Honduras elites is the responsibility of violence against environmental activists
After the murder of at the least 123 activists since 2009 military takeover, the Global Witness group points to involvement of politicians and business moguls
High-ranking politicians and business tycoons are implicated in a wave of violence against environmental activists in Honduras, according to an investigation by the anti-corruption group Global Witness, which says the countrys elites are using criminal methods to terrorize communities with impunity.
At least 123 land and environmental activists have been murdered in Honduras since a military takeover dtat forced out the populist chairperson Manuel Zelaya; many of the victims have been members of indigenous and rural communities opposing mega-projects on their territories.
The murder last year of human rights and indigenous activist Berta Cceres, recipient of the prestigious 2015 Goldman environmental prize, triggered international censure but failed to stop the bloodshed.
Cceres was shot dead after years of death threats and country persecution linked to her campaign to stop the internationally funded Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam on the Gualcarque river, which is sacred to the Lenca people. Two of her colleagues have since been killed.
Desarrollos Energeticos SA( Desa ), the private company behind the dam, was awarded the project without any community consultation. Company records obtained by Global Witness for the first time reveal that the companys board of directors includes influential political, military and business leaders.
The company president, Roberto David Castillo Meja, is a former military intelligence officer and employee of the Honduran state-owned energy company. Before her death, Cceres told Global Witness that Castillo had offered her a bribe to stop campaigning against the dam, research reports says.Castillo has denied trying to bribe her.
The company secretary, Roberto Pacheco Reyes, is a former justice minister, while the company vice-president, Jacobo Nicols Atala Zablah, is president of the BAC Honduras bank, and a member of a powerful business family.
Seven people have so far been arrested for Cceress murder, including 2 Desa employees andactive and former military officers, but the activists family has repeatedly called for the intellectual authors to be held accountable.
Last year, an investigation by the Guardian revealed that Cceress name seemed with dozens of social activists on a military hitlist to be given to US-trained special forces units.
A spokesman for Desa said the company was not involved at any level in Cceress murder.
Since the 2009 takeover, violence has increased dramatically, while successive rightwing governments have induced environmentally destructive mining, agribusiness, tourism and energy projects the cornerstone of the countrys economic growth strategy.
Environmental checks and balances have been watered down or dismissed and hundreds of concessions awarded en masse. Despite this, many of the projects are backed by prominent international financiers and organizations such as the International Finance Corporation and the Inter-American Development Bank.
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