Just one day shy of her 43rd birthday, Honduran indigenous rights activist Berta Cáceres was murdered. NPR reports that in the past, she successfully stopped the building of the Agua Zarca Dam that would have cut off her community, the Lenca indigenous group, from water and food.
Her next challenge was stopping a company from building a hydroelectric dam on the Gualcarque River. The dam would affect the lives of the Rio Blanco community, which is why Cáceres continued to fight, despite having received death threats for opposing the project less than a week ago.
Police has said that she was killed during an attempted robbery, but her mother and her four children say it is because of Cáceres’ activism. According to The Guardian, there have been varied reports about what happened, including that police officers failed to protect her as they were supposed to. Some have said there were two killers, but others have said they were up to 11.
“I have no doubt that she has been killed because of her struggle and that soldiers and people from the dam are responsible, I am sure of that. I hold the government responsible,” her 84-year-old mother said.
Backing Cáceres’ family, the Council of Indigenous Peoples of Honduras (Copinh) has demanded that an independent international investigation be conducted. Three years ago, a fellow Copinh member Tomás García was killed by military while protesting, and Cáceres had been vocal about other threats she had received.
Hoping it would be safer, Cáceres moved to Las Esperanza. According to Vice, police shifted the blame onto her by saying that she didn’t inform them of her new home. “We protected her in her prior residence in Villa El Calvario,” local police commissioner Sergio Paz Bueso said. “This home, however, had not been reported by her.”
In 2015, she was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for her activism. On the website, her accomplishments were outlined, but so were the dangers of being a prominent voice for change. “Her murder would not surprise her colleagues, who keep a eulogy–but hope to never have to use it,” the site wrote last year.
In honor of Cáceres’ courage, we’re looking back at four quotes from her 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize speech:
“We should then build a society that is capable of co-existing in a just manner, in a dignified manner, and in a way that protects life.”
“Let us come together and move forward with hope as we defend and care for the Earth and its spirits.”