Tuesday, March 15, 2016

FBI Confirms Cáceres Murder Scene Modified

The FBI, the Honduran Public Prosecutor's office, and the Agencia Técnica de Investigación Criminal (ATIC) all agree that the crime scene where Berta Cáceres was murdered has been altered to eliminate physical evidence, but you won't find that in any Honduran print media.  The sole report of this remarkable finding is Noti Bomba, a digital newspaper which promises to deliver uncensored news from Honduras.

Among their findings:  Cáceres's body was moved from where she was shot, in her bedroom, to the bathroom, and the body staged; bloody footprints were erased; blood was scattered about the house, on walls, tables, and other places, but failed to appear in the photographs gathered by the Intibuca police who "investigated" the crime scene first.  The shoe prints also fail to appear. 

Luminol, the chemical that detects traces of hemoglobin and glows in its presence, showed that blood evidence had been cleaned up in several places where there used to exist bloody shoe prints, and the luminol revealed recognizable patterns for the soles of those shoes.

The evidence, as reported, confirms the public letter of the sole witness to the crime, Gustavo Castro, who wrote that the crime scene had been altered.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Sole Witness To Cáceres Murder Condems Honduran Government Investigation.

The Mexican indigenous rights activist, Gustavo Castro Soto, who was with Berta Cáceres when she was murdered is being held against his will by the Honduran government.  He is the sole eye-witness to her murder and was shot and wounded himself by Cáceres's attackers.

Late Monday afternoon, the following letter allegedly from him began to appear in Honduran social media and was picked up and reported even by the pro-government press in Honduras.  Among its many allegations are that the crime scene has been modified, and that even though he's been subjected to hours of looking at photos, no one has shown him photos of the hit men known to be associated with either of the dam companies, that the sole line of questioning was which member of COPINH did it.  The complete letter is provided below in a hurried translated below:

Dear friends, family, comrades in the struggle,

From the lands that saw the birth and death of our dear friend Berta Cáceres, beloved, supportive, and friend and exceptional woman, I'd like to thank you for all the support that little by little, in the moments that I can receive messages, I see the story of all that is out there moving.  Its not easy, the alarm here, but neither is it easy when one has to make thousands of declarations to the government.

Here the waters are turbulent.  The assassins that murdered Berta and who tried to murder me continue in impunity while the government tries to undermine the memory of Berta, the honor and the magnificent struggle that COPINH has made for so many years in the defense of the lives, the territories and human rights.

I saw Berta die in my arms, but also how her heart planted in every struggle that COPINH has realized in the many people that we knew.

There is no rain that resembles all the tears shed for her death, but there is no force that resembles the Lenca struggle that they face every day, hand in hand, in territorial disputes with the large transnationals.  They maintain an unbreakable struggle with more than 40 hydroelectric projects, dozens of mines, and a struggle to recover their lands in more than 50 locations in their ancestral region.  COPINH marches, walks, protests, recuperates, and extends its hand in solidarity with these movements.

That also was Berta.

The murder of Berta could signify for many companies and interests, the opportunity to advance on their territories.  But COPINH is stronger than ever and will need the support of all to join in the struggle with solidarity and with the memory of Berta in our hands.

The murderers already know that I did not die, and I'm sure they're wanting to finish their work.  Even though the Mexican consulate came immediately to my help and has not left me, in spite of the patrols and police, this does not mean that my life is out of danger, and that's something the Honduran government doesn't want to see.  They tried through today to retain me to control the information of my testimony.  They've denied me copies of my testimony.  They threatened that if I leave Tegucigalpa for my security, they've issued orders for my preventative arrest.  If I leave without their consent there will be no security and will be on our responsibility.  I declare that I committed no crime, and their legal questioning could be answered from my country.

It pains me enormously to be locked up alone in this city while thousands gather on the streets to say goodbye to our beloved Berta.  But I want to tell you that I am with you there, crying a sea of tears for lost Berta, but also thanking her for the life I know that has inspired me so much.  But I know that I have to leave and the government continues to prepare its sophistry to present to the public opinion that the murder of Berta was due to internal conflicts, when there's already complaints filed against those that have threatened to murder her, people associated with the hydroelectric company protected by the government.  They only want to investigate COPINH, to fragment it, and put an end to one of the principal and most emblematic struggles in the last 20 years in Honduras.

