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Gunmen Kill Colleague of Slain Honduran Environmentalist

Nelson Garcia was shot to death days after Berta Cáceres, and activists are blaming the country's government

2 years ago

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Unidentified gunmen killed a colleague of environmentalist leader Berta Cáceres, who was slain almost two weeks ago in similar circumstances, Honduran authorities said Wednesday.

Two men shot Nelson Garcia to death Tuesday after he returned home from helping evicted Indians move their belongings. Police had removed the Indians from land they were squatting on not far from Garcia’s home in the hamlet of Rio Chiquito, 120 miles (200 kilometers) north of Tegucigalpa.

A police statement called the killing an “isolated” act of violence unrelated to the slaying of Cáceres.

Manifestantes sostienen fotografías de la líder indígena hondureña Berta Cáceres fuera del instituto forense hasta donde fueron llevados sus restos en Tegucigalpa, Honduras, el jueves 3 de marzo de 2016. Cáceres, una de las principales líderes indígenas en Centroamérica y luchadora de sus derechos sociales y ambientales, fue asesinada a tiros, un crimen que ha causado indignación en distintas partes del hemisferio. (Foto AP / Fernando Antonio)

Protestors hold masks of activist Berta Cáceres up outside the building where her remains were sent. Photo: Associated Press/Fernando Antonio

But the organization that both Cáceres and Garcia belonged to described Garcia’s death as part of “the government’s constant harassment” of Indian groups. Both activists were Lenca Indians and belonged to the Indian Council of People’s Organizations of Honduras.

The council said in a statement that “repression, intimidation and threats against colleagues who are fighting to recover lands to plant and preserve nature have worsened in recent days.”

There are about 400,000 Lencas in Honduras and neighboring El Salvador.

Cáceres won the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize for her role in fighting a dam project on a river that the Lencas consider sacred.

The Dutch development bank, known as FMO, announced Wednesday that it is suspending its operations in Honduras because of the killings. The bank finances about $86 million worth of projects in Honduras.

“Given the current situation, with ongoing violence, FMO decided to suspend all activities in Honduras, effective immediately,” the bank wrote in a statement. “This means that we will not engage in new projects or commitments and that no disbursements will be made, including the Agua Zarca project,” which Cáceres opposed.

The body of slain Honduran Indian leader and environmentalist Berta Caceres is lowered from a vehicle at the coroners office in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Thursday, March 3, 2016. Caceres, a Lenca Indian activist who won the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize for her role in fighting a dam project, had previously complained of receiving death threats from police, soldiers and local landowners because of her work. (AP Photo/Fernando Antonio)

The body of slain Honduran Indian leader and environmentalist Berta Caceres is lowered from a vehicle at the coroners office in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Photo: Associated Press/Fernando Antonio

“We have called upon the Honduran government to do anything in their power to stop the ongoing violence and killings in their country,” the bank’s statement said.

The U.S. Embassy in Honduras said in a statement that “on behalf of the people and Government of the United States, we condemn the murder of civil society activist Nelson Garcia yesterday. Coming so close to the murder of his colleague Berta Cáceres, his death is cause for particular concern.”

“We expect the Government of Honduras will fulfill its commitment to lead a thorough and fair investigation and bring anyone connected to his murder to justice,” the statement added.

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