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Military and Energy Company Officials Arrested for Murder of Berta Cáceres

Honduran authorities say they are pursuing murder charges for the March 3rd killing of the environmental and Indigenous rights activist

Adding credence to suspicions that Cáceres' killing was politically-motivated, among those arrested were Honduran military officials as well as an employee of Desarrollos Energéticos (or DESA), the private energy company behind the Agua Zarca dam, which Cáceres fiercely opposed. (Photo: Getty)

Adding credence to suspicions that Cáceres' killing was politically-motivated, among those arrested were Honduran military officials as well as an employee of Desarrollos Energéticos (or DESA), the private energy company behind the Agua Zarca dam, which Cáceres fiercely opposed. (Photo: Getty)

Authorities have arrested four suspects in the assassination of environmental and indigenous rights activist Berta Cáceres, the Honduran attorney general announced on Monday.

Adding credence to suspicions that Cáceres' killing was politically-motivated, among those arrested were Honduran military officials as well as an employee of Desarrollos Energéticos (or DESA), the private energy company behind the Agua Zarca dam, which Cáceres fiercely opposed.

Central American-based freelance journalist Sandra Cuffe reported Monday that the arrests included Mariano Díaz Chávez and Edilson Atilio Duarte Meza. Cuffe wrote, "Honduran Armed Forces spokesperson identified Díaz as a major and Duarte as a former member of the military."

Cuffe also identified Douglas Geovanny Bustillo as a "retired Air Force Lt. and head of DESA security," citing a 2013 report (pdf) by the nonprofit Rights Action about the Agua Zarca landgrab, and reported that "Sergio Rodríguez Orellana, an employee of the DESA hydro-electric company, was also detained as a suspect."

Before her death, Cáceres reported being threatened by Rodríguez and other "local thugs" employed by DESA during recent protests.

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According to a statement by the Office of the Public Prosecutor, the arrests took place after a series of ten raids Monday morning, dubbed "Operation Jaguar," in Tegucigalpa, La Ceiba, and Trujillo. Prosecutors are pursuing murder charges in Cáceres' death and and attempted murder for Mexican environmental activist Gustavo Castro, who was witness to the March 3rd killing.

Meanwhile, Cáceres' daughter, Bertha Zúñiga Cáceres, is currently touring Europe with members of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), which her mother co-founded. The delegation is calling on international governments to speak out against the murder and support the Lenca tribe's fight against the proposed dam on the sacred River Gualcarque.

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