[News] Honduras: Indigenous Leader Murdered Despite Police Protection
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
“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
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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