Less than two weeks after Berta Cáceres’ brutal slaying, another member of her activist group was shot and killed after the Honduran government violently evicted his indigenous community from its ancestral land
“They said that they would be peaceful and they were not going to throw anyone out of their houses, but at midday they started to tear down the houses, they destroyed the maize, the banana trees and the yuca plantations,” said Tomas Gomez, a COPINH coordinator.
“When they finished the eviction, our companion Nelson Garcia went to eat in his house, they were waiting in the zone that the commission of COPINH pass, but it was diverted. Garcia arrived first and they killed him,” he added.
Garcia was a leader in the Rio Chiquito community, all of whom were members of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous organizations of Honduras (COPINH), the Indigenous rights group formed by Cáceres. COPINH has been instrumental in preventing the construction of the Agua Zarca megadam.
The megadam is to be built on the Gualcarque River, ancestral territory of the Lenca tribe—of which Cáceres was a member—and a critical water source for the Indigenous people.
Cáceres’ daughter, Bertha Cáceres, only yesterday told the Guardian in an interview that her mother’s death “is not the first assassination, but one of a series of assassinations of human rights defenders.”
“I don’t want another human rights defender to be assassinated,” Bertha said.
Garcia’s death “brings to 14 the number of COPINH members who have been murdered since the group was founded in 1993,” observed fellow activist Beverly Bell.
Honduras is suffering under a brutal regime put in place by a U.S.-backed coup supported by Hillary Clinton during her tenure as secretary of state. Since the coup, the country has maintained the highest murder rate in the world, and many environmental and Indigenous rights activists have been killed under the military junta’s rule.
After news of Garcia’s murder broke, the Europe-based development banks FMO and Finnfund announced that because of the violence and killings they would end their operations in Honduras entirely, which will mean pulling their funding for the Agua Zarca megadam.
TeleSUR reported that USAID, on the other hand, is continuing to fund Agua Zarca in defiance of activists’ protests at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. earlier this week, and despite the continued violence and murders of environmentalists and Indigenous activists in Honduras.
A witness to Cáceres’ murder and fellow Indigenous activist Gustavo Castro was blocked by the Honduran government from returning to Mexico last week, and he is currently still being held by the Mexican Embassy in Tegucigalpa despite international pleas for the government to allow him to safely leave the country, Democracy Now reported.