This Women’s Day, Imago Theatre would like to honour the life and contributions of Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores. She was a Honduran environmental, indigenous leader, and activist who was assassinated in her home last week by armed intruders. It is suspected that Berta was targeted for her activism against the Agua Zarca Dam, which would have compromised indigenous access to food, water, and medicine.
Berta was an indigenous mother, wife, teacher, activist, and human rights defender. In 2015 she won the Goldman Environmental Prize for rallying “the indigenous Lenca people of Honduras and wag[ing] a grassroots campaign that successfully pressured the world’s largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam.” (Goldman Prize). Her energy and bravery were palpable in her acceptance speech of the prize.
She had received threats against her life for her activism condemning the Agua Zarca Dam project (on the Gualcareque river), a joint venture supported by Chinese company Sinohydro, the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation and Honduran Desarollos Energéticos (DESA). The development breached international law as the local people had not been consulted about the development. The local indigenous people (Lenca), were concerned that the dam would compromise their access to food, water and medicine. Berta led the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COMPINH – an organization she co-founded) which aims to protect the rights of indigenous people in Honduras, in a year-long protest against the dam development. Protesters were targeted by the Honduran military leading to the death of one COMPINH member and the injury of two others. As a result, Sinohydro and the International Finance Corporation withdrew from the project, but DESA did not, and continued to charge Berta and two other indigenous leaders for “usurpation, coercion and continued damages.”
Berta’s assassination was cold and unjust, but there is no way that Berta’s voice will be silenced. Her murder has sparked violent clashes between students and riot police at the University of Honduras.
As Green Latinos put it:
“The murder of Berta is undoubtedly meant to silence her brave voice, but it will only serve to strengthen and sharpen the voices of current and future advocates that stand alongside her.”