Fellow Honduran activist Nelson García murdered days after Berta Cáceres – Slain activist’s daughter says U.S. military aid fuels repression and violencePosted by Jim at Saturday, March 19, 2016
[It appears that U.S.-sponsored death squads have returned to Honduras, this time targeting environmental and indigenous-rights activists. – Des]
By Nina Lakhani
16 March 2016
MEXICO CITY (The Guardian) – Another indigenous activist has been murdered in Honduras amid an escalating wave of repression against the relatives and colleagues of renowned campaigner Berta Cáceres, who was murdered less than two weeks ago.
Nelson García, 38, an active member of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (Copinh) was killed on Tuesday after a violent eviction carried out by Honduran security forces in a nearby Lenca indigenous community.
García was shot dead in the face by unidentified gunmen as he returned to his family home in Río Lindo, north-west Honduras – about 100 miles south of La Esperanza where Cáceres was murdered at home on 3 March.
García spent the morning with the Río Chiquito community where more than one hundred police and military officers helped evict dozens of families from land which local politicians claim doesn’t belong to them. Their simple timber houses and crops were destroyed using heavy machinery yesterday morning, according to Copinh.
Cáceres co-founded Copinh 22 years ago amid growing threats to Lenca territory from loggers, farmers and state-sponsored projects.
Last year, the activist won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for her opposition to one of the region’s biggest hydroelectric projects, a cascade of four dams in the Gualcarque river basin, including the Agua Zarca dam. The river is sacred to the Lenca people and the proposed dam would cut-off food and medicine supplies to nearby communities.
Cáceres was shot dead at her home after suffering years of intimidation and threats against her life linked to her activism. […]
According to Copinh, eight of the organization’s nine coordinators in La Esperanza have since been interrogated for up to 12 hours at a time on numerous occasions without being properly informed of the reasons for their questioning. Aureliano Molina, one of the group’s leaders, was detained hours after the killing and released 48 hours later without charges. A few days later, several unidentified men driving cars without number plates circled Molina’s home and tried to gain entry to conduct an illegal search. [more]
18 March 2016 (Democracy Now!) – Another indigenous environmentalist has been murdered in Honduras, less than two weeks after the assassination of renowned activist Berta Cáceres. Nelson García was shot to death Tuesday after returning home from helping indigenous people who had been displaced in a mass eviction by Honduran security forces. García was a member of COPINH, the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, co-founded by Berta Cáceres, who won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize last year for her decade-long fight against the Agua Zarca Dam, a project planned along a river sacred to the indigenous Lenca people. She was shot to death at her home on March 3. On Thursday, thousands converged in Tegucigalpa for the start of a mobilization to demand justice for Berta Cáceres and an end to what they say is a culture of repression and impunity linked to the Honduran government’s support for corporate interests. At the same time, hundreds of people, most of them women, gathered outside the Honduran Mission to the United Nations chanting "Berta no se murió; se multiplicó – Berta didn’t die; she multiplied." We speak with Cáceres’s daughter, Bertha Zúniga Cáceres, and with Lilian Esperanza López Benítez, the financial coordinator of COPINH.
AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show in Honduras, where another indigenous environmentalist has been murdered, less than two weeks after the killing of renowned activist Berta Cáceres. Nelson García was shot to death Tuesday after returning home from helping indigenous people who had been displaced in a mass eviction by Honduran security forces. García was a member of COPINH, the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, co-founded by Berta Cáceres. She won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize last year for her decade-long fight against the Agua Zarca Dam, a project planned along a river sacred to the indigenous Lenca people. She was shot to death at her home on March 3rd. In a statement, Honduran police said the two killings were unrelated. They called Nelson García’s murder a, quote, "isolated" act.
But Honduran activists disagree. On Thursday, thousands converged in Tegucigalpa for the start of a mobilization to demand justice for Berta Cáceres and an end to what they say is a culture of repression and impunity linked to the Honduran government’s support for corporate interests. Ten buses of indigenous and black Hondurans were reportedly stopped en route to the capital. Activists said some began walking toward Tegucigalpa after being forced to leave the buses.
In the capital, demonstrators walked past the Mexican Embassy to show solidarity with Gustavo Castro Soto, the sole witness to Berta Cáceres’s murder, who remains inside the embassy. After Cáceres died in his arms at her home, Castro was interrogated and blocked from leaving Honduras to return to his native Mexico, even though he was accompanied by the Mexican ambassador and shot twice himself. One of Berta Cáceres’ daughters, Olivia, spoke to Democracy Now! at the mobilization in Tegucigalpa. […]
BERTHA ZÚNIGA CÁCERES: [translated] Well, as soon as I found out about her assassination, I immediately thought, "Who was really behind this?" because we knew of the recurrent threats that she faced. And in the last week, there had been an escalation in threats. And this happened in the context of the struggle against this hydroelectric dam known as Agua Zarca. We’ve always feared for her safety and for her life, because we knew that these threats included participation by or also came from the repressive forces in Honduras, that the police and the military had been safeguarding the facilities of the hydroelectric plant. And rather than seeing how to protect human rights, they’re always trying to figure out how to protect the interests of the private company. So we knew that there were big interests that wanted to bring an end to her life and the struggle of the organization, because the struggle was not only hers, it was the struggle of an entire people and also a struggle of the Honduran social movement.
AMY GOODMAN: Just hours before Nelson García was assassinated—and this was just a few days ago, and this is after Berta’s assassination—more than 60 members of Congress signed a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew calling for a review of U.S. security aid to Honduras and an independent investigation into the killing of Berta Cáceres. They wrote in part, quote, "We are profoundly saddened and angered by the brutal assassination of Berta Cáceres, and appalled by our government’s continuous assistance to Honduran security forces, so widely documented to be corrupt and dangerous." Where does that U.S. military aid go, Bertita?
BERTHA ZÚNIGA CÁCERES: [translated] I think that the military aid is like the classic form of aid that the United States has given to the Latin American region. In Honduras, it was bolstered as of the 2009 coup d’état, which saw an increase in the national budget earmarked to security. But at the same time, they created special forces, supposedly, to watch out for security in the country. But quite to the contrary, what has happened has been an increase in insecurity, violence and repression, very much directed against the Honduran social movement. So I believe that the role of the security forces is extremely important when one looks at the barriers being put up to the Honduran social movement and to the exercise of human rights. We’re also concerned that this is continuing, this cooperation, because it has shown that these security forces do not serve the purpose for which they were supposedly created. For the indigenous peoples, in particular, the presence of armed forces represents a great danger, because they have a different life of harmony, and this merely steps up conflicts within the communities. [more]