Three people putting the protection of the planet before themselves. Three powerful stories from Latin America, the deadliest region for environmental activists.
Berta Cáceres murder. The only witness is at risk and being held in Honduras
L’attivista messicano Gustavo Castro Soto, testimone del delitto, è stato fermato all’aeroporto mente cercava di tornare in Messico. E accusa la polizia di aver alterato la scena del crimine.
Honduran people are still mourning the death of one of their most charismatic and influential leaders, Berta Cáceres, the environmental activist shot dead on 3 March. Moreover, things could not be over in the area Global Witness defined as the most dangerous place for environmental activists.
The one who is now risking his own life is Gustavo Castro Soto, Mexican activist of the non-governmental organisations Otros Mundos, Friends for the Earth México, and Rema. He is the sole witness to Cáceres’ murder, as he survived the attack while he was a guest at her home. The two should have had participated to a meeting on renewables the day after.
When the assailants burst into the house and killed the leader of COPINH (Council of Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras), Gustavo Castro Soto was shot twice and only survived by playing dead. Soto could thus provide precious information to identify Berta Cáceres’ murderers, despite the Honduran government seems to not be interested in such details. Not a coincidence, Cáceres’ mother openly claimed she holds the government responsible.
On 6 March, the man – feeling he was at risk – tried to leave Honduras to go back to Mexico, but the government prevented him from doing it, blocking him at the airport of Tegucigalpa. Officials said they are treating him as a protected witness, but activists say that he’s been hold against his will.
Honduras should guarantee to Gustavo Castro Soto the physical integrity as long as his departure from the country is arranged and completed. According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH), he was brought to La Esperanza, Western Honduran town where Cáceres was killed, in order to be questioned by the state’s attorneys. According to Otros Mundos Chiapas, the Honduran government did not provide any official explanations on the Mexican citizen’s detention.
“He’s being detained because they want to falsify his version of events,” said some sources close to Cáceres’ family. An activist of COPINH was included in the list of suspects by the prosecutor, and many fears that the murder could be reduced to a “crime of passion”.
“Gustavo Castro is not being treated as a victim of an assassination attempt, instead his life is being put at risk, along with his right to free movement,” stated the NGO Otros Mundos. Cáceres’ nephew, Silvio Carrillo, said that Soto was not allowed to sleep or change out of his bloodied clothes after the attack and that he was only offered medical attention three days after the attack. Soto claimed that the crime scene was altered and that investigators asked him to review pictures to identify possible suspects, “But I regret that all the videos and photographs were from Copinh marches.”
Cáceres’ four children pointed out the need of a neutral international commission, since a lack of objectiveness in investigations has already been demonstrated. Despite the government’s clear reticence, all Hondurans call for justice and to not make the culprits go unpunished, while they cry out “Berta no muriò, se multiplicò”.
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