Sunday, May 1, 2016

Antecedents of an Assassination - Summary of Threats against Berta Cáceres 2013-2016

Threats, attacks and intimidation against Berta Cáceres Flores

What follows is a brief summary of the many acts of intimidation suffered by Berta Cáceres Flores (referred to hereafter as “Berta”) between July 2013 and March 2016. The majority of these acts were denounced to national authorities and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) as per the protective measures granted to Berta on June 29th, 2009.[1]

July 15th, 2013         Civil Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH)[2] member Tomás García Domínguez is killed and his son Allan García[3] is wounded.

October 30th, 2013         Berta receives a text message on her cell phone saying: “You look good driving, I saw you over by Siguatepeque.” It is important to point out that this same day Berta had seen an automobile belonging to the SINOHYDRO[4] company following her.

October 5th, 2014         When Berta was returning from activities in defense of the San Juan River, accompanied by Tomás Gómez Membreño, Aureliano Molina Villanueva and Jerónimo Guevara,[5] a mountain bike without license plates started to do circles around the vehicle they were driving in and continued for several minutes. Just after this a tree trunk fell from above, thrown to try to force them off of the highway. After avoiding and getting past it they look back and saw that the same person who had been driving around them with his motorbike was watching.

December 30th, 2014         At approximately 2pm, several members of the Lenca community of Río Blanco, together with Berta Cáceres, are reclaiming properties on their ancestral lands in the area of the Cangel River near the Blue Energy company’s plant, when several armed guards come out to confront them, one pointing his gun straight at Berta, who is able to back him off by taking out her telephone and threatening to record him.

January 19th, 2015         Berta receives a call from an unknown person, who warns her about the risk she faces and advises her to be careful when passing through Agua Caliente[6] to go visit the affected communities.

January 21st, 2015         Berta is in Tegucigalpa inside of a COPINH vehicle, accompanied by a member of the Honduran Network of Women Defending Human Rights and her daughter – sitting on the passenger side – when an unknown person gets out of a white taxi-like vehicle with a blue suitcase and the car approaches Berta, trying to open up the passenger door. Berta reacts immediately, telling her daughter to close the door, prompting the unknown person to drive off.

January 22nd, 2015         Ms. Berta Cáceres receives a text message warning her of the risk of being kidnapped by people close to the hydroelectric projects and asking her to call an unknown number to get more information. When Berta calls the same person she had spoken with on January 19th answers - refusing again to identify himself - and indicates to her that the company developing projects along the Canje River has hired someone close to the police to follow and eventually kidnap her.

January 24th, 2015         Berta receives another text message warning her to be careful when passing through Agua Caliente.

January 26th, 2015         Ms. Cáceres calls the unknown number that had been provided again to get more information. The informant indicates to her that when passing through Agua Caliente, she should go through in a vehicle without stopping since there would be people close to the Blue Energy company looking to stop her and other COPINH members from getting through.

January 27th, 2015         Ms. Cáceres is returning to Río Blanco with a delegation of journalists from the United States in three vehicles, one of them the one normally used by COPINH. Berta is in one of the first two cars when, while passing through Agua Caliente, they are stopped for at least forty minutes by a group of people supposedly close to the Blue Energy company. The President of Agua Caliente’s community council is amongst these people, and while this takes place, Berta hears these individuals asking for her, expressing intent to kill her and to burn the third vehicle, belonging to COPINH. Fortunately, these people don’t recognize Ms. Cáceres. The driver of the third vehicle is threatened for transporting COPINH members.

February 3rd, 2015         This day, Berta receives a call from the previously mentioned informant, who warns her that the Blue Energy company has taken out 30,000 Lempiras to use to pay people to follow her and warns her again about getting kidnapped.

February 6th, 2015         Ms. Berta Cáceres is informed that in the month of January, several people who said they were agents of the National Criminal Investigation Unit, had obtained the birth certificates of Berta and one of her daughters at the National Population Registry in La Esperanza.

February 7th, 2015         Berta receives another call from the informant, who warns her that she could wind up disappearing.

March 28th, 2015         While the human rights defender is passing through the Agua Caliente community, she receives a call from one of the lawyers working with COPINH who informs her that he has received a call from an unknown person asking if he has had contact with or knows Berta.

                                    That same day, Berta receives a call from a member of the Río Blanco Indigenous Council, letting her know about a supposed plan to kill her. The plan was supposedly led by three people, two of them with the last name Madriz, and he tells her that it is related to the process of recovering lands occupied by the DESA company.

May 20th, 2015         Moisés Durán, who had assumed an active role in COPINH in the land recovery process around Somolagua, Santa Bárbara, is assassinated.

November 4th, 2015         A computer belonging to COPINH is robbed from Berta’s mother’s house, where she had left it during a trip to Tegucigalpa. According to Berta, it was filled with an enormous amount of information about COPINH’s activities defending human rights, going back historically.

November 6th, 2015         While driving COPINH’s vehicle towards the La Tejera community, at the point of the exit towards El Roble, Berta is shot at on three separate occasions.  Ms. Cáceres can’t identify where the bullets come from, but to protect herself she keeps driving and gets away from the area without any of the bullets hitting her car.

