Honduran environment and human-rights activist Berta Cáceres, winner of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for her advocacy efforts, was assassinated in her hometown on Thursday.
Cáceres was shot by at least two gunmen who broke down the door of the house where she was staying in La Esperanza, Honduras, the New York Times reported.
The 44-year-old mother of four is best known for her grassroots mobilization of opposition to the Agua Zarca Dam, a hydroelectric project on a river sacred to the indigenous Lenca people that would have cut off their water supply. Through a nonprofit she had co-founded in 1993, called the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), Cáceres succeeded in forcing the withdrawal of Chinese company Sinohydro — the world’s largest dam builder — from the project.
She was awarded the Goldman Prize in 2015 for her efforts in the face of constant death threats, and even the 2013 killing of her colleague Tomás García by a Honduran soldier during a peaceful protest.
Violence against human-rights and environmental campaigners in Honduras has markedly increased since a 2009 coup, and investigations into their murders and assassinations often fall by the wayside.
“We strongly condemn this despicable crime,” James Nealon, U.S. ambassador to Honduras, said in a statement following Cáceres’ death. “The United States of America calls for a prompt and thorough investigation into this crime and for the full force of the law to be brought to bear against those found responsible.”
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