Honduran Environmental Activist Berta Cáceres Murdered

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Berta Cáceres, an environmental activist and member of the Lenca indigenous people of Honduras, was assassinated in the home of a friend at the end of February. She had been staying there due to recent threats against her life. She was 44 and a mother of four. Two of her children had already left Honduras for their own safety.

Cáceres was a long time activist, and most recently was working to oppose the Agura Zarca Dam project, one of the largest hydroelectric plants in Central America, and one which threatens the Gualcarque River and the Lenca people. That dam was being built in without having followed rules Honduras had agreed to follow in order to protect indigenous peoples and their land. As Cáceres and others mobilized support against the dam, the builders responded by militarizing the region, and in February she and others were confronted by the Honduran army, dam workers, and local law enforcement and detained.

Honduras has a poor record for environmental and indigenous rights issues, and has recently been judged responsible for numerous violations by the United Nations Inter-American Court of Human Rights. It was following this judgment that the country revised rules for land development which should have prevented the Agura Zarca Dam project in the first place.

Berta Cáceres is not alone in having been assassinated for her activism. A close friend, Thomás Garcia was killed in 2013, and in fact hundreds of activists are murdered each year across the globe because of their work. Human rights groups which track such information report that 116 people were killed in 2014 alone, 40% of whom belonged to indigenous groups. Human rights experts believe that these number are probably low, as many such killings take place out of the way and in hard to reach locales, meaning that there are likely more, unreported, slayings.