Berta Cáceres, an indigenous Lenca woman, co-founded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) in 1993 to address the growing threats posed to Lenca communities by illegal logging, fight for their territorial rights and improve their livelihoods.
In the aftermath of the U.S.-favored military coup in 2009 that ousted the reformist President Zelaya, huge corporate megaprojects were spawned in resource-rich Honduras, covering 30 percent of the country. Imperialist-financed DESA, without the consent of the Lenca people, began the giant Agua Zarca Dam project across the sacred Gualcarque River. Cáceres led a popular campaign against the dam.
“In April 2013, Cáceres organized a road blockade to prevent DESA’s access to the dam site. Using a carefully organized system of alerts to keep everyone in the loop, the Lenca people maintained a heavy but peaceful presence, rotating out friends and family members for weeks at a time. For well over a year, the blockade withstood multiple eviction attempts and violent attacks from militarized security contractors and the Honduran armed forces… To date, construction on the project has effectively come to a halt.” In 2015, Berta Cáceres was awarded the Goldman Prize for her environmental and pro-people activism…
Bertita Zúñiga, who is Berta Cáceres’ daughter, told a reporter that the U.S. policies ignored the Honduran public following the coup. This effectively legitimized an illegal takeover within the government. She said, “Since then, we’ve lived with the militarization of our society, serious violence and the criminalization of social protest. My mum wanted to build a better Honduras, but that hope died with the coup.”