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Honduras activists need protection after land rights leader's killing - campaigners

by Chris Arsenault | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 3 March 2016 19:02 GMT

Environmental and indigenous rights leader Berta Caceres, who was shot dead in her native Honduras on Thursday, is pictured in a handout from the Goldman Environmental Prize, an award she won in 2015.

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Land rights campaigner Berta Caceres gunned down in her home after receiving death threats

TORONTO, March 3 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Honduras must do more to protect land rights activists, campaign groups said, after the killing of an award-winning indigenous environmentalist on Thursday.

Berta Caceres, winner of the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize, was shot dead by two men at her home, Honduran security minister Julian Pacheco said,condemning the attack.

One person, a security guard at the house, was detained in connection with the killing in La Esperanza,112 miles (180 kilometers) west of the capital Tegucigalpa, Pacheco told local media.

Threats against Caceres and other activists had increased after protests against the construction of the $50 million Agua Zarca dam that threatened to displace hundreds of Indians.

Caceres, a 43-year-old teacher, had been granted emergency protection measures by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, but she had said the Honduran government was not implementing the procedures.

"The Honduran state must act immediately to find Berta's killers and protect her family and colleagues," Billy Kyte, a campaigner with Global Witness said in a statement.

"Indigenous people are being killed in alarming numbers simply for defending rights to their land."

With at least 101 activists murdered since 2010, Honduras is the world's most dangerous country to be a land rights or environmental campaigner, Global Witness said.

The Central American country of 8.5 million people has seen a surge in large resource projects including dams, mines and agricultural plantations, and this growth is linked to killings of activists, campaigners said.

Of all the land rights activists murdered worldwide, nearly three-quarters of the deaths were in Central and South America, Global Witness reported in 2014, with indigenous people disproportionately targeted.

Pacheco told reporters a special team of criminal investigators had been dispatched from Tegucigalpa as part of the investigation into Caceres' death.

U.S. ambassador to Honduras James Nealon took to Twitter to offer American assistance and resources to "help bring these criminals to justice" for the "abhorrent crime against indigenous leader Berta Caceres".

(Reporting By Chris Arsenault; Additional reporting from Anastasia Moloney in Bogota; Editing by Astrid Zweynert. Please add:; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)

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