News Release

Slain Activist Reportedly on Honduran Hit List; State Dept. and Clinton Facing Scrutiny

berta official

Nina Lakhani in the Guardian reports: “Berta Cáceres, the murdered environmental campaigner, appeared on a hitlist distributed to U.S.-trained special forces units of the Honduran military months before her death, a former soldier has claimed.”

See: “Democracy Now” report from Thursday: “State Department Faces Questioning over U.S. Military Aid to Honduras.”

The Guardian continues: “Lists featuring the names and photographs of dozens of social and environmental activists were given to two elite units, with orders to eliminate each target, according to First Sergeant Rodrigo Cruz, 20.

“Cruz’s unit commander, a 24-year-old lieutenant, deserted rather than comply with the order. Cruz — who asked to be identified by a pseudonym for fear of reprisal — followed suit, and fled to a neighbouring country. Several other members of the unit have disappeared and are feared dead.

“’If I went home, they’d kill me. Ten of my former colleagues are missing. I’m 100 percent certain that Berta Cáceres was killed by the army,’ Cruz told the Guardian.

“Cáceres, an indigenous Lenca leader who won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015 for a campaign against the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam, was shot dead in her home in March. Before her murder, she had reported 33 death threats linked to the campaign and had warned international human rights delegates that her name was on a hitlist.

“According to Cruz, Cáceres’s name appeared on a list given to a military police unit in the Inter-institutional Security Force (Fusina), which last summer received training from 300 U.S. marines and FBI agents.

“Five men have been arrested for her murder, including Maj Mariano Díaz Chávez, an active-duty major in the Honduran army. Díaz had previously participated in joint U.S.-Honduran military operations in Iraq, and is reported by local media to be a graduate of the elite Tesón special operations course which is partly taught by U.S. special forces. Diaz was a military police instructor when arrested, but has since been given a dishonorable discharge.”

SILVIO CARRILLO, silvio.carrillo[at]gmail.com, @justiceforberta
Carrillo is the nephew of Berta Cáceres. He runs the website BertaCaceres.org. He said today: “On June 15th hundreds of people in at least 17 countries around the world participated in a tribute and protest for Berta Cáceres, the Honduran indigenous human rights leader assassinated on March 3rd of this year. That same day Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) introduced a bill (H.R. 5474) introduced a bill in her name, ‘The Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act.’ …

“The U.S. government has not only given millions of dollars for military and security programs to the government of Honduras, but they have actively supported the conservative regimes that have allowed and encouraged corruption to flourish since the U.S.-supported coup in 2009 that removed a democratically-elected president from office. For this tacit support, the conservative governments promise stability and U.S. access to their military assets.

“The security programs the U.S. is funding are to contain the mass exodus of people leaving because of skyrocketing crimes rate and rampant impunity in Honduras since the 2009 coup.

“The money allocated to the military pays for training. But, details of that training are unclear. A recent report by The Guardian documents how a U.S.-trained unit in the Honduran army had my aunt on a hitlist and the whistleblower believes they are responsible for her assassination. Yet, the U,S, State Department denies anything is wrong in Honduras. “And at this time, there’s no specific credible allegations of gross violations of human rights that exists in this or any other case involving the security forces that receive U.S. Government assistance,”said State Department spokesperson, John Kirby recently when asked repeatedly about the report in the Guardian.”

“Apparently, the hundreds of dead bodies and reams of documentation by civil society and international NGOs isn’t evidence enough? Is this what Berta died for?”

See also, in The Nation: “Before Her Murder, Berta Cáceres Singled Out Hillary Clinton for Criticism.”