November 24th, 2015          Mr. Tomás Gómez receives a call from a person identifying himself as Juan Bautista Madrid. During the call he tells him, among other things, that he and Ms. Cáceres are the people responsible for agitating the people in the communities, that should “anything happen to you” it would be your fault,” that they intend to settle things with Berta Cáceres “one way or another” and that they should think about consequences.

November 30th, 2016          Members of COPINH – including its leader Berta Cáceres – are headed in two buses towards the municipality of San Francisco de Ojuera, in the state of Santa Bárbara, to protest peacefully and ask for a meeting with Mayor Raúl Pineda, when the Honduran police forces detain two of their vehicles, search them, and temporarily prevent them from continuing on towards that municipality.[7]

                                    When they arrive at their destination, there are numerous municipal workers waiting for them with machetes and small fire arms, who start throwing rocks at them, threatening them by saying to them, among other things, “this is the old bitch that we have to kill” – clearly referring to Berta Cáceres – and taking away the signs they are carrying. All of this is tolerated by police and military agents who are also present. According to one COPINH member, one of the armed men comes close to stabbing Ms. Cáceres in the chest.

December 28th, 2015         A person identified as Olvin Gustavo Mejía is detained by the National Civil Police for illegally carrying high caliber weapons while going through a place known as La Hamaca, along the Gualcarque River, where the DESA company is carrying out its construction. He was accused of involvement in the killing of a COPINH sympathizer named Bernardo Pérez.

                                    As far as is known, that person is currently free and is seen at the end of the month of January 2016 working as part of the DESA company’s security team.

                                    An informant who remains anonymous for his safety tells Berta that while detained another detainee told him that he was there as part of a plan to kill several COPINH members, amongst them Ms. Berta Cáceres.

January 26th, 2016         DESA sends several Honduran human rights organizations[8] an “informational note” in which they accuse COPINH of being an organization intending to “manipulate public perception,” and refer to “a Spanish activist who belongs to an NGO that accompanies COPINH in its reclamations.” The reference is to Luis Díaz Terán, who has been receiving threats for his collaboration with COPINH.

February 10th, 2016         COPINH’s Tomás Gómez receives text messages from DESA’s former head of security, Douglas Bustillo, telling him that they failed to stop DESA and that they have them defeated.

February 16th, 2016         Berta and other COPINH members are pursued by armed men while driving away from Río Blanco after a visit with the Lenca people resisting the dam. The armed men pursue Berta’s vehicle, but she is able to flee to another town.

February 20th, 2016         During a peaceful march towards the DESA company’s construction site by about 250 people – including COPINH members and sympathizers - who had arrived in several buses, several people supporting the Agua Zarca project stop them along the way, force them out of their vehicles and take hold of the vehicles. It isn’t until approximately 9pm, with mediation from police, that the buses are returned and the protesters are able to return to La Esperanza, Intibucá.

February 25th, 2016         While police and military displace about 50 COPINH families from their homes in Jarcia, Guinse, Intibucá, a member of the National Criminal Investigation Unit (DGIC) harasses Berta and tells her that the security forces won’t be held responsible if something happens to her.

February 26th, 2016         At approximately 1:45pm, a new double cabin truck with tinted windows parks on the same street as COPINH’s office. A tall man with very short hair gets out of the vehicle while another man stays inside with the vehicle turned on. The man who gets down approaches the COPINH office and asks for Berta. When he is informed that she isn’t there, he asks where she is and asks for her phone number. When the COPINH member asks him to identify himself, he refuses and leaves.

March 2nd, 2016         The morning of March 2nd, the day of Berta Cáceres’s assassination, witnesses see Jorge Ávila, DESA’s chief of security, along with unknown subjects in a vehicle without license plates in Siguatepeque at the point of the turnoff towards La Esperanza. The men are talking poorly of Berta and the vehicle takes off in the direction of La Esperanza.

March 3rd, 2016         Berta Cáceres dies, assassinated at her home.

[1] As a consequence of the June 28th, 2998 coup d’état that year, the IACHR granted protective measures to numerous people at risk, labeling the measures MC 196-09. Then, on July 31st, 2013 the IACHR distinguished the different measures and thereafter continued following Berta Cáceres under measure number MC 405-09.
[2] The Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (COPINH) is the alliance of Lenca indigenous communities that Berta Cáceres co-founded and led until her assassination in March of this year.
[4] SINOHYDRO is one of two companies (the other is DESA), involved in the construction of the Agua Zarca dam that the COPINH-affiliated Lenca indigenous community of Río Blanco has been fighting for several years. SINOHYDRO has since pulled out of the project as a result of the conflict.
[5] All COPINH members.
[6] Municipality of San Pedro de Zacapa, state of Santa Bárbara.
[7] Correo Del Orinoco. “Policía nacional de Honduras ataca marcha indígena del Copinh”. November 30th, 2015. copinh/ (last checked: March 4th, 2016).
See also: COPINH: “Tratan de impedir la movilización del COPINH con actos desesperados”, November 30th, 2015. Avilable at: (last checked: March 4th, 2016).

[8] Amongst them are the International Honduran Accompanied Project (PROAH) and the Human Rights Network (CADEHO).

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails