Guardians of the Río Gualcarque

Victor Galeano



Honduras - After the death of Berta Careers, the people called Lenca keeps facing the conflicts brought by the Hydroelectric plant “Agua Zarca” to the area

Since the project started in 2013, six people have died and the threats towards several defenders of the Gualcarque river continue.

The company Desarrollo Energetico SA (DESA) and members of the Honduras military force are directly involved in the murder of Berta Careers, leading Lenca without any guaranty of security. The 50 concessions of land exploitation on their land would be one of the most devastating fates they could face taking in account was has happened with he project Agua Zarca in Rio Blanco.

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  • The conflict trickles down from legislation passed in 2010, which awarded companies the right to build dozens of hydroelectric dams throughout the country — including territory inhabited by the native Lenca people.

  • Sinohydro’s retreat was a symbolic victory for the Lenca. It suggests that things could be shifting in a positive direction for the people who call this river home.

  • For the Lenca, losing this river — the place they refresh and replenish themselves — would be one of the most devastating fates they could face.

  • In the homes of the Lenca, there is always an image of Berta Cáceres. It’s a small homage to her dogged fight against corruption and the brilliant trail she blazed.
    Each day, the tension between local communities and cont

  • Each day, the tension between local communities and contractors escalates. Meanwhile, families strive for a semblance of normalcy in their everyday lives.

  • In Honduras, ninety-eight per cent of violent crimes remain unsolved.

  • The Rio Gualcarque is not a business opportunity to be seized; it’s a nourishing source for the Lenca and a body of agricultural and spiritual importance.

  • "There are lists of people to be killed. In White River we are the 20 on the list,” said Thomas Membreño, who has taken Cáceres’ place as president of the COPINH. The organization has sworn to protect the integrity of the river. The question is: who will protect them?

  • Berta Cáceres founded the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). Since its inception, she and everyone around her has been harassed, threatened and followed. “We had the order to kill all the members of COPINH in the area,” said Gustavo Olvin, a paid hitman

  • The Lenca voiced their strong disapproval of the proposed dams, known collectively as the Aqua Zarca, but their concerns fell on deaf ears. Political stagnation gave way to violent upheaval, with police detaining protesters by the dozens.

  • "The machete is the identity of the Lenca," said Jose Luis Gomez Dominguez, who is a member of the COPINH

  • 60% of the population is living in extreme poverty. The scarcity of food and the lack of electricity are being used as justification for the construction of the Aqua Zarca dams.

  • Tomas Garcia was the first casualty in the Rio Gualcarque conflict, though his death was not in vain. After the attack, the company behind the contract, Sinohydro, seceded the land back to the locals.

  • With the continued marginalization of the Lenca, and the violent opposition facing them, I worry for the Honduran people. Entire communities are disappearing, family histories lost. Who will tell their stories?