Honduras: fears for activists after Cáceres slaying

Fears are being raised for the security of activists and rights observers in Honduras following the March 3 assassination of indigenous leader Berta Cáceres. Amnesty International has issued an urgent call for Honduran authorities to allow Mexican human rights defender Gustavo Castro Soto, sole witness to the murder, to leave the country. Castro, who works with Amigos de la Tierra México, had been staying at Cáceres' home to witness in the event of an attack, and she is reported to have died in his arms. He was also wounded in the attack, although not gravely. Three days after the slaying, he was detained by authorities at the Tegucigalpa airport while attempting to board a flight for his country. Officials from the Mexican embassy arrived at the airport, and succeeded in securing his relase to embassy staff. He now remains at the embassy in Tegucigalpa, despite demands of Honduran officials that he return to Intibucá department, where the slaying took place, to be deposed. He has already provided testimony and fears for his safety in Honduras, according to Amnesty. (Amnesty International, March 7; La Jornada, March 6)

Oxfam International is meanwhile calling for cancellation of the Agua Zarca dam project that Cáceres was fighting against. The statement demanded the withdrawal pf the project's financial backers—including the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, the Netherlands' Entrepreneurial Development Bank (FMO) and Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation (Finnfund)—as well as German-based contractors Voith-Hydro and Siemens. "The companies' only involvement from now must be to push for justice for Ms Cáceres and her family, and for affected communities," Oxfam said. (Oxfam International, March 8)