It’ll open up in September for countries to formally sign on, but they’ve at least agreed on a final text for now.

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The agreement creates international pressure to keep environmental activists in their countries safe, and also calls for an independent committee to help hold governments accountable

“We’re going to keep fighting for justice,” Zuñiga Cáceres said, “for Berta Cáceres and for our land.”

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Yessenia Funes is a senior staff writer with Earther. She loves all things environmental justice and dreams of writing children's books.

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DISCUSSION

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Dense non aqueous phase liquid

True story. I knew a geotechnical engineer once who was looking for a borrow source for clay at a dam project in Central America. This was early-mid 1980s. He did the tried and true clay test method of assessing clayeyness by putting it into his mouth. He ended up getting a six to eight foot worm growing inside his intestines. Don’t do that.

It’s always interesting to approach these power projects from the perspective of a trade publication: from 2016...

Fact-finding continues into 22-MW Agua Zarca hydroelectric project

On April 1, the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI), which is involved in financing the Agua Zarca project, announced it would send emissaries on a fact-finding mission to speak with members of communities near the hydroelectric project and also government officials.

The 22-MW Agua Zarca small hydroelectric project located on the Gualcarque River, is estimated to cost more than US$30 million, is planned for Santa Barbara and Intibuca in Honduras.

Voith Hydro out of Brazil was the prime contractor. Big big hydro.

Here’s Honduras energy summary:

The total primary energy offer in Honduras is around 4.62 Mtoe or 53,730.6 GWh[1].The main source of primary[1]energy is petroleum (53%) followed by combustible renewable and waste (44%), and coal (3%). The residential energy consumption[1]is around 47% of the national consumption, of which 86% are provided by biomass, primarily firewood.

Gross electricity generation of the national grid (Sistema Interconectado Nacional –SIN) is currently around 6,539 GWh, of which 53% are petrol power plants, 42% hydro power plants, 1% coal power plants, 1% gas and 3% co-generation.

And everything about Honduras energy: Honduras profile from International Energy Agency