Nearly one month after the murder of Honduran Indigenous leader Berta Caceres, family members have called attention to a troubling fact they believe could be compromising the investigation: the director of the prosecution previously represented the company that Caceres long protested and that supporters have blamed for death threats and linked to her murder.
In a new statement marking one month since her murder, the family say they have "desperately sought to obtain the most basic information regarding the current Honduran investigation into Berta’s assassination, including a simple list of Berta’s personal belongings that authorities have seized, and a complete autopsy report as well as a raw copy of the existing video of the autopsy."
They added, "One of the individuals responsible for denying us access to this and other information regarding the investigation is Honduras’ Director of Public Attorneys Jose Arturo Duarte."
Duarte was formerly a partner in the law firm that handled legal cases to protect the corporate interests of DESA, the company behind the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project that Caceres and her organization COPINH have tirelessly resisted. DESA’s current lawyer is said to be Duarte’s personal friend.
Now, Duarte is one of the high-level authorities blocking Caceres’ family from accessing key information about the investigation that they have repeatedly demanded.
Caceres’ family members called out the conflict of interest in a statement sent to teleSUR on Friday, adding that the U.S. State Department is complicit in the botched investigation by continuing to “show confidence” in the process despite knowledge of Duarte’s compromising ties.
“The U.S. government has enormous leverage in Honduras, through its assistance programs and veto power over multilateral loans,” the statement reads. “It’s time for the U.S. to begin using that leverage to promote justice and stop the killing of social activists rather than continuing to hand the Honduran government a blank check to carry on with business as usual.”
Family and supporters have called for an independent and internationally-led investigation, similar to probe carried out by independent forensic experts in the case of Mexico’s 43 disappeared Ayotzinapa students.
Since day one, Caceres’ family and fellow activists have doubted authorities’ willingness to conduct a thorough and unbiased investigation into the murder. Caceres’ daughters have pegged the blame squarely on the Honduran state for failing to protect her after repeated death threats.
With a high impunity rate for murder and violations against human rights defenders in Honduras, Caceres’ family fears that the true story behind their loved one’s murder will remain in the dark.
As Caceres’ family members wrote, “It is highly unlikely that the intellectual authors of this assassination will ever be brought to justice.”