As Four Are Arrested in Connection to Berta Cáceres Murder, Court Docs Suggest She Was Killed Because of Her Activism

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Two months after the murder of indigenous environmentalist Berta Cáceres, Honduran authorities have made their first arrests. Following news that a group of armed men shot Berta Cáceres in her home in La Esperanza on March 3, the local community has demanded that the Honduran government take action, hoping that the international attention the murder has received will make impunity impossible. At the time of her death, the Cáceres was working to stop Desarollos Energeticos SA (DESA) from building a hydroelectric dam on the Gualcarque River – a project expected to upend the lives of the Lenca indigenous group.

It’s widely believed that the company is responsible for her death, especially because Cáceres spoke frankly about receiving death threats for her environmental work. Gustavo Castro Soto – a Mexican activist who witnessed the crime – went as far as suggesting that the Honduran government didn’t immediately look into to DESA and tried to pin the crime on someone else.

On Monday, law enforcement arrested four men – Douglas Bustillo, Mariano Chavez, Sergio Ramón Orellana, and Edilson Duarte Meza – as part of operation Jaguar. According to a statement from Honduras’ Public Ministry, “scientific evidence” placed them at the scene of the crime, according to NPR. At least two are thought to have connections to DESA, and two are reportedly tied to the Honduran military.

On Tuesday, Director of Honduras’ criminal investigation agency Ricardo Castro told the Miami Herald that “Cáceres was killed because of her fight in favor of the environment.” Though he didn’t provide any more details, previously unpublicized court records from 2014 shed a light on DESA’s disdain of Cáceres, and for some, it’s more proof that the company is responsible for her death.

“These court documents go beyond just showing the contempt the dam company holds toward Berta Cáceres and her organization,” said Billy Kyte of Global Witness. “It’s evidence of a company ready to do what it takes to neutralize opposition to its business. The legal harassment and threats … are a stark reminder of the huge risks faced by Honduran activists.”

DESA accused Cáceres of “sabotage and manipulation of the masses,” and said the government should take action against her and other protesters.