Why It's Fair to Ask Hillary Clinton Why Honduras Is the Deadliest Place to Be an Environmental Activist
A recent report discovered that at least 116 environmental activists were murdered last year. The report was conducted by the UK-based group Global Witness and it concluded that from 2013 to 2014, the rate went up by a fifth.
The highest per capita rate in the world belongs to the country of Honduras, where at least 12 people were murdered in 2014.
Environmental activists are typically killed by the police during protests or by hired assassins. The report suggests that the numbers could actually be much greater: "Globally, it’s likely that the true death toll is higher. Many of the murders we know about occurred in remote villages or deep within the jungle, where communities lack access to communications and the media. It’s likely many more killings are escaping public records."
In her memoir Hard Choices, presidential nominee Hillary Clinton admitted that the Obama administration had a role in the aftermath of the country's 2009 coup, where the democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya was ousted from office. Since the coup, the US has provided the country with millions of dollars in military aid and helped turn Honduras into one of the most violent places in the world.
According to Human Rights Watch, post-coup developments, "represent the most serious setbacks for human rights and the rule of law in Honduras since the height of political violence in the 1980s."
The report details the grim reality of environmentalists in Honduras today:
"The current right-wing government, led by President Juan Orlando HernÃ¡ndez, has made investments in mining, forestry, agribusiness and hydroelectric dams a top priority. Conflict over land, extractives and dam projects are the main drivers of violence against activists. Many attacks occur against indigenous leaders defending their land and natural resources, often in the context of the development of mega-projects without prior and informed consent."
Global Witness quotes indigenous Honduran activist Berta CÃ¡ceres, who was targeted by supporters of a dam: “They follow me. They threaten to kill me, to kidnap me, they threaten my family. That is what we face.”
In the last two years, three of CÃ¡ceres' colleagues have been murdered for resisting a hydro-dam on the Gualcarque River, which could eradicate an important water source for hundreds of indigenous people.
Global Witness is calling on international bodies to monitor these developments and would like to see Honduras address these abuses at the UN Human Rights Council. Three thousand and sixty four cases of criminalization have been documented against defenders of human rights in Honduras since 2010, by the Committee of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras.
Since Hillary Clinton's presidential announcement, her tenure at the State Department has been debated, but there has been very little focus on the Obama administration's relationship with Honduras while she was Secretary of State.