Nelson Garcia: Another Honduran Activist Gunned Down While Washington Gives a Muted Response

By Melanie Landa, Research Associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs

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Honduran activist Nelson Noe García Lainez was murdered Tuesday, becoming the second member of the indigenous environmental group COPINH to be shot to death in Honduras the last two weeks. He was gunned down upon arriving at his home in the Rio Lindo community in the department of Cortés, less than two weeks after the shooting death of Berta Cáceres, a cofounder of COPINH, el Consejo Civico de Organizaciones Populares e Indigena de Honduras (Justice for the Civil Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras). Local media report that García received four gun shots to the face, and suggest that the attack followed the forceful eviction by Military Police of at least 150 families that had lived peacefully in the area for two years.[1]

Telesur and other news outlets report that García was gunned down as the evictions were taking place and that the police evicting residents used falsified documentation to justify them. A former mayor of Rio Lindo, Gaspar Rios, has been linked to the faked orders.[2] The Honduran National Police said García’s killing had nothing to do with Tuesday’s evictions, but few believe that police and other security officers were not complicit in it.[3]

Following by less than two weeks Cáceres’ killing and the detaining in Honduras of Mexican environmental activist Gustavo Castro Soto, the Cáceres and García murders add to a series of systematic killings of indigenous and environmental activists in Honduras. According to the Council on Hemispheric Affairs’ director Larry Birns, the Obama administration’s muted response raises concern about U.S. policy makers’ standards on human rights violations: “Washington has maintained democratic lapses in Honduras over long periods of time,” Birns said.

Reactions from the International Community

Amnesty International has called for action to be taken in response to the killing of several activists including García, as well as the death threats received by other COPINH members prior to Cáceres’ murder. In a document titled “Honduras: Defender Killed, Others Harassed,” Amnesty International cites irregularities surrounding the Cáceres and García killings and well as the detaining in Honduras of the Mexican environmental activist Gustavo Castro Soto. “None of the people whom Berta Cáceres denounced for their constant harassment and threats, including representatives of companies working in the area, have been questioned yet,”[4] Amnesty International says, contending. The report continued, “Since 2011, COPINH members have been campaigning for their right to free, prior and informed consent in relation to a proposal [regarding] the construction of a hydroelectric plant that might force them out of their ancestral lands. In recent months, members of COPINH have been targeted with repeated threats, and harassment for years, in connection with their work.”[5] Local authorities, however, have not identified the actors of such incidents.

More than 700 organizations, scholars, and Latin American academics, including the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, have expressed concern over the Honduras situation in a letter delivered to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry requesting policy initiatives to ensure that Honduras protects human rights and intends to carry out proper investigations concerning the cases of the slain activists and Castro Soto’s detention.

Honduras has long been on a watch list maintained by Latin American countries’ specialists and concerned scholars, not only because the Central American country is generally considered one of the worst human right violators in the region but because it seems to have bought immunity despite these consistent violations. Birns says Washington seems to have crafted a policy selecting certain Latin American countries for special criticism while minimizing systematic killing in others like Honduras.

Unites States’ Officials’ Lack of Response

The State Department has not released an influential statement condemning the events in Honduras. John Kirby, Assistant Secretary and Department Spokesperson at the Bureau of Public Affairs in Washington, did condemn Cáceres’ murder and offered “sincere condolences to her family, friends, and the people of Honduras, who have lost a dedicated defender of the environment and of human rights,”[6] and pledged support for justice.

Speeches and statements from the U.S. Ambassador to Honduras, James D. Nealon, include a condolence message to Hondurans and the COPINH regarding Cáceres’ killing, contending that the United States is offering the resources needed to bring “criminals to justice.” [7] Ambassador Nealon marks a sensitivity to Washington’s tolerance for Honduran policies on security forces however it must be questioned if the U.S. is truly approaching the matter to its fullest extent?

At the time of the killing, U.S. Representative Steve Chabot, Republican of Ohio and chairman of the House Committee on Small Business, was concluding a two-day visit to Tegucigalpa and met with President Juan Orlando Hernandez.[8] In his trip, he addressed U.S.-Honduran economic opportunities for companies in the United States looking to do business in the Central American country. On the agenda for Chabot and the Honduran president was discussion of further funding for the Alliance for Prosperity plan to promote partnership between the two countries.[9] During Chabot’s visit, he made no regard towards human rights abuses in Honduras. COHA takes notes on the policy of the indifference of Congressman Chabot regarding human right issues occurring in Honduras, whilst focusing on possible venues for the U.S. business interests.

