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EIA Mourns the Death of Berta Cáceres and Calls for Action by Honduran Government

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) mourns the death of Berta Cáceres, a courageous and strategic Lenca leader and environmental defender who co-founded the Civic Council of Popular Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH).

Cáceres was murdered today in her hometown, La Esperanza, Intibucá Honduras. She was killed by armed men who forcibly entered the house in which she was staying. Leading up to her murder, Cáceres received multiple death threats, suffered attempted kidnappings, and experienced threats of sexual assault. Such intimidation was in response to her leadership of a vibrant and successful campaign against one of Central America’s biggest hydropower projects, the Agua Zarca dam, which was being was built on Indigenous land in Río Blanco, Honduras.

“Cáceres was one of the world’s leading Indigenous leaders and environmental activists. In the face of constant danger, she successfully defended Indigenous land, protected forest resources and strengthened social movements in her country,” said Annalise Udall Romoser, Latin America Coordinator for EIA’s Forests campaign.

Cáceres won the 2015 Goldman Environmental Award, and in a 2015 interview with the press noted, “We must undertake the struggle in all parts of the world, wherever we may be, because we have no other spare or replacement planet. We have only this one, and we have to take action.”

The Inter-American Commission for Human Rights had granted Cáceres protection measures precautionary measures, and in 2015 again formally called on the Government of Honduras to apply protection. Cáceres had indicated that the government was not complying with the IACHR request.

Most recently, on February 20, 2016 Cáceres, COPINH, and the community of Rio Blanco faced threats and repression as they carried out peaceful action against construction of the dam.

“Cáceres actions in life are a model to environmental campaigners internationally, and her death serves as a painful reminder of the insecurity Latin American Indigenous and environmental leaders face daily,” said Romoser.

According to the non-governmental organization Global Witness, Honduras is the world’s most dangerous country per capita to be an environmental or land defender. At least 101 people were killed in the country between 2010 and 2014, linked to a surge in destructive agriculture, mining, and dam projects.

“EIA mourns the death of Berta Cáceres and calls on the Honduran government to immediately investigate her killing and ensure that the intellectual and material authors of this assassination are brought to Justice. The Honduran state has a chance, now, to begin reversing an entrenched pattern of violence and impunity that marks the country and facilitates illegal use of natural resources,” said Kate Horner, Director of EIA's Forests campaign. “The international community also has an important role to play, providing support and applying pressure to Honduran authorities to act immediately and ensure the murder of Cáceres does not remain in impunity.”

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