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Another Environmental Activist Killed in Honduras

The killing added to the long list of murdered environmentalists, making Honduras the world's most dangerous country for environmental activism

A view across Tegucigalpa, the town that Lesbia Janeth Urquia lived in, photo: Wikipedia
1 year ago

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — An environmental and indigenous rights activist in Honduras has been killed four months after the slaying of award-winning environmentalist Berta Cáceres stirred international outrage.

The Public Ministry said in a statement Thursday that it had formed a special commission to investigate the killing of 49-year-old Lesbia Yaneth Urquía.

Authorities said Urquía’s body was found Wednesday in a garbage dump in Marcala, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) west of Tegucigalpa. She had disappeared Tuesday afternoon after going out to ride her bicycle.

The Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (CIPONH), the indigenous rights group with which Urquía was affiliated, called her death a “political femicide.”

It said in a statement Wednesday that Urquia was an indigenous leader and an outspoken activist against hydroelectric projects in the La Paz region, particularly the Aurora I dam.

“Lesbia Yaneth was a fervent defender of the community rights and opponent of the granting of concessions and privatization of rivers in La Paz,” the statement said. The group said Urquía’s killing “confirms that a plan has been put in motion to disappear those who defend nature’s common goods.”

Police spokesman Eddie López said Urquía owned three small hotels in Marcala.

The Civic Council group blamed the government for Urquia’s death, saying it has failed to protect her and other indigenous activists.

A picture of murdered environmental rights activist Berta Caceres is seen during a demonstration outside the Embassy of Honduras in Mexico City. Photo: Reuters/Edgard Garrido

A picture of murdered environmental rights activist Berta Cáceres is seen during a demonstration outside the Embassy of Honduras in Mexico City. Photo: Reuters/Edgard Garrido

In Cáceres’ slaying, armed men burst into her home the night of March 3 and shot her four times. She had been complaining of getting threats warning her to stop protests against the Agua Zarca dam on the ancestral lands of her Lenca people. Cáceres was internationally recognized after winning the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize.

In May, authorities announced the arrest of four people in Cáceres’ killing, including a man working on behalf of the company doing the Agua Zarca dam project and an active duty army officer. The director of Honduras’ criminal investigation agency said Cáceres was killed for her environmental activism.

Two weeks after Cáceres’ death, Nelson García, another indigenous environmental activist, was shot to death. He had returned to his home in Rio Chiquito after helping dozens of residents move their belongings when authorities evicted them from lands they had occupied.

According to Global Witness, a London-based environmental organization, Honduras is the world’s most dangerous country for environmentalists. Between 2002 and 2014, 111 environmental activists were killed in Honduras, according to the group.


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