María Digna Montero was a Garifuna (Afro-descendent and indigenous) land defender and a member of the National Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH), a grassroots organization working to protect the Garifuna communities, their ancestral rights, culture, resources and territory.
María also taught in the local school and was a member of the OFRANEH Intercultural Bilingual Education working group.
On the Day of Indigenous Resistance, October 12, 2019, unknown assailants shot María multiple times in the backyard of her house.
She was one of six Garifuna women defenders murdered between September and October 2019 and according to OFRANEH, there was no investigation by the authorities into these crimes. In an official statement, the organization also highlighted the connection between the violence against Garifuna leaders and the increase in extractive industries which exploit natural resources in their communities calling this violence part of a “strategy of intimidation and systematic expulsion” by the Honduran State.
“The heightened tension and growing risks to the security and human rights of the leaders in the communities and ancestral territories is a product of the dispossession, displacement and criminalization of the communities and of the extractive mega projects promoted by the State together with the national and international corporations.” - OFRANEH communique, October 12, 2019