In this 27 January 2015 photo released by The Goldman Environmental Prize, Berta Caceres speaks to people near the Gualcarque river located in the Intibuca department of Honduras. Caceres, the COPINH (the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras) and residents of the region have maintained a two year struggle to halt construction on the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric project. On 3 March 2016, a member of her indian council group says at least two assailants broke into her home and shot Caceres to death. She won the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize for her role in fighting the dam project. Photo: Tim Russo / Goldman Environmental Prize

By Freddy Cuevas
3 March 2016

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (Associated Press) – Honduran indigenous leader Berta Caceres, who won the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize for her role in fighting a dam project, was shot dead Thursday by multiple gunmen who broke into her home, authorities said.

Caceres, a 40-year-old Lenca Indian activist, had previously complained of receiving death threats from police, soldiers and local landowners because of her work.

Tomas Membreno, a member of her group, the Indian Council of People's Organizations of Honduras, said at least two assailants broke into a home and shot Caceres to death early Thursday in the town of La Esperanza.

"Honduras has lost a brave and committed social activist," Membreno said in a statement.

The killing appeared to be targeted: A Mexican rights activist at the house was only slightly wounded in the attack, but Caceres's body had four gunshot wounds. Police said they had detained a suspect, but did not identify the person.

Caceres, a mother of four, led opposition to a proposed dam on the Gualcarque river, considered sacred by the Lencas.

Many of the project's backers have largely abandoned building plans. […]

The London-based nonprofit Global Witness calls Honduras "the most dangerous country per capita to be an environmental activist" in recent years, with 101 such advocates slain between 2010 and 2014.

The U.S. ambassador in Honduras, James D. Nealon, issued a statement saying, "We strongly condemn this despicable crime. The United States of America calls for a prompt and thorough investigation into this crime and for the full force of the law to be brought to bear against those found responsible." […]

The website of the Goldman Environmental Prize said Caceres "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."

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director for Amnesty International, said in a statement that "the cowardly killing of Berta is a tragedy that was waiting to happen."

"For years, she had been the victim of a sustained campaign of harassment and threats to stop her from defending the rights of indigenous communities," said Guevara-Rosas. [more]

Gunmen kill Honduran indigenous, environmentalist leader

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