When Honduran environmental defender Berta Cáceres was brutally murdered, it was a stark reminder of the perilous work environmental activists face in one of the world’s most violent countries. Although her grassroots movement suffered a tremendous blow following her assassination, Cáceres’s children are committed to keeping her activism alive, chief among them Bertha Isabel Zúñiga Cáceres.
Cáceres relentlessly fought the construction of the Agua Zarca dam in the Gualcarque River, on behalf of the Lenca indigenous community and their sacred territories in Honduras’s southwestern zone. Since 2017, Zúñiga Cáceres, an activist of Lenca descent, has been leading the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (COPINH), the organisation her mother cofounded.
Zúñiga Cáceres, 29, knows she has big shoes to fill. She stopped her graduate studies and instead focused on finding the truth about her mother’s death. Weeks after she assumed COPINH’s leadership, Zúñiga and two of her colleagues were attacked by four men who brandished machetes and rocks in an attempt to veer their vehicle off a cliff. Nevertheless, Zúñiga has pledged to continue to keep fighting for Hondurans’ rights.
She said of heading the organisation: “It has been quite complicated. I had participated in this fight, but never from a management position. The murder of my mother had to do with ending the fight over our territorial defence, so keeping COPINH alive is a responsibility of all communities. The big challenge is that I am a young person for leading the organisation, so there are always doubts from many people outside. However, I have the ability to carry out this fight.”