Berta Isabel Caceres Flores 1971-2016
Berta was a Honduran environmental activist, indigenous leader (member of the Lenca) and
co-founder and coordinator of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras
(COPINH). She won the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015, for “a grassroots campaign that
successfully pressured the world’s largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam” at the
In 2006 a joint venture project was begun between a Chinese company, the World Bank’s
International Finance Corporation, and Honduran company Desarrollos Energéticos, S.A.to
construct a series of four hydroelectric dams on the Gualcarque River.
From 2013, Cáceres led COPINH and the local community in a year-long protest at the
construction sites which had breached international law by failing to consult with the local
people on the project. They wanted to prevent the companies from accessing the land. Security
officers regularly removed protesters from the site. On 15 July 2013, the Honduran military
opened fire on the protesters, killing one member of COPINH and injuring three others. The
community reported regular threats and harassment from the company employees, security
guards, and the military. In May 2014, members of COPINH were attacked in two separate
incidents that resulted in two members dead and three seriously injured.
In late 2013, both Sinohydro and the International Finance Corporation withdrew from the
project because of COPINH’s protests. Desarrollos Energéticos continued, however, moving the
construction site to another location to avoid the blockade.
Dozens of regional and international organizations called upon the Honduran government to
stop criminalizing the defense of human rights and to investigate threats against human rights
defenders. There is plenty to read about these incidents.
On the night of 2 March 2016, Cáceres was shot dead in her home by armed intruders. All over
the world, indigenous people are at the forefront of environmental activism and being murdered.
Berta is a compelling choice for this series because my sister married a Honduran and I am very
familiar with the country and it’s beautiful land. I also have several pieces of distinctive Lenca
pottery. My daughter had the good fortune to see Berta speak and it was her suggestion do do a
portrait of her. I chose an image of Berta that is very sweet because I wanted it to contrast with
the knowledge that she was brutally murdered for her activism.