A Honduran court has sentenced former power company president Roberto David Castillo to 22 years and six months in prison for his role in the 2016 assassination of environmental activist Berta Cáceres.
Castillo’s firm, Desarrollos Energéticos, was behind the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam project, which Cáceres campaigned against, and opposition to the project led to significant delays and financial losses for the company. A former U.S.-trained Honduran intelligence officer, Castillo was convicted of deploying paid informants and military contacts to keep watch on Cáceres and orchestrating her killing.
Last year, a court found Castillo guilty of coordinating her murder and sending a team of hired hitmen to kill Cáceres in her home on March 2, 2016. In addition to seeing out a lengthy prison term, Castillo must also perform public works and will remain responsible for any civil claims brought against him, The Guardian reported. He is the eighth person to be sentenced for Cáceres’s assassination.
Cáceres, born to a prominent family of Indigenous Lenca, co-founded the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras in 1993. She helped revive Lenca cultural traditions and opposed the planned Agua Zarca dam on the Gualcarque River, a sacred site for the Lenca people.
Yale Environment 360 investigated Cáceres’ murder as part of a 2017 series on killings of environmental activists. “Before Berta, our ceremonies were being forgotten. I remembered them as a child, but we no longer did them,” Lenca elder Pascualita Vasquez told e360 then. “But Berta emphasized for us how important it was to rescue our traditions, and to hold ceremonies before discussions of current issues like dams. We revere our ancestors, and now that Berta is dead, we see her as an ancestor, too.”
Cáceres was awarded the prestigious Goldman prize for environmental activism for her work. Following her murder, international funders withdrew their backing for the Agua Zarca dam, effectively canceling the project. In May, Honduran lawmakers declared Cáceres a national hero. Her image will be added to the 200-Lempira note.