Honduras Courtroom Convicts Ex-Dam Government in Homicide of Celebrated Environmentalist

0
117

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – A former executive of a Honduran construction company was found guilty on Monday of participating in the 2016 murder of indigenous environmental activist Berta Caceres, a judge said in a court ruling.

Roberto David Castillo, the former head of Desarrollos Energeticos, or DESA, who oversaw the $ 50 million Agua Zarca dam project, was originally charged with masterminding the murder but found guilty of complicity. He is due to be sentenced on August 3rd.

Seven other men have already been convicted and convicted of involvement in the killing.

Mr Castillo has stated that he is innocent of the charges. Neither he nor DESA were immediately available to comment on the judge’s judgment.

Ms. Caceres was shot dead in 2016 when armed men entered her home in La Esperanza, her hometown in western Honduras, where she lived. She had led the fight to prevent DESA from building the dam on her Lenca tribe’s land on the Gualcarque River.

The seasoned activist had campaigned for environmental issues since the early 1990s, starting with illegal logging. In 2015 she won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for her efforts to organize the resistance against the dam. After her murder, the banks that financed the dam project withdrew.

Lenca activists said the project had seriously affected their water and food supplies and that the construction workers had not consulted the area’s indigenous groups.

The indigenous rights groups founded by Ms. Caceres, Copinh, called the court’s decision a “victory” for the people of Honduras.

“It means that the criminal power structures have not corrupted the judicial system,” Copinh wrote on Twitter.

Other suspects arrested and charged in the killing included company employees, hired assassins and members of the army.

Mr. Castillo was arrested at an airport in San Pedro Sula, northern Honduras, in March 2018 while flying to Houston, according to news reports, citing prosecutors.

Honduras is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for activists. According to the advocacy group Global Witness, 14 land and environmental activists were killed in 2019, compared to four in 2018.