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  • Lencan leader and environmental activist Berta Caceres

    Lencan leader and environmental activist Berta Caceres | Photo: Goldman Environmental Prize

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A 22-year-old suspect was arrested during an investigation into other crimes in the coastal Honduran town of La Ceiba.

Honduran authorities announced on Wednesday a new arrest in the ongoing investigation into the murder of world-renowned Indigenous leader and environmental activist Berta Caceres.

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According to the Honduran attorney general’s office, police arrested Oscar Aroldo Torres, 22, in the coastal Honduran town of La Ceiba, in the course of another investigation.

Only after his initial arrest did police realize that Torres was also wanted on charges related to the March 3, 2016, murder of the beloved Lencan Indigenous leader.

The arrest is the ninth in a long and controversial investigation into Caceres’ murder.

 

In January, Mexican police arrested a former Honduran soldier, Henry Javier Hernandez Rodriguez, after a multi-national search and deported him to face charges in Honduras.

The only eyewitness to the murder, Mexican environmentalist Gustavo Castro — who was staying with Caceres on the night several armed men broke into the house, shooting her three times — has complained repeatedly that Honduran authorities have not sought out his help in identifying suspects, including Hernandez.

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Honduras Is the Deadliest Country for Environmental Activists

Caceres gained prominence for leading the indigenous Lenca people in a struggle against the Agua Zarca Dam, a controversial development project in the community of Rio Blanco that was put in motion without consent from local communities.

For her work, Caceres was awarded the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize Caceres, and suffered dozens of death threats, reportedly making it to the top of a U.S.-backed paramilitary hit list leading up to her assassination.

Gustavo Castro and Caceres’s family claim that the Honduran company Desarrollos Energeticos SA, better known as DESA, and the Honduran government hired contract killers to murder activists like her.

According to a Jan. 2017 report by human and environmental rights NGO Global Witness, Honduras is the deadliest country in the world for environmental activists, with over 120 land and water defenders murdered since 2017, often with the complicity of U.S. interests which fund the Honduran state forces which are behind some of the worst attacks.

 
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