And my testimony is an obstacle for them to put who they want in prison.  I didn't hear cars arrive, nor leave, during the murder;  the crime scene has been modified and altered; the blood evidence and others left blank lines that later can be altered.  They've ordered a majority of COPINH to testify and not any of the suspects from earlier times that threatened to murder Berta.

Until today I was under official medical attention for my wounds with a supporting family and a supporting doctor.  It was all day yesterday and well into the night before I could change my bloody clothes; but the government continues to hold my luggage without giving it back to me.  I remained hungry and it was not until the afternoon that they offered me something to eat;  I did not taste food until today, replying to questions, taking tests and the many things that were happening.  It appears that they forgot that I'm a victim and for 48 hours I was not allowed to close my eyes, no rest, attending to their things.  The sweetest thing was having COPINH outside, in the room at whatever moment, accompanying my security, silent, attentive, marvellous.  One senses the human warmth and tremendous support.  One feels more secure with them than with a thousand police.

After leaving the Public Prosecutor's office last night to go to the court to give protected witness testimony, dressed in a black robe to my fingernails, and a black hood, I came back to more tests and questions;  Finally they gave me a chance to change and brought me my suitcase, but later took it away again.  The Counsel found me a hotel as hundreds on hundreds were arriving in the city to say goodbye to Berta.  Finally at dawn we arrived at a room in a hotel and I finally could rest for a few hours because I was supposed to leave Tegucigalpa in a few hours.  But they came to the hotel with photos and videos for me to identify the murderers that I saw face to face, but unfortunately all of the photos and videos were of marches of COPINH, and they wanted me to indicate which of them did it.
But they never showed me the faces of the owners of the companies, or their paid assassins  In place of two hours, it was four hours of questions and photos.

They came when we were about to get into the armored car that the Counsel had to go to Tegucigalpa when the high officials of the Prosecutor's murder office, and the Agencia Tecnica de Investigaciones Criminales arrived and asked me to stay to help them reconstruct the crime.  I consulted and found it convenient to stay with the condition that they let me go to the wake for Berta, with the people.  They agreed.  During the two hours of the reconstruction I drank coffee because I wanted to help reconstruct the murder.

I thought this would be the last that the government asked of me, because when I wasn't, they were tempted to place me in preventative custody because I am the only eye witness. But confusion reigned not only in our crushed hearts because we had to bury Berta before her time, but also reigned in the same Public Prosecutor, and in his offices the same reigned.  Well, I agreed to help them in this difficult test of reconstructing the events.  For Berta, for COPINH, so that some day justice would be done and those who promulgate death and destruction would be expelled from the land.

Thanks to so many people for their support, for the waiting of this valued people.  Thanks, really thanks, I was moved to tears and more, that my friends and so many people, had been so concerned that they condemned this situation.

Gustavo Castro Soto.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Whitewashing The Murder Of Berta Cáceres

The process has begun in Honduras to whitewash any possible investigation into who killed indigenous activist Berta Cáceres.  Minister of Security Julian Pachecho Tinoco confirms there's strong international pressure to solve her murder, but the police in Honduras have issued no statements beyond the first day, when they told the press they were holding 2 witnesses and a "suspect".

The Honduran Police have floated trial balloons in the press and social media blaming Cáceres, because even though she supposedly had government protection, she was staying at a house in Intibuca that they claimed not to know was hers, blaming her for not telling them.  They've also floated the rumor that it was someone known to her, perhaps an ex-lover who killed her since there was no sign of forced entry into the house.  What they haven't done is investigate any of the people who likely murdered her.

That's not just our conclusion, but also that  (translated here) of the Movimiento Amplio por la Dignidad y Justicia (MADJ) in Honduras.   None of the theories the National Police have proposed for her murder have followed up on the threats to her life and liberty disclosed by her to the police in Honduras on numerous occasions.

Among the suspects that MADJ says the police should be investigating are the local management of Desarrollos Energéticos, and particularly its managing engineer for the project Segio Rodríguez who has threatened the COPINH protest marchers, including Cáceres, with death.  MADJ also identifies the mayor of San Francisco de Ojuera, the town whose extent includes the region disputed.  Mayor Raul Pineda ignored the rights of the Lenca people to their land.

