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  • Activists hold photos of slain Honduran environmental activist Berta Caceres.

    Activists hold photos of slain Honduran environmental activist Berta Caceres. | Photo: Reuters

Published 20 May 2017

Honduras has faced global criticism for state violence and was named the most dangerous place in the world for environmental defenders.

In a Friday announcement the government of Honduras said that it was withdrawing its top diplomat to Venezuela in order to hold “consultations” regarding the unfolding political crisis in Venezuela, Reuters reported.

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"The Secretariat for External Relations and International Cooperation informs the national and international public that the government has called back for consultations сharge d'affaires Fernando Suarez Lovo," the communication said.

Right-wing opposition protests in Venezuela calling for the ouster of President Nicolas Maduro have been ongoing for nearly eight weeks. The protests have often turned violent, and have claimed over 50 lives so far.

Honduras' Foreign Minister, Maria Dolores Aguero, said that Honduras “is trying to contribute to a solution for the political crisis,” according to Reuters.

Recently, regional nations represented at Caricom affirmed their support for Venezuela while Venezuelas Foreign Minister expressed the desire to continue and expand regional diplomacy.

Early in May, Honduras was one of eight other Latin American nations with right-wing governments who denounced “excessive use of force” against protesters.

Honduras, however, has also been criticized recently for violent repression of dissent.

Since the 2009 U.S.-backed military coup removed democratic socialist president Manuel Zelaya from power, violence and repression of activists and protest movements have been on the rise under the National Party government of President Juan Orlando Hernandez, and his predecessor Porfirio Lobo Sosa.

Sweeping changes were made to the penal code earlier this year in March, which many journalists and activists have denounced as criminalizing dissent, muzzling the press, and providing protection to abusive state forces.

Under the changed penal code, the definition of anti-government protesting was raised to “acts of terrorism,” and provided legal immunity to military and police forces who use weapons in the line of duty.

According to a report released by Global Witness earlier this year, Honduras is the deadliest country in the world for environmental activists, with at least 123 environmental activists having been killed in the country since the 2009 coup. Threats and intimidation tactics are regularly used against those who stand up to ecologically destructive development projects that primarily impact Indigenous and rural communities.

In early March 2016 the prominent Honduran environmental activist Berta Caceres was assassinated at home, following months of death threats for her work opposing the Agua Zarca dam project.

The right-wing National Party leadership have made controversial development projects such as large-scale agribusiness, mining, and hydroenergy projects a cornerstone of their efforts toward economic growth.

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According to the Global Witness report, there is evidence that state forces have been complicit both directly and indirectly in violence toward activists in Honduras.

“Some people are gunned down by companies’ private security or hired assassins, while others die when police open fire on crowds of demonstrators. On rare occasions the gunman is arrested, but those who order the killings are almost never punished – impunity is the norm ... in the majority of cases the state turns a blind eye to murders and human rights abuses. In the worst cases, it actively aids and abets them,” the report said.

Gang violence in Honduras has also been on the rise. According to the most recent UNODC homicide report in the country, the homicide rate was a staggering 90.4 people per 100,000 people, many of which can be attributed to gang violence.

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