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HONDURAN COURT FINDS CONSTRUCTION EXECUTIVE GUILTY FOR MURDER OF ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENDER

07/12/2021

On July 5, Roberto David Castillo, the former head of Desarrollos Energéticos (DESA), was convicted as a co-conspirator in the murder of Honduran environmental defender and Indigenous rights activist, Berta Cáceres. His sentencing hearing will take place on August 3. Castillo is the eighth person to be convicted in connection with the crime, with seven other men having already been sentenced for their roles in the killing (BBC, New York Times).

During her life, Cáceres worked on a number of environmental issues and founded the Indigenous rights group, the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras. Cáceres rose to international notoriety in 2015 when she won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for her work organizing against the Agua Zarca Dam. The $50 million hydroelectric project, developed by DESA, was expected to severely impact the Rio Gualcarque, a river sacred to Honduras’s Lenca Tribe—of which Cáceres was a member. In 2016, Cáceres was killed in her home in La Esperanza, when several gunmen broke in and shot her. Following the gruesome crime, the banks financing the Agua Zarca Dam withdrew their support, ending the project (New York Times, Mongabay).

While many hail the court’s decision as a major victory for justice, some observers have noted that Honduras remains one of the world’s most dangerous countries for environmental activism, pointing out that as many as 14 land and environmental defenders were killed there in 2019 alone (Al Jazeera, New York Times).