Then there's the National Police, and the Military Police, who violently break up peaceful protests in the region, sometimes shooting and killing protesters.  They have previously planted evidence in Cáceres's car during traffic stops and arrested her on charges that could lead to a 20 year prison sentence.  Luckily for Cáceres, that case failed to thrive in court.

Desarrollos Energéticos, SA. is the union of two previous energy companies in Honduras, Inversiones Las Jacarandas, represented by José Eduardo Atala Zeblah, which provided two thirds ($1.6 million) of the initial capital of the company, and Potencia y Energia de Mesoamerica (PEMSA), which supplied the other third ($832,500).  PEMSA was represented in the merger by Gerardo Carrasco Escobar.  However, as Rights Action noted in their report on the Agua Zarca dam conflict, little is known about Desarrollos Energeticos, Las Jacarandas, or PEMSA because Honduras has public access to corporation ownership records, which facilitates the obscuring of company ownership.  This same kind of corporate ownership secrecy often leads to corruption by what the financial industry calls Politically Exposed Persons (PEPS), those in high government positions amenable to embezzlement and massive bribery.

However, Rights Action also notes that Jose Eduardo Atala Zeblah and his brothers Jacobo Atala Zeblah and Pedro Atala Zeblah are on DESA's board of directors.  Jacobo is also Director of Honduran operations for the Banco de Centroamerica (BAC).  Jose Eduardo Atala served as Vice President of the Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America in Washington, DC, in 2011.  He also served as the Honduran representative to the Central American Bank of Economic Integration (CABEI) which undoubtedly served him well since it loaned DESA $24.4 million for the Agua Zarca dam project in 2012.

All we know about PEMSA is that its a Honduran holding company in the energy sector, and that it did not go away after forming part of DESA.  In 2014 and 2015, PEMSA engaged in other energy projects in Honduras, including the solar energy project at Agua Fria, near Nacaome, where its listed as the local partner of the Norwegian companies that supplied the technology and funded the project.

The Atala Zeblah brothers are cousins to Camilo Alejandro Atala Fraj, arguably now the richest man in Honduras.  Camilo Atala owns the Banco Ficohsa, a financial empire that stretches across 9 Latin American Countries.  Camilo Atala strongly backed the 2009 coup in Honduras  He was the head of the Consejo Empresarial de America Latina (CEAL) when it contracted with Lanny Davis's lobbying firm to lobby Hillary Clinton, then head of the State Department, and the US Congress, to accept the coup.  Ironically in 2015 while CEAL was awarding the Banco Ficohsa their Bank of the Year award, it was being named in Panama as one of 13 banks that allegedly laundered the proceeeds of Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli during his term in office.  In Honduras, the Banco Ficohsa threatened to sue any Honduran media that wrote about the allegations of money laundering calling them unfounded rumors despite the numerous articles in the Panamanian press that were their sources of information.  They even went so far as to claim that "We are not under investigation by any foreign entities", desmonstrably false at the time since they were being investigated by the Panamanian Corruption Prosecutor.  So far the Banco Ficohsa has avoided prosecution in Honduras, perhaps because four of the members of the Honduran Bank Oversight Committee (CNBS in Spanish) are former Banco Ficohsa executives and directors.

Recently, a new dam project in the same region, on the Rio Cangel, was awarded to a US firm, Rio Energy LLC, owned by Peter L. Ochs of Capital III, along with Canadian firm Hydrosys Consultants.  Hydrosys has sole responsibility for the planning and construction according to their own project description.  The partnership, called Blue Energy, allegedly told the Honduran government the dam was in the department of Santa Barbara, and therefore not on the Lenca land of the Rio Blanco community, but when they walked to the edges of their community in 2014, they found the dam being constructed in their territory, without consultation or their permission, a violation of ILO 169.  Nor are these two dam projects the only ones in the Lenca area.  Blue Energy is also currently doing a study for a project called the Zompopero dam, and Capital III plans on financing a total of 4 dams in Honduras, all of them in Lenca territory.

