Honduran activist Nelson García, a member of the same indigenous right group as recently murdered Berta Cáceres, was killed Tuesday after being shot four times.
The murder of García came less than two weeks after environmental activist, Cáceres, was killed by armed men in her home. The two were both members of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous organisations of Honduras (COPINH).
García, 38, was leader of the organisation’s Rio Chiquito community. According to local sources the killing happened after a violent eviction conducted by the police in the town of Rio Lindo in the Cortés state, where around 150 families in the area had been occupying the land for more than two years.
The police arrived on Tuesday morning and allegedly destroyed plantations and houses. At around 2pm García went back to his house, where the killers were waiting for him.
According to El Tiempo, the National Police said that the eviction was peaceful, and that the assassination was carried out by two unknown killers and had no connection to the eviction.
Members of COPINH, however, say that the government is behind the killing of its members, pointing to international interests in Honduras’ land and resources.
Since 2011, COPINH members have been campaigning for their right to free, prior and informed consent in relation to a proposal for a hydroelectric plant that might force them out of their ancestral lands.
According to COPINH member Tomás Gómez, who was interviewed by Radio Mundo Real: “35% of the national territory is given over to transnational corporations”. He also stated that, “We live in an institutional dictatorship in Honduras.”
Since the assassination of Cáceres on 3rd March, human rights groups in Honduras have demanded protection of COPINH members.
In a statement on Facebook COPINH said: “Since the murder of our colleague Berta Cáceres there have been many incidents that demonstrate zero interest by the Honduran State to guarantee our lives and the work we do.”
The murder has also attracted international attention. Amnesty International, human rights groups, and other organisations have expressed their concern and criticised the government role in not protecting the activists. The Dutch Bank FMO announced on Wednesday that it will suspend all activities in Honduras with immediate effect.
Activists across the Americas demand justice for the killings, and protests have been carried out demanding cancellation of hydropower and mining concessions nationwide. On Monday, two activists scaled an art installation in front of the office of the USAID’s information office in Washington D.C. as part of protest calling on the U.S. government agency to cut support with a controversial dam project in Honduras. USAID is supporting the Agua Zarca dam on the Gualcarque River, which was one of the projects opposed by Cáceres.
COPINH has been fighting for over 20 years for better living standards in its community in Río Blanco, in north-western Honduras and members have been victims of threats and harassment for years in connection to their work.