Honduras slipping back into authoritarian rule
Honduras has become one of the world’s most dangerous countries for activists. In the early hours of 3 March yet another prominent activist was murdered. Indigenous leader and human rights and environmental activist Bertha Cáceres was shot by unknown gunmen in her own house.
Between 2010 and 2014, 101 activists were murdered in Honduras reports Global Witness. In 2015, Cáceres was awarded the Goldman Environment Prize for her opposition to one of Central America’s biggest hydropower projects, the Agua Zarca cascade of four giant dams in the Gualcarque river basin.
-They follow me. They threaten to kill me, to kidnap me, they threaten my family. That is what we face, she said as she received the award.
Bleak history for human rights activists
Honduras is in a deep crisis caused by a slip towards military dictatorship, criminal infiltration of the state and society and neoliberal economic measures exacerbating the already unprecedented levels of poverty.
The country has a bleak history when it comes to human rights and security. Bertha Cáceres is one of many victims in a country plagued by extreme violence. Human rights activists, journalists and others are subject to serious harassment and death threats. The murder statistics have been alarmingly high for the past ten years. According to the UN, the murder rate in Honduras is the highest in the world. Part of the explanation is the country’s role as an important hub for drug smuggling.
Cáceres’ death has received international attention. She has quickly become a symbol of the stark situation of activists and indigenous people in a country plagued by extreme violence, on the brink of slipping back into authoritarian rule under Juan Orlando Hernández's government.
Not a single crack where the light can come in
This week, CMI published an analysis of the human rights situation in Honduras by Tyler Shipley, ‘Not a single crack where the light can come in: Civil-military relations in contemporary Honduras'.
Honduras is in transition to a one-man dictatorship under Juan Orlando Hernández, argues Shipley. He interviewed activists and civil society leaders including Bertha Cáceres. Tyler writes that a social movement is rebuilding its capacity to push back against Juan Orlando’s authoritarian state, and working hard to recover from fragmentation and division. Bertha Cáceres expressed hope that the country’s social movement would be successful in bringing all the different factions back to the table and develop new strategies for changing the political situation. Someone else will have to take on her legacy.