Because the Rio Blanco Lenca community is now fighting two dams the Honduran government has imposed on it without getting their consent, Berta Cåceres found herself mired in yet another set of protests and subsequently received death threats.  On January 27 of this year, a bus load of Rio Blanco protestors was stopped on their way to protest the Rio Cangel project by Honduran police in the community of Agua Caliente and the bus was searched for the presence of Berta Cáceres, who fortunately was not aboard the bus but rather back in Rio Blanco.  She got word that the police in Agua Caliente were going to kidnap her, beat her, sexually violate her, and more.  Last April Cáceres had said that "men close to Blue Energy" or "close to politicians" and "death squads promoted from government policies" were behind the death threats she was receiving.
men close to Blue Energy

This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address: 
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men close to Blue Energy

This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address: 
 "http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Berta-Caceres-Received-Death-Threats-from-Canadian-Company-20160304-0027.html". If you intend to use it, please cite the source and provide a link to the original article. www.teleSURtv.net/english
men close to Blue Energy,” a transnational Canadian company looking to build a dam in the Rio Blanco area in western Honduras, or people “close to politicians” and “death squads promoted from government policies” were behind the death threats leveled against her

This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address: 
 "http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Berta-Caceres-Received-Death-Threats-from-Canadian-Company-20160304-0027.html". If you intend to use it, please cite the source and provide a link to the original article. www.teleSURtv.net/english
men close to Blue Energy,” a transnational Canadian company looking to build a dam in the Rio Blanco area in western Honduras, or people “close to politicians” and “death squads promoted from government policies” were behind the death threats leveled against her

This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address: 
 "http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Berta-Caceres-Received-Death-Threats-from-Canadian-Company-20160304-0027.html". If you intend to use it, please cite the source and provide a link to the original article. www.teleSURtv.net/english
 On February 26, around 5 pm, Caceres received a phone call that told her a car was circling around her house in La Esperanza.  Cáceres was in San Pedro Sula at the time, and told police there that the two subjects named in expedientes 1001-2015-00107 and 1001-2015-00008 in Intibuca for carrying unregistered weapons and homicide who were threatening to kill her.  Both had been released by the court in Intibuca at the behest of the Honduran Public Prosecutor's office.

Berta Cáceres was murdered on March 3 at 1 am in the morning by two armed individuals in a white truck.  So far the Honduran police haven't made any effort to identify or interview any of those she told them were threatening to kill her, instead pursuing theories that blame her for her own death.  This is how murders are whitewashed in Honduras, by blaming the victims.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Indigenous Rights Activist Berta Cáceres murdered

Indigenous rights activist Berta Cáceres was murdered in her home in La Esperanza, Intibuca, this morning.  Preliminary accounts suggest someone broke into the house about 1 am this morning and killed her.  Caceres, who is also known for her environmental rights work, was most recently working on protecting the rights of the Lenca people being displaced without due process by the Chinese construction company, SinoHydro, building the Agua Zarca dam in her home department of Intibuca for the Honduran company Desarrollos Energéticos, SA (DESA).

"They follow me; they threaten me with death, with kidnapping.  They threaten my family.  This is what we face" Caceres said.

She was one of the co-founders of the Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (COPINH), the primary Indigenous rights group in Honduras.  In 2015 she won the Goldman Environmental Prize given to people for " for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk."  Her biography on the Goldman prize website says of her:  "Berta Cáceres rallied the indigenous Lenca people of Honduras and waged a grassroots campaign that successfully pressured the world’s largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam."

The dam project was owned by Desarrollos Energéticos, a Honduran company, and being constructed by SinoHydro, the state-owned Chinese construction company, and the German company Voith Hydro.  Funding came from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration and the Development Finance Company of the Netherlands, and the Central American Mezzanine Infrastructure Fund of EMP Global, a total of $24.4 million.

In 2006 she began her work representing the Lenca community of Rio Blanco, who were being forcibly displaced as part of the dam construction in violation of their ILO 169 rights.  Honduras is a signatory of ILO 169 but has largely ignored its obligations under the treaty.  Rio Blanco should have been consulted, and its permission requested, to authorize the dam project under ILO 169, but that never happened.

The current Honduran government militarized the dam project region in an attempt to break the Lenca blockade of the dam site, shot and killed peaceful protesters, and even went so far as to arrest Berta Cáceres on trumped up weapons charges, threatening her with imprisonment.  The charges were later dismissed.

Her body was flown to the capital, Tegucigalpa, by the Honduran Air Force where it was transferred to the morgue of the Forensic Medicine unit of the Police.  Outside the morgue, Lenca people have been building a "mural" with flowers and colored sawdust (like the murals done for Holy Week), this one depicting the Rio Gualcarque region she had defended from the hydroelectric project.

Cáceres is survived by her four children, and her mother.