Tributes are being paid across the world, today, for Honduran indigenous and environmental right campaigner, Berta Cáceres following her murder at her home in La Esperanza.
Cáceres, who is a member of the Lenca indigenous group, co-founded the Council of Indigenous Peoples of Honduras (Copinh).
Last year, she was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for her opposition to one of Central America’s biggest hydropower projects, the Agua Zarca cascade of four giant dams in the Gualcarque river basin.
The campaign has successfully held up the project and pressure the world’s largest dam builder to pull out of the project.
John Goldman, President of the Goldman Environmental Foundation expressed his saddened at Cáceres calling her a “fearless environmental hero”, and praising her “amazing strength and conviction.”
“We mourn the loss of an inspirational leader, and will honour her life’s work by continuing to highlight the courageous work of Goldman Prize winners like Berta,” he said. “She built an incredible community of grassroots activists in Honduras, who will carry on the campaign she fought and died for.”
Meanwhile a statement from Oxfam International “laments the loss of such an inspiring woman, mother, wife, activist and human rights defender.
Standing up against powerful interests is a dangerous proposition. Berta and other Indigenous leaders have had their lives repeatedly threatened, but courageously kept up, and keep up their work. Honduran authorities have continuously been pressured by international agencies and governments to guarantee the safety of human rights activists, but today we see the price of their failure to act.
Terry Odendahl, President and CEO of Global Greengrants Fund, of which Cáceres was a grantee said: I am deeply saddened about the death of my friend and courageous leader Berta Cáceres.”
“Her assassination is another horrific example of the violence against environmental activists and the criminalisation of people, particularly women and indigenous peoples, around the world who are fighting to protect human and environmental rights,” he continued.
Cáceres was shot dead by gunmen at her home in La Esperanza at around 1am on Thursday (3 March). It is not clear how many gunman – who escaped without being identified – took part in the attack.
Police told local media the killing occurred during an attempted robbery, but Cáceres’ family has refuted the claims, saying they had no doubt that the killing was promoted by her high profile environmental campaigns.
The killing comes barely a week after Cáceres and others were threatened following a Copinh march in Río Blanco.
“Berta was a tireless activist who had faced numerous death threats over the years,” said Global Greengrants Board-member, Regan Pritzker. “Words cannot express the sadness I feel to live in a world where hate and fear destroy beauty.”
Her death has prompted international outrage at the murderous treatment of campaigners in Honduras and widespread calls for their protection.
Jagoda Munic, chair of Friends of the Earth International said:
This is a sad day for Honduras and the world. Given the situation in Honduras, in which indigenous, environmental and human right activists like Berta Cáceres are targeted by government and corporate security forces alike, international pressure is needed to bring the murderers to justice and protect those brave enough to speak out on behalf of their fellow citizens and the environment.”
Honduras has been called the deadliest place for environmental activist by a report from UK-based NGO Global Witness.
Twelve activists were killed in 2014 alone for their effort to defend land and protect the environment, found the report, more per capita than any other country.
VIDEO: Berta Cáceres accepts the Goldman Prize 2015