In the News July 13
New Conviction Handed Down for 2016 Murder of Berta Cáceres
On June 20, David Castillo, a U.S.-trained former military intelligence officer and former chief executive officer of Desarrollos Energéticos (DESA), was sentenced to 22 years in prison as a co-author of the murder of environmental activist Berta Cáceres in 2016.
DESA is the company that Berta and the Indigenous organization she led — the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) — tried to stop from building a dam on a river in the territory of the Lenca people.
Seven of the eight men tried previously for carrying out the hit have already been convicted and sentenced to from 30 to 50 years in prison. Some were U.S.-trained former special forces members.
Family members and human rights activists allege that the most powerful intellectual authors of the crime are still at large. Laura Zúniga Cáceres, Berta’s youngest daughter and a member of COPINH, said the conviction of Castillo was an important advance but that the masterminds were still enjoying impunity thanks to their political and economic power. She said that as victims of the crime, her family, members of COPINH and the Lenca Indigenous people would continue demanding justice from the Honduran state.
Castillo’s business partner, the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of DESA, belongs to one of the most powerful families in Honduras that heads up a banking and industrial empire. Other members of the family are DESA board members. Evidence recently published by The Intercept suggests deceptive means were used by the CFO to have money sent as a bank loan to one of the other companies he and Castillo controlled that was actually intended to pay the hit squad. Despite the existence of potentially incriminating evidence implicating the CFO and possibly other powerful actors in planning and arranging for Cáceres’ murder, it has yet to be pursued.
TML Daily, posted July 13, 2022.