David Castillo is the eighth person convicted of the murder of environmentalist leader Berta Caceres in 2016. Berta Caceres was the leader of the Lenca Native community (COPINH) and died because of it.

David Castillo was convicted in June 2022 as “co-author of the murder”. Although he denied his involvement in the assassination to the court. Evidence proved that the ex-president of the company Desarrollos Energéticos (DESA) co-commissioned Berta Caceres, an environmental activist who opposed the construction of a hydroelectric dam on the lands of an indigenous community. A project implemented by the company DESA.

The contracted killers, Edilson Duarte, Oscar Torres, Henry Hernandez and Elvin Rapalo face up to 50 years in prison, the senior executives of DESA have been sentenced to 30 years in prison. Four co-perpetrators have already been convicted in the brutal murder of environmentalist and human rights defender Bertra Caceres:

  • Sergio Rodríguez: environmental manager of DESA
  • Douglas Geovanny Bustillo: retired lieutenant of the Armed Forces of Honduras and deputy chief of security of DESA
  • Mariano Díaz Chávez: instructor of the Military Police of Public Order 
  • David Castillo: former CEO of DESA

The latest conviction of David Castillo on June 2022 is a symbolic decision for environmental activists in the region. These men, influential in the political and economic world, were able to be tried and convicted, in a country where environmental activists are killed by the dozens every year. 

Since the beginning of the year 2022 alone, two environmentalists have been killed in Honduras according to reporters from Amnesty. .

As stated by Eirka Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, the trial for the murder of Berta Caceres is a step forward for true justice. She believed that;

Berta Cáceres’ case must set a precedent for access to justice for human rights defenders in Honduras who continue to lose their lives in order to save our planet.”

Honduras, and other Central and South American countries are note safe for environmentalists who continue to be killed for defending our planet. Unfortunately, Honduras has not yet signed the Escazu agreement. A treaty that is supposed to protect environmental defenders in Latin America and entered into force on 22 April 2022. 

Is the conviction of David Castillo, the former CEO of DESA a step forward for this environmental human rights treaty? Does this mean that the government and justice officials are finally concerned about the safety of the environmental protectors.

Today “Latin America is the most hostile region for environmental defenders, said the UN Special reporter Michel Forst, in a recent report to the General Assembly.

Changers are starting to occur in the region, but the fight is not over! Not until the project by DESA is still alive at least. The daughter of Berta Caceres, Laura Zuniga calls everyone to gather to fight for justice and rights.

She explained in an interview that;

“On the other hand, having such a strong mother who symbolizes every fighter in Honduras, every fighter in the world that has been murdered, every woman who has been killed, makes us feel that we have a commitment to fighting for justice. So from our place as the daughters of Berta Cáceres, we support the movements in Honduras and also the movements that are in a similar situation to my mom’s group, COPINH, or groups in other fights. It’s a mix of pain and energy”

The fight is not over but all of these condemnations of the past years show changes and give courage to others to fight for the environment and human rights.

Laura Tesson

Laura Tesson is journalist and political science student at Concordia University. She is editor at Canadian Centre for Strategic Studies (CCSS) and she used to write for the Triton Review, the student-run newspaper at Edmonds College (USA). She got involved for a year to Edmonds Green Team, to engage and empower students to adopt sustainable practices. She is interested in political journalism and sustainability development.

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