Another environmental activist slain in Honduras

Another indigenous leader has been assassinated in Honduras, with local activists reporting July 6 that Lesbia Yaneth Urquía was found dead near a municipal dump with severe head trauma. Urquía, 49 and a mother of three, was a local coordinator of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) in Marcala, La Paz department, where she was slain. COPINH, which leads local efforts for land recovery and against destructive development projects, has seen a string of assassinations of its leaders this year—starting with that of co-founder Berta Cáceres in March. Said COPINH in a statement: "The death of Lesbia Yaneth is a political feminicide, and an attempt to silence the voice of those brave women who are courageously defending their rights and opposing the patriarchal, racist and capitalist system of their society."

In June, a whistleblower within the Honduran armed forces revealed that Cáceres had been on a secret "kill list" that US-trained elite units maintain to target environmental and indigenous activists in the country. First Sgt. Rodrigo Cruz, 20, said Cáceres’s name appeared on a list given to a military police unit in the Inter-institutional National Security Force (FUSINA), which last year received training from 300 US Marines and FBI agents.

Lists featuring the names and photographs of dozens of social and environmental activists were given to two elite units, with orders to eliminate each target, according to Cruz (a pseudonym). He said his unit commander, a 24-year-old lieutenant, deserted rather than comply with a kill order. Cruz followed suit, and fled the country. Several other members of the unit have disappeared and are feared dead. Cruz told The Guardian: "If I went home, they'd kill me. Ten of my former colleagues are missing. I'm 100% certain that Berta Cáceres was killed by the army." (Common Dreams, COPINH, July 7)