News Release

Cáceres, Threatened Honduran, Wins Biggest Enviro Award


Berta Cáceres

The Guardian reports today in “Honduran indigenous rights campaigner wins Goldman prize” that “The odds of survival, let alone success, could hardly be more stacked against Berta Cáceres, the Honduran indigenous rights campaigner who has been declared the winner of this year’s Goldman Environmental Prize. [Note: Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández is in Washington, D.C. and will be speaking — along with Secretary of State John Kerry, Chris Christie and others — at a conference Tuesday. He will actually be interviewed by former Director of National Intelligence and ambassador to Honduras John Negroponte.]

“Working in the most murderous country in the world for environmental activists, the mother of four is facing down one of Central America’s biggest hydropower projects, powerful landowners, a U.S.-funded police force, and a mercenary army of private security guards.

“She has received threats of rape and death, been followed, and several of her supporters have been killed, yet those suspected of such wrongdoings have walked free while Cáceres has been forced into hiding and courts have twice issued warrants for her arrest.

“The Goldman prize — the world’s leading environmental award — is a recognition for the courage she has shown in a long and — so far — effective battle to stop construction of the Agua Zarca cascade of four giant dams in the Gualcarque river basin.

“The project — which is being built by local firm Desa with the backing of international engineering and finance companies — would choke the main source of irrigation and drinking water for the community. …

“In 2013, China’s Sinohydro — the largest dam builder in the world — backed out of the Agua Zarca project, saying it was concerned about ‘serious conflicts’ and ‘controversial land acquisition and invasion’ by its local partner. International Rivers and Friends of the Earth are calling upon a German company, Voith Hydro, to end all involvement in the scheme, which has yet to begin construction.”

BEVERLY BELL, bev.otherworlds at
Bell is coordinator of the group Other Worlds and associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. For 15 years, Bell has been a close collaborator with Cáceres’ and the group she coordinates, the National Council of Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (better known by its Spanish acronym COPINH).

She said today: “Berta likes to say that Honduras is known only for having been a Contra base and for Hurricane Mitch. But that country also hosts a powerful social movement which has taken on unaccountable government, multinational corporations and oligarchy run amok, and U.S. military domination — the U.S. has numerous bases there and even sent down Marines last week. Berta has led COPINH, which she founded in 1993, to become one of the most effective players in that social movement. COPINH — led by Lenca indigenous people, including Berta — has, furthermore, championed the indigenous struggle, winning collective land title and then throwing out many a dam and logging company from those lands.”

PORFIRO QUINTANO, porfirio31 at
Quintano has known Cáceres since high school in the 1980s. He now lives in the U.S., but has continued his involvement in Honduran movements. He said today: “Mining and other corporations go to Honduras and take the resources. The government is corrupt and they do what they want.”