TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Honduran indigenous community leader Bertha Cáceres, who won the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize for her role in fighting a dam project, was murdered Thursday.
Cáceres, an activist for the Lenca indigenous community, had previously complained of receiving death threats from police, soldiers and local landowners because of her work.
Tomás Membreño, a member of her group, the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (Copinh), group said at least two assailants broke into a home and shot Cáceres to death early Thursday in the town of La Esperanza.
Honduras has lost a brave and committed social activist.
-Tomás Membreño. Copinh member.
Caceres, a mother of four, led opposition to a proposed dam on the Gualcarque river, considered sacred by the Lenca people.
Many of the project’s backers have largely abandoned building plans.
President Juan Orlando Hernández’s chief of staff, Jorge Alcerro, said “we reject this abominable crime.”
“The president has instructed all government security forces to use all
means to find the killers,” Alcerro said.
Alcerro said Cáceres was supposed to be receiving special protection because of the death threats, but did not explain why there were no police protecting her when she was killed.
The United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, wrote that “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.”
Human Rights Minister Karla Cueva said “this crime cannot go unpunished.”
The website of the Goldman Environmental Prize said Cáceres “waged a grassroots campaign that successfully pressured the world’s largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam,” which the site said “would cut off the supply of water, food and medicine for hundreds of Lenca people and violate their right to sustainably manage and live off their land.”