Five days after the murder of Berta Ceres, Honduran authorities have failed to bring justice
Friends of the Earth demands the safe return of Gustavo Castro to Mexico
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following the assassination of well-known indigenous environmental activist Berta Cáceres in Honduras on the night of March 3, Berta’s colleagues in the Council of Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras — COPINH — continue to face ongoing repression.
Gustavo Castro, coordinator of Friends of the Earth Mexico, who was wounded in the attack, is in the custody of Honduran authorities. Mr. Castro was a witness to the murder and also received a gunshot injury during the attack, and is in imminent danger as long as he remains in Honduras. Friends of the Earth joins civil society groups around the world in demanding the immediate release of Gustavo Castro and an end to the criminalization of environmental activists and land defenders in Honduras.
“The killing of Berta Caceres was a political assassination,” said Jeff Conant, senior international forests campaigner with Friends of the Earth U.S. “Now the Honduran state appears be manipulating the investigation in order to continue criminalizing and maligning her and the Council of Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras. The U.S. State Department should take immediate action to withdraw security aid from Honduras, and should pressure the Honduran authorities to ensure the security and prompt release of our colleague Gustavo Castro, of Friends of the Earth, Mexico.”
According to COPINH, early in the morning on March 2, the day of Berta Cáceres’ murder, witnesses saw hit men from DESA in a blue Ford 150 vehicle near La Esperanza, and heard them speaking ill of Berta Cáceres; on February 20, 2016, during COPINH’s protest against the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam, the vice-mayor of San Francisco de Ojuera publicly asked that Berta Cáceres be killed; on February 16, 2016, armed men followed Berta Cáceres and other COPINH members near Rio Blanco; and on February 25, during the forced eviction of COPINH Lenca families in Jarcia, Guinse, Intibuca, by the police and military, a member of the National Direction of Criminal Investigation (DGIC in Spanish) police unit harassed Berta Cáceres and told her that they would not be responsible if anything happened to her.
“We continue to fear for the life of our colleague Gustavo Castro, and ask that U.S. authorities do everything in their power to ensure his safety, to ensure that the parties responsible for killing Berta Cáceres are brought to justice, and to end the criminalization of environmental activists in Honduras,” said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth United States.