Berta Caceres’ murder on March 3 followed by Nelson Garcia’s assassination yesterday, along with the detainment of Mexican Gustavo Castro Soto, represent an ongoing problematic and a series of systematic killing of Central American activists that need to be harshly addressed as soon as possible. Along with the irregular judicial investigations being carried out by the Honduran government regarding the cases, the relatively muted response from the U.S. is continuing to increase questions regarding the White Houses’ standards on human rights policy. Future approaches from both Honduras and the United States, need to be strengthened to demonstrate they condemn the human rights violations and to provide a concrete approach to the deplorable situations occurring in the Central American countries like Honduras.

By Melanie Landa, Research Associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs

Please accept this article as a free contribution from COHA, but if re-posting, please afford authorial and institutional attribution. Exclusive rights can be negotiated. For additional news and analysis on Latin America, please go to: and Rights Action.


[1] “Asesinan a Otro Activista Hondureño En Desalojo Violento.” Asesinan a Otro Activista Hondureño En Desalojo Violento. Accessed March 16, 2016.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Policía Nacional Aclara Asesinato De Nelson García.” 2016. Accessed March 16, 2016.

[4] “HONDURAS: DEFENDER KILLED, OTHERS HARASSED.” Amnesty International. March 16, 2016. Accessed March 16, 2016.

[5] Ibid.

[6] “U.S. Condemns Murder of Honduran Activist Berta Caceres.” U.S. Department of State. March 04, 2016. Accessed March 16, 2016.

[7] “Condolence Message to the Honduran People from U.S. Ambassador James D. Nealon on the Murder of Berta Cáceres, Coordinator of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH).” U.S. Embassy Honduras. Accessed March 16, 2016.

[8] “Condolence Message to the Honduran People from U.S. Ambassador James D. Nealon on the Murder of Berta Cáceres, Coordinator of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH).” U.S. Embassy Honduras. Accessed March 16, 2016.

[9] “Condolence Message to the Honduran People from U.S. Ambassador James D. Nealon on the Murder of Berta Cáceres, Coordinator of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH).” U.S. Embassy Honduras. Accessed March 16, 2016.

One thought on “Nelson Garcia: Another Honduran Activist Gunned Down While Washington Gives a Muted Response

  • March 17, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    I have tried since reading the first reports of 3/3/16 on the murder of INDIGENOUS ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST BERTA CACERES (Z”L) published by the trans national news wire services AP, AGENCE FRANCE PRESS (AFP) and REUTERS published by YAHOONEWS to post my barely 600 word comment below this note. While a few COMMENTS have been posted publicly to the 3/3/16 and follow-up reports on YAHOONEWS COMMENTS sections, most being disrespectful to the deceased and from an anti-environmental perspective that remains ignorant of Washington’s unique historic hemispheric role in Honduras, my own condolences and brief reminder of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s support of the 2009 military coup that overthrew the democratically elected Zelaya governing coalition led by Mel Zelaya’s Partido Liberal de Honduras, my remarks have not migrated from my private YAHOO account’s archive of MY COMMENTS to the publicly posted ALL COMMENTS except for a day or two in which a few readers voted thumbs up before my comments below disappeared from public view. I avoid profanity, did not get into radical politics and always end PUBLIC COMMENTS on principle with my name, city and state to avoid the scourge of ANONYMOUS SNIPING & TROLLING.

    As of the day before yesterday, 3/15/16 news arrived from Honduras that a second environmental activist, Nelson Garcia, has also been murdered.

    The few published reader COMMENTS on the plethora of wire news service reports since 3/3/16 would reflect little growing world interest in this story and/or in Honduras. My own multiple attempts in days after my original COMMENT of 3/8/16 was posted to MY COMMENTS account archive on YAHOONEWS without being posted publicly by AP, AFP, REUTERS and YAHOONEWS to get my COMMENT below entered into the limited PUBLIC DISCOURSE have been unsuccessful . This raises serious questions about suppression of public comments to perpetuate Washington’s enduring policy stance on REGIME CHANGE even as it conflicts with President Obama’s publicly stated condemnation of the overthrow of the Mel Zelaya headed government in 2009. REGIME CHANGE policies that were found objectionable to the U.S. body politic in the 2008 U.S. Presidential campaign where Barack Obama ran against the preceding Bush-Cheney purges of the U.S State Department in 2000 and against his Democratic rival then NY Senator Hillary Clinton who supported the Neo-Con State Department policies of Bush-Cheney war mongering planners VICTORIA NULAND and ROBERT KAGAN who were promoted by Secretary of State Clinton to her chief State Department advisors after the fiasco of Regime Changes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Yemen.

