Indigenous leader slain in Honduras

Berta Cáceres, a prominent indigenous rights activist in Honduras, was slain by unknown gunmen who invaded her home at La Esperanza, Intibucá department, on March 3—the day before what would have been her 46th birthday. One of her brothers was also injured in the attack. Cáceres, director of the National Council of Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize last year for her campaign to stop the Agua Zarca hydro-electric project in the Río Gualcarque watershed. Authorities said she was killed during an attempted robbery, but her family said that Cáceres was assassinated "because of her struggle." (NPR, ICTMN, La Prensa, Honduras, March 3) The killing sparked angry student protests at National Autonomous University of Honduras in Tegucigalpa, with police using tear-gas. (The Guardian, La Prensa, March 4)

Cáceres had long been an advocate of cultural survival and land recovery efforts for her Lenca people. She was placed under close surveillance by authorities following the 2009 coup in Honduras. She received mounting threats and faced criminal charges as the struggle over the Agua Zarca dam heated up. The charges were later dismissed as baseless, but the protests against the dam were repeatedly met with deadly repression by security forces.