Honduran military officials are implicated in the planning and murder of Lenca activist Berta Caceres on March 3, 2016, according to recent reports, and one United States Senator is calling for a State Department investigation into the training two of the Honduran military murder suspects received in the U.S.
In court documents publicized in early March, two of the three Honduran soldiers arrested for the murder are shown to be part of military special-forces and allege that they received some training in the U.S.
Honduran authorities have denied any state involvement in the murder.
The recently released information about alleged murderers Maj. Mariano Diaz, Lt. Douglas Giovanny Bustillo and Sgt. Henry Javier Hernandez shows that Diaz is a decorated veteran and was appointed chief of army intelligence in 2015. Reports have noted that Diaz attended cadet leadership courses in Fort Benning, Georgia and a counter-terrorism course at the Inter American Air Force Academy in 2005.
Bustillo joined the military on the same day as Diaz, served with Diaz and was in contact with him after retiring in 2008. In 1997, Bustillo attended logistics and artillery courses at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia, the institution that trained many Latin American officers later involved in human rights abuses. Bustillo also worked for the DESA Corporation, which is building the project Caceres was fighting against for many years.
Hernandez was a special-forces sniper who served under Diaz. Investigations indicate that Hernandez may have worked as an informant after his retirement from the army in 2013.
On March 2, 2016, two assailants broke down the door where Carceres lived and shot her to death as reported by ICMN.
Hernandez has admitted his involvement in Caceres’s murder, but details as to what that entails have not been released, and has said he participated under duress. The other two other men have denied their involvement.
Phone records and Hernandez’s testimony indicate that Bustillo and Hernandez visited La Esperanza, the town where Caceres lived, several times in the weeks before her death.
While the investigations continue, one U.S. lawmaker is calling on the Honduran government to cancel the DESA Corp.'s Agua Zarca project and for the U.S. State Department to investigate the training of both Diaz and Bustillo in U.S. facilities.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) spoke about the Caceres case and the need for the investigations in a statement filed in the Congressional Record on March 2.
"Given the shameful history of the Agua Zarca project it should be cancelled. Other hydroelectric and extractive projects in indigenous territories should be reconsidered by the Honduran Government and allowed to proceed only after a transparent process based on the free, prior, informed consent of affected communities," Leahy stated.
"The Department of State needs to thoroughly and transparently investigate whether Major Diaz and Lieutenant Bustillo were in fact trained by the United States. If so, the Congress and the Honduran people deserve to know how they were selected, what training they received, and any steps taken to improve the process of screening potential trainees and to monitor the conduct of those who have received U.S. training."