The Sole Witness to Berta Cáceres’ Murder Opens Up On What Happened That Night

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On March 3, a group of gunmen barged into indigenous activist Berta Cáceres‘ home and killed her. What followed for Gustavo Castro Soto – a Mexican-born activist who witnessed the crime – was harrowing. The government prevented Soto from leaving the country and from moving freely through Honduras. For a day, he couldn’t change because his luggage had been confiscated.

Related: Remembering Slain Indigenous Rights Activist Berta Cáceres’ Most Inspirational Speech

The day of her death, Cáceres, who worked to stop the building of Desarollo Energéticos, (SA’s hydroelectric dam on the Gualcarque River), spoke to Castro Soto about the threats she received. This week, The Intercept published an interview with Castro Soto about what he saw and what he experienced following Berta’s death.

At midnight on March 3, Castro Soto heard loud noises, and the next thing he knew, a man entered his room. At the same time, someone entered her room, and killed her. The man, who didn’t wear a mask to cover his face, shot her and ran away. Castro Soto feared the assailants would come for him, too, so he tried to go back to his native country.

“The government wanted me under its control,” he said about being stopped from boarding a plane to Mexico a few days after Berta’s death. “It has no laws that protect victims. Nor does it have regulations or protocols or a budget to protect human rights activists. Nor does it have regulations for protected witnesses. Which is why I stayed in the Mexican Embassy. But it was a month of horrible stress and tension, in which the government, with its complete lack of regulations or protocols, could easily accuse me of anything at any moment, show up with a judicial order, and the Mexican Embassy wouldn’t have been able to do anything.”

To Castro Soto, it felt as though the Honduran government was interrogating him in order to implicate him in Cáceres’ death. But because he couldn’t be tied to the murder, the government had no choice but to look into Desarollos Energéticos, SA (DESA) – the same company Berta accused of trying to intimidate her.

Castro Soto also spoke on Hillary Clinton– the former Secretary of State, who Berta blamed for her role in the 2009 Honduran coup that still has the Central American country reeling. “It seems to me that in the end, the government had to justify a way for another group to come to power,” he said about Clinton’s comments concerning the legality of the coup. “And Honduras’ legal antiquity allows you to make any arguments you want. For example, one of the reasons they gave for overthrowing [Manuel] Zelaya was that he proposed to modify the constitution to allow for re-election. Which the current president, Juan Orlando Hernández, is now trying to do, to modify the constitution to allow for re-election for him next year. So that’s why I say it depends on how you want to see it. If Zelaya proposes it, it’s unconstitutional and he has to go. If the oligarchy and the global hegemony says it, it’s legal, it’s democratic.”

Read the rest of Castro Soto’s interview over at The Intercept.