Honduran indigenous rights activist Berta Cáceres was found murdered in her home on Thursday. Co-founder of the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize, and lifetime activist for the native people of Honduras, Cáceres was taken far before her time in a country that has become incredibly dangerous for environmental and indigenous rights activists.
The killing took place around 11:45 local time Wednesday night at Cáceres’s La Esperanza home. The murder occurred barely a week after the activist was threatened, possibly in connection with her opposition to a well-publicized and government-backed hydroelectric power project. Police told local media the murder happened at the end of a botched robbery attempt, but family members and supporters of Cáceres have no doubt the killing was an assassination.
The campaign to stop the project was widely successful, drawing international attention and nearly bringing the entire project to a complete halt. Chinese hydroelectric firm Synohydro pulled out of the project because of Cáceres’s activism, according to The Guardian. Cáceres’s activism was becoming so successful and she was receiving so many threats that the InterAmerican Commission for Human Rights actually stepped in to call on the Honduran government to provide her with protection.
Details about the shooting are vague, adding to the problem of determining motive or culpability. Gunmen broke down her door and stormed into her home, shooting her dead. And that is most of what most people know at the moment. Her security detail wasn’t protecting her at the time she was shot, because she wasn’t in a residence “listed as her home” according to authorities.
But it’s not just a conspiracy theory based on lack of details that’s leading to this being called an assassination, or if it is a lot of very intelligent people are falling for it. Like a United Nations official on the rights of indigenous peoples, who upon hearing the news commented, “it is highly probable that her assassination is linked with her work in protecting the human rights of the Lenca indigenous peoples to their lands and territories”.
In yet another unusual detail, the government’s security minister announced one of the activist’s security guards had been arrested in the killing. And this wouldn’t have been the first assassination in relation to this project: Tomás García, an activist for the same indigenous community and against the same project, was killed by the military during a protest in 2013. And human rights groups are already announcing that other activists in Honduras are at serious risk, particularly those fighting for indigenous communities.
Eventually, even the world bank pulled the funding for the project over human rights concerns. But it cost Cáceres her life, just for a chance to protect the sacred treasures contained within indigenous cultures in the Honduran wilderness. Cáceres will be remembered as an activist, friend of the planet, and fearless revolutionary (the good kind). Watch below to learn more about the campaign she was fighting:[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zh9Sn9oJR94&w=640&h=360]
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