Courtesy CICA
Rio Blanco community members and COPINH protest the hydroelectric dam project, May 2013.

Honduran Military Kill Indigenous Protestor at Agua Zarca Project

Rick Kearns
July 20, 2013


Honduran military shot and killed unarmed indigenous protestor Tomas Garcia, as well as seriously wounding his 17-year-old son Alan on July 15, in front of the contested Agua Zarca hydroelectric project headquarters in the town of Achotal.

Garcia and his son were part of a 106-day long protest against the building of a massive hydroelectric project on territory owned by the Lenca people of Honduras.  Garcia was a member of the Indigenous Council or the Rio Blanco community and an active member of the Council of Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), whose leader Bertha Caceres was arrested in late May in connection with the same protest. (Related story: Arrested Honduran Indigenous Leader Promises More Mega Projects Protests)

Protestors said they were not engaging in any kind of violence while spokespeople for the hydroelectric companies claim otherwise, alleging the protestors were destroying property and assaulting company personnel.

In a radio interview this week, Caceres described the protest in front of the offices of the project operated by DESA [of Honduras] and SINOHYDRO (a transnational Chinese hydroelectric project builder) as peaceful and then, "As they approached the doors, without saying one word the army opened fire against our companions, sending bullets into the bodies of Tomas Garcia and his son, in the presence of police that remained paralyzed and did nothing to prevent it."

According to reports, Garcia's son Alan was shot in the thorax and the bullet entered a lung.  He was taken for emergency surgery in a hospital in nearby San Pedro Sula. Caceres stated on July 18 that the 17-year old Alan was "out of danger" and had responded well to the procedures.

DESA and SINOHYDRO issued a press release on July 15, alleging that the protestors were violent and that "the invasion included the destruction of installations, vehicles and personal property and direct aggression against the physical integrity of personnel."

The companies' statement also attributed the death of Garcia and the wounding of his son to the protestors but did not specify how that happened. The companies' press release also claimed that the death of 15-year-old Cristian Madrid Muñoz, who was killed on a farm nearby, was the result of the protestor's actions.

The soldiers who killed Garcia and wounded his son are from the Engineers Battalion of Siguatepeque, which is the same military unit that has clashed with the Lenca community and arrested Caceres and a colleague in May.

  Both the COPINH and the National Commission on Human Rights in Honduras are going to petition the Inter American Commission on Human Rights to grant protective measures to the Lenca community, and to sponsor an independent investigation into the two deaths and the non-fatal shooting of Alan Garcia.

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