US-Funded Company Involved in Murder of Honduras Activist Berta Caceres
May 30, 2016 TeleSUR
Activist Berta Caceres spent decades fighting for indigenous rights and against environmental destruction -- dangerous work that made her a target for death threats. Less than three months before Caceres was murdered, Desarrollos Energeticos S.A. -- the firm behind the controversial Agua Zarca hydroelectric project on Lenca land -- signed a contract with USAID partner Fintrac. Four people, including three Honduran military men, have been linked to her murder.
USAID Funded Honduran Company Implicated in Berta Caceres Murder TeleSUR
(May 29, 2016) -- The company behind the controversial Agua Zarca hydroelectric project on Lenca land, Desarrollos Energeticos S.A., better known as DESA, signed a contract with USAID partner Fintrac in December 2015, less than three months before Caceres was murdered in her home on March 3.
According to Central America-based freelance journalist Gloria Jimenez, the funds were destined for a USAID agricultural assistance program in Western Honduras.
But Caceres' Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Movements of Honduras, or COPINH, which has long fought against DESA's Agua Zarca dam for its threats to the sacred Gualcarque River and lack of consent from local communities, has argued that, despite the corporation's promises, DESA takes much more than it gives back.
In a statement released after the arrests, DESA confirmed that Rodriguez worked for the company as the manager of its social and environmental issues division. DESA did not confirm any relation to suspect Douglas Bustillo, who elsewhere has been identified as the firm's head of security.
In a recent email to teleSUR, DESA declined an interview, saying it cannot comment on cases under investigation in Honduran courts.
"Additionally, our company operates completely in line with the law and the strictest business values," the email added.
Caceres' family members have claimed that DESA and the Honduran government are ultimately responsible for the Indigenous leader's murder.
In the months leading up to her murder, Caceres denounced dozens of death threats, incidents of harassment, and threats of sexual violence, allegedly at the hands of state and private agents.
Over two years ago, DESA sought charges against Caceres and two fellow COPINH leaders for land usurpation, coercion, and damages and painted the activists as violent "anarchists." COPINH members and human rights defenders interpret the case as one part of a larger campaign by DESA to criminalize COPINH and eliminate opposition to the Agua Zarca project.
COPINH and Caceres' family members continue to call for an independent expert investigation into the murder in the name of identifying those who ordered the killing, not just those who pulled the trigger. They also demand the permanent cancellation of Agua Zarca.
An international day of action on June 15 at Honduran embassies around the world is planned to echo COPINH's demands at the global level.
International human rights defenders have repeatedly called on the United States to stop funding repression in Honduras through backing of controversial corporate projects and government funding for corrupt Honduran security forces.
Berta Caceres' Nephew Speaks Out About Her Murder
Four Linked to Berta Caceres Death Arrested, 3 Military Among Them teleSUR
(May 3, 2016) -- The prominent activist fiercely fought against multinational and government projects that posed huge threats to Indigenous and campesinos people and their land rights.
Four people, including three linked to the Honduran military, have been arrested by police in the Central American nation in connection with the murder of leading Indigenous and environmental activist Berta Caceres.
The prominent activist, who fought against multinationals and government projects that seriously affected Indigenous and campesinos, was shot in her bed by a group of armed gunmen who raided her home during the night March 3, on the eve of her 45th birthday.
The four detainees have been identified as Douglas Geovanny Bustillo, a retired Air Force lieutenant who headed the DESA hydro-electric company's private security force, according to a 2013 NGO report, Sergio Rodriguez, also a DESA employee, Mariano Diaz, a high-ranking active military official, and Edilson Duarte, another former military official, the Armed Forces of Honduras confirmed.
The four men are also being accused of the attempted murder of Mexican activist Gustavo Castro, who was also at Caceres home the night of the homicide, and who was left for dead with gunshot wounds.
The Honduran government held Castro as a suspect of Caceres assassination, but he was later cleared and allowed to leave the country.
The Honduran Office of the Public Prosecutor reported that 10 coordinated raids were carried out Monday in connection with Caceres' homicide in the capital Tegucigalpa, as well as in La Ceiba, and Trujillo.
The four suspects are scheduled to appear in court in the following days, the OPP added.
Caceres' death prompted massive international condemnation and led to huge protests in Honduras, a country that currently has the one of highest murder rates in the world.
After accusing Castro of being linked to her killing, police told the public she could have been murdered in a robbery.
Caceres was awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for her activist work against the Agua Zarca dam, which DESA was building on Indigenous land.
"If it wasn't for our struggle and international pressure for justice, my mother's murder would already be extinct," Berta's daughter Laura Caceres, 23, told The Guardian. "We have woken up to this news (of the arrests) but it doesn't change our demands for an international investigation."
At least 109 activists were murdered in Honduras between 2010 and 2015.
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