    Yet HILLARY CLINTON’s autobiography brags about supporting this HONDURAN REGIME CHANGE back in 2009. I suspect AFP’s world-wide readers have also attempted to weigh in on the killing of this GOLDMAN ENVIRONMENTAL AWARD winner, BERTA CACERES (PRESENTE). YAHOONEWS has yet to post a report on the follow-up murder of the beloved Berta Caceres fellow Honduran environmental activist Nelson Garcia.

    Note how little coverage either the 2009 military coup backed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and perpetuating Washington’s policies in HONDURAS dating back to at least the IRAN-CONTRA era where the CIA build-up to fight the illegal Contra War against the post-Somoza Dictatorship government of Nicaragua gave the tiny Central American nation the nick-name of the USS HONDURAS.

    However we need to look further back to the 1970’s Nixon-declared WAR ON DRUGS era where historical accounting of policy outcomes fails to gain any traction in U.S. media coverage. Even during presidential election season where television questions to candidates on foreign policy and record in office issues struggles to keep pace with the superficial quest to see who can eject Donald Trump from the island.

    Surely a busy world has noticed that since Nixon declared WAR ON DRUGS and billions of dollars have been allocated to Honduras where the U.S. maintains 5 bases of military, naval and Air Force intelligence as well as the hemisphere’s largest CIA base the outcomes have been increased flow of drugs and precursor chemicals along with money laundered through global SHADOW BANKING center of neighbor Panama. Yet, candidate Hillary Clinton has had not one televised debate question from her rivals of either party or any questions from televised campaign stops regarding her support for the military coup in Honduras. Nor do the GOP candidates, such as they are, address this regional bi-partisan hemispheric crisis plaguing what is left of the tattered U.S. WAR ON DRUGS and its hollowed out urban cores or corpse.

    “HILLARY’S HONDURAN DISGRACE” March 2010 Editorial Page Headline from Madison, Wisconsin’s THE PROGRESSIVE

    One more example of the human cost that goes without comment in broadcast news coverage of the record of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who in 2010 with the counsel of Bush-Cheney State Department Neo-Con staffers Victoria Nuland and Robert Kagan backed the Honduran military coup. Ms. BERTA CACERES (Z”L) Goldman Environmental Prize-winner of blessed memory should not have given her life in vain to the emboldened thugs ruling Honduras since Washington’s latest Regime Change, backing the military coup while the Obama Administration was still basking in its 2009 mass mediated honeymoon. GOP candidates don’t include this in their anti-Hillary Clinton litany of regime change and other policies that previous GOP Presidential administrations engaged in.

    This televised presidential primary debate and stump-speech season, no GOP candidate in their unanimous tarring of Ms. Clinton’s record in office will mention the Honduran overthrow of the anti-corruption election-winning Partido Liberal de Honduras and their victorious yet ousted President Manuel Zelaya. No accredited corporate-captured news reporter will ask them or Ms. Clinton to reassess Washington’s role in regime change in Honduras. So much smoke on Regime Change with wild media meme-like allegations about Benghazi, Libya and of course Ms. Clinton’s support as Senator from NY of the 2003 Iraq Invasion.

    Yet when Ms. Clinton chose to buck up her Progressive credentials following the debate questions raised by rival Bernie Sanders regarding payments from Wall Street firms to Ms. Clinton for confidential consultation and speaking engagements there was no one to refer back to the courageous and prescient full-page editorial in the March 5, 2010 edition of THE PROGRESSIVE magazine titled “HILLARY’s HONDURAN DISGRACE.” Restore Honduran Regime Change to the agenda. Search: John Negroponte IRAN-Contra USS HONDURAS WAR ON DRUGS

    (C) Mitch Ritter
    Lay-Low Studios, Ore-Wa
    Nike-Town, Intel-Land LLC
    Pheudal Phiephdom of Phil, Ka-ching
    In Anti-Trust PERP-E-Tuity Throughout the Universe


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