First modification: 07/06/2021 – 00:50
On March 3, 2016, Berta Cáceres, a Honduran environmentalist and Goldman Prize winner, the Nobel Prize for the environment, was assassinated. In 2018, seven men were convicted as the material perpetrators of his death and this Monday, July 5, the first conviction against a senior executive of DESA, the construction company responsible for the hydroelectric plant against which Cáceres was opposed, took place. The family considers the ruling “a victory for the peoples”, although it continues to point to more people responsible.
Five years of waiting for the first conviction of an intellectual actor in the murder of the environmentalist Berta Cáceres. It was against David Castillo Mejía, former executive president of the Honduran company Desarrollos Energéticos SA (DESA).
“Supposedly David Castillo would have worked in the organization and logistics to kill Berta Cáceres,” said Lucía Villars, spokesperson for the Honduran Supreme Court.
Castillo had originally been accused of being the intellectual author of the murdered, however, the conviction has been for an accomplice, with unanimous votes of the jury. The prison sentence will be known on August 3.
David Castillo was arrested in 2018 at the San Pedro Sula airport, when he planned to flee the country. Earlier, seven other people had been convicted of being the material actors in the murder.
At the trial, the hitmen’s relationship with Castillo was reconstructed, showing messages and calls in which all matters regarding the crime were defined. DESA’s senior executive assured that he is innocent since he was a good friend of Berta Cáceres, however, the court maintains that the friendship served him to obtain information about the victim.
The family of Berta Cáceres will continue to seek justice
For the family, the sentence is about a “victory for the peoples of the world who have accompanied this process, for the solidarity community and for human rights,” Bertha Zúñiga, daughter of the murdered and also an environmental activist, said at a press conference. , who called for an end to the construction of the hydroelectric plant that his mother opposed.
In his speech, Zúñiga read a statement from the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (Copinh), an association of which Berta Cáceres was president.
In the message they celebrate the condemnation: “the power structures did not succeed in corrupting the justice system in this case, and that the criminal structure of the Átala Zablah family, of which the convicted (Roberto) David Castillo is the instrument, did not succeed in his objectives”.
✊🏽🔴This is a popular victory for the Honduran people.
It means that the criminal power structures failed to corrupt the justice system.
Berta lives, the fight continues! #FaltanLosAtala
– COPINH (@COPINHHONDURAS) July 5, 2021
From the surroundings of Berta Cáceres they do not consider the case closed, and, precisely, they will continue to seek the guilt of the Átala Zablah family, the family that owns the DESA company.
Beyond the Cáceres and Copinh environment, the Public Ministry has also reacted: “We are satisfied (with the resolution) because obviously we presented all the evidentiary burden that demonstrated the guilt of (Roberto) David Castillo,” said Yuri Mora, spokesman of the organism.
The Association for a More Just Society (ASJ) also reacted, considering it vital “to support justice operators so that they act independently and with the necessary resources.”
Berta Cáceres, Goldman Prize 2015
According to the Honduran Prosecutor’s Office, Castillo asked the company’s head of security, retired military officer Douglas Bustillo, to assassinate Berta Cáceres. Bustillo asked Major Mariano Díaz Chávez, an instructor with the Military Police and a member of the Special Forces, to hire some hitmen.
The sentence against Castillo provoked the celebration of members of the Copinh, activists and relatives of Berta Cáceres, who even danced in front of the Supreme Court of Honduras.
Berta Cáceres was one of the Lenca indigenous activists, who opposed the construction of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam on the Gualcarque River. They believed that the project would cause major disruptions in the supply of water and food. Furthermore, the builders had not consulted indigenous groups in the area about the project.
Cáceres began her career as an activist in the early 1990s, in opposition to illegal logging. His efforts to organize the community against the dam earned him the Goldman Prize, the Nobel Prize for the environment, in 2015.
His murder occurred a year later, on March 3, 2016, at his home in La Esperanza, despite the precautionary protection measures available to him from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). At the time of the events, he was sleeping, and was accompanied at his home by the Mexican environmentalist, Gustavo Castro, who was injured in the attack.
France 24 with Reuters and EFE