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Environmental activist shot to death in Honduras 6 months after activist brother slain

An environmental activist was killed by unidentified gunmen Thursday in northern Honduras, six months after his younger brother and another activist were killed in a similar attack, a relative and an environmental group said.

Oquelí Domínguez was shot by two men on a motorcycle at his family’s home in Tocoa, his eldest brother, Reynaldo Domínguez, said.

The Municipal Committee for the Defense of Common and Public Goods, a local environmental defense organization, also reported the attack in a statement. Police did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In January, Aly Domínguez and Jairo Bonilla were riding a motorcycle between La Concepción and Guapinol when they were shot to death. Bonilla and all three Domínguez brothers were well-known defenders of the nearby Carlos Escaleras National Park.

Reynaldo Domínguez said Thursday that police seemed to be steering the investigation toward a possible robbery, which he discounted.

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“In my house there’s nothing of value. The event was aimed at my brother, because they separated the rest of the family,” said Domínguez, who is living outside Honduras as a safety precaution.

Iron oxide mining inside the park has been a flashpoint for years.

Last year, just one day after six activists were convicted for alleged actions against a mining operation, the Supreme Court’s Constitutional Chamber unanimously sided with the defendants in two long-standing appeals and threw out the case. Most of the men had been in pre-trial detention since 2019, accused of deprivation of liberty and aggravated arson. Two of the eight were acquitted.

Honduran flag

A Honduran flag is seen outside a warehouse used as a hostel for Central American migrants in Piedras Negras, Coahuila state, Mexico on Feb. 7, 2019. (Photo by JULIO CESAR AGUILAR/AFP via Getty Images)

They had protested the legality of mining concessions inside the national park and the damage that was causing to the Guapinol and San Pedro rivers.

At the end of April, experts from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights visited the area to meet with authorities and activists. In a summary of its initial findings, the group expressed concern that up to that point, eight environmental activists had been killed in 2023.

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Honduras is considered one of the world’s most dangerous countries for environmental activists. One of its most infamous cases was the 2016 murder of Berta Cáceres, who was protesting a hydroelectric project.

“In just five years since that (mining) company arrived they have done this damage to us,” Reynaldo Domínguez said.

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