Outcry in Honduras after gunmen shoot down Berta Cáceres colleague

Women protest in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, March 16, 2016, after a colleague of Berta Cáceres’, Nelson Garcia, was killed in similar circumstances. (AP Photo/Fernando Antonio)

Just two weeks after the killing of Honduran environmental rights activist Berta Cáceres, her colleague, Nelson García, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen on Tuesday. The killings have sparked outrage from activists, who are now calling for the United States and other governments and corporations to stop providing aid to oppressive government bodies in Honduras.

García, a 39-year-old father of five, was shot four times in the face near his family home in the region of San Francisco de Yojoa. He was an active member of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), the organization that Cáceres co-founded and used to lead.

Tomas Gomez, the coordinator of COPINH, said Garcia was killed following a dispute with local landowners. According to The Guardian, more than 100 police and military officers helped evict dozens of families on Tuesday from land that local politicians say is not theirs.

Around 150 poor families who were members of COPINH had lived on the land at Rio Chiquito for the last two years. TeleSur reports that 20 police officers, 20 soldiers and 20 anti-riot police arrived at 8 a.m. to begin evicting the group. Many of their simple timber houses and crops are now destroyed.

“They said that they would be peaceful and they were not going to throw anyone out of their houses, but at midday they started to tear down the houses, they destroyed the maize, the banana trees and the yuca plantations,” Gomez told TeleSur. “When they finished the eviction, our companion Nelson García went to eat in his house, they were waiting in the zone that the commission of COPINH pass, but it was diverted. García arrived first and they killed him.”

Human rights groups in Honduras have demanded protection for García and other COPINH members since the assassination of the group’s founder, award-winning activist Berta Cáceres, earlier this month. Cáceres was shot dead at her home after years of threats against her life linked to her involvement in several activist movements.

According to Think Progress, activists around the world have denounced the recent killings and called for governments and corporations to pull out of the region. Several international corporations, such as the Netherlands Development Finance Company (FMO), have already responded by declaring a suspension of all activities in the country. FMO announced on Wednesday that it has halted funding for the Agua Zarca project, the proposed hydroelectric dam on the Gualcarque River that García, Cáceres and the rest of COPINH fought to stop.

“FMO is shocked by the news that Nelson García, another COPINH member, has been murdered in Honduras,” the agency said in a statement. “We will not engage in new projects or commitments … no disbursements will be made, including the Agua Zarca project.”

According to TeleSur, two activists protested in front of the office of U.S. government agency USAID, which is still supporting the controversial dam project. Still, under the current circumstances, it’s likely that more corporations and funders will be pulling out of Honduras.

The recent killings have highlighted a human rights crisis in Honduras that has worsened since the military coup was helped instated by the U.S. State Department under Hillary Clinton in 2009. Honduras remains the fourth-most-dangerous country for environmental activists, with 12 recorded deaths in 2014, and is notorious for having one of the highest murder rates in the world.

Share.

About Author

Lisa Nikolau

Lisa Nikolau is a Seattle-based journalist covering health, inequality and human rights in Latin America and worldwide. As a second-generation immigrant from Greece, Lisa’s objective is to encourage awareness of global issues and cultures through her stories. You can contact her at lisa.nikolau@humanosphere.org.