Thursday 29 September 2016

Murdered indigenous leader Berta Caceres buried in Honduras

Published 06/03/2016 | 05:41

Men carry a coffin containing the body of Berta Caceres, in Tegucigalpa (AP)
Men carry a coffin containing the body of Berta Caceres, in Tegucigalpa (AP)

A large crowd in Honduras accompanied the body of Berta Caceres to its final resting place amid calls for justice over the killing of the indigenous leader and environmental activist.

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Many of those carrying her coffin on their shoulders through the dusty streets of La Esperanza were Lenca indigenous people for whose rights she had fought.

Drummers pounded out Afro-Honduran rhythms as mourners chanted "the struggle goes on and on" and "Berta Caceres is present, today and forever".

The crowd marched more than six miles from her mother's home to a chapel where a Mass was celebrated in her memory, and to the cemetery in La Esperanza.

Her four daughters and her ex-husband were among the procession.

"Forgive me, Bertita," said Salvador Zuniga, Ms Caceres' former husband. "Forgive me for not understanding your greatness."

The previous evening, Austra Flores said she hoped her daughter's murder will not go unpunished and that international attention will pressure Honduran authorities to find those responsible.

Ms Caceres, 45, who was awarded the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize for her role in fighting a dam project, had complained of death threats from police, the army and landowners' groups.

She was murdered early on Thursday by gunmen who broke into her home and shot her four times.

"My mother died because she defended the land and rivers of her country," her daughter Olivia said.

Mexican human rights activist Gustavo Castro Soto was also wounded in the attack.

After gunfire grazed his cheek and left hand, he pretended to be dead as he lay on the floor so the assailants would not finish him off. He is considered a protected witness whose testimony is key to solving the killing.

The authorities say two suspects have been detained for questioning, including a neighbourhood private security guard. They have not revealed what role they may have played in the killing.

President Juan Orlando Hernandez says the authorities are investigating Ms Caceres' murder with assistance from the United States.

"We have asked for a rapid and exhaustive investigation so the full weight of the law is applied to those responsible," US ambassador James Nealon told reporters at the funeral.

Foreign minister Arturo Corrales told diplomats on Friday that justice would be done, saying that "there is abundant information to solve the case".

According to the Goldman Environmental Prize, Ms Caceres "waged a grassroots campaign that successfully pressured the world's largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam".

It said the project threatened to "cut off the supply of water, food and medicine for hundreds of Lenca people and violate their right to sustainably manage and live off their land".

Press Association

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