09 March 2016

Indigenous leaders murdered in Columbia and Honduras

BOGOTA – An indigenous leader in the southwestern province of Cauca died of wounds received during what appears to have been an attempted robbery, Colombian authorities said Thursday.

William Alexander Oime Alarcon, governor of the Rio Blanco indigenous reserve, was shot Wednesday in downtown Popayan, the provincial capital, by a pair of unidentified assailants traveling on a motorcycle.

The victim died hours later at San Jose Hospital in Popayan.

The shooting was denounced on Wednesday by the office of Colombia’s national ombudsman, which described Oime Alarcon as an indigenous leader known for his opposition to illegal mining in Cauca.

Oime Alarcon, 43, was carrying 20 million pesos ($6,250) in cash that he had just withdrawn from a bank, police said, suggesting the motive for the assault was robbery.


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Remembering Berta Cáceres, Assassinated Honduras Indigenous & Environmental Leader

TEGUCIGALPA – Berta Caceres, a Honduran indigenous leader who led demonstrations against hydroelectric projects in her homeland, was killed early Thursday at her residence in the western city of La Esperanza, a human rights activist said.

Two armed men apparently arrived at Caceres’ house at around 1:00 a.m. and shot her dead, Hugo Maldonado, the president of the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras, or Codeh, told reporters.

As a founder and coordinator of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, or Copinh, Caceres headed up demonstrations against hydroelectric projects in the western part of the Central American country that she said threatened natural resources.

Caceres, a Lenca Indian and mother of four, was awarded the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize in recognition of her grassroots efforts to protect natural resources in western Honduras.

She also led protests against the June 28, 2009, coup that ousted then-President Manuel Zelaya.

The activist had denounced death threats against her and members of her family on several occasions.

One of her brothers, Gustavo Caceres, urged President Juan Orlando Hernandez to ensure that the homicide would not merely add to the country’s violent crime statistics, calling for the murder to be cleared up and the perpetrators punished.

He reminded journalists that his sister had been killed despite measures put in place to protect her.

Caceres always stood up for what she believed in but never used a weapon to protest because “her weapon was her voice” in denouncing human rights violations and the destruction of natural resources, he added.

Violent crime claims an average of 13 lives per day in Honduras, according to official figures.

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