[News] Honduras: Indigenous Leader Murdered Despite Police Protection

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Mar 3 11:21:00 EST 2016


  Honduras: Indigenous Leader Murdered Despite Police Protection

March 3, 2016

Several unknown assailants broke into Caceres' home early Thursday and 
killed her. She was a prominent Indigenous and social movement leader.

Berta Caceres, the coordinator and co-founder of the Council of 
Indigenous Peoples of Honduras, or COPIHN, was killed by unknown 
assailants early Thursday morning.

teleSUR correspondent in Honduras, Gilda Silvestruci, confirmed that 
Caceres was killed at 1:00 a.m. local time inside her home in La 
Esperanza in the western province of Intibuca.

Caceres was leader of the Lenca Indigenous community and was a 
staunch human rights defender. She won the prestigious Goldman 
Environmental Prize 
in 2015.

“Berta Caceres is one of the leading indigenous activists in Honduras. 
She spent her life fighting in defense of indigenous rights, 
particularly to land and natural resources,” said Karen Spring, 
Honduras-based coordinator of the Honduras Solidarity Network, in a 
statement. “Her death will have a profound impact on the many Lenca 
communities that she worked with, COPINH, the Honduran social movement, 
and all that knew her.”

The attackers waited until the victim went to sleep before breaking into 
her house and assassinated her. Her brother was injured during the 
attack, according to local reports.

Caceres was a key leader in a Lenca struggle against the Agua Zarca Dam, 
a controversial development project in the community of Rio Blanco that 
was put in motion without consent from local communities. She, along 
with other residents, led a successful campaign to halt the construction 
of the dam, but the community has continued to face systematic harassment.

As Adrienne Pine, anthropologist professor at American University, told 
teleSUR, Caceres was a "powerhouse" and a key figure in fighting racist 
and exploitative policies and projects that threatened Indigenous 
rights in the name of corporate profit.

"She was a leader of the popular resistance movement against the 2009 
coup, and never stopped fighting," said Pine, who considered Caceres a 
dear friend. "Even when she had to go underground to hide from the 
illegitimate Honduran government’s attempts to criminalize her activism, 
even when faced with multiple — obviously credible — death threats."

Caceres’s fellow COPINH leader Tomas Garcia was shot dead in a peaceful 
protest in 2013. Caceres also faced a slew of repeated death threats and 
other harassment from state security forces and the company behind the 
dam project. There have also been past reports that hitmen were hired to 
assassinate her.

Last month, COPINH issued an alert noting that repression against the 
Rio Blanco community, including Caceres, had spiked once again. They 
condemned the harassment and threats community members received for 
participating in protests and walking to the Gualcarque River, where 
Agua Zarca planned to build the dam.

The alert also highlighted the fact that Caceres was protected under 
precautionary measures from the Inter-American commission for Human Rights.

"Neither precautionary measures from the IAHRC nor the prestigious 
Goldman Environmental Prize were sufficient to protect her from the 
violence of the U.S.-supported militarized Honduran state, which along 
with the corporations she fought is responsible for her murder," said Pine.

Honduran security minister Julian Pacheco said in a press 
conference Thursday that the police were responsible for protecting 
Caceres and had coordinated measures with her. However, when 
asked, Pacheco did not admit that security forces had "failed" in their 
job to protect the activist.

Since the 2009 coup against democratically-elected President Mel Zelaya, 
the human rights situation in Honduras has deteriorated gravely as human 
rights defenders and social movements have been systematically 

According to Global Witness, Honduras is one of the most dangerous 
and deadly places in the world for land and environmental rights defenders.


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