The Truth is Getting Uglier in Honduras
In June 2009, the then-president Hondura Manuel Zelaya was deposed by the military under suspicious circumstances linked to Honduran Narco-oligarchs, Hillary Clinton and the CIA. Now it appears that one of the biggest threats to those that took over after Zelaya, environmental activist Berta Cáceres, was murdered by Us-trained special forces in the country.
The background for all this starts – if there ever can be such a thing as start in operations as convoluted as the U.S.’S involvement in regime manipulation – started with the election of José Manuel Zelaya Rosales as President of Honduras. That happened in 2006, with Zelaya elected based on a primarily conservative platform.
While President, Zelaya moved his country rapidly to a far more liberal policy agenda, a surprise switch in a country which had never seen such a move before.
That agenda included becoming a member of ALBA, formally known as Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América (the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of America). That association was grounded in ideology originally espoused by Simón Bolívar, the 19th century revolutionary leader born in Caracas, Venezuela. Just as Bolívar had called for Hispanic America to unite as a single “Great Nation”, ALBA, founded originally in 2004 by Cuba and Venezuela, drew socialist and social democratic governments looking to combine forces in a regional economic alliance based on a vision of social welfare, bartering and mutual economic aid. The connection with ALBA brought Zelaya in a far closer relationship with Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez and Raúl Castro of Cuba.
Zelaya also introduced a number of socialist agenda items in his country, including free education for all children, free school meals for 1.6 million children from the poorest parts of his country, subsidies for small farmers, reduced bank interest rates, the incorporation of domestic employees into the social security system, state help provided for 200,000 families determined to be in extreme poverty, free electricity for those also in need, and an increase in the minimum wage of 80% from before he was in power. Under his direction poverty figures reduced by more than 10% during Zelaya’s eventually shortened term of office.
Unfortunately, Zelaya’s alliances with Venezuela and Cuba angered both the right-wing military in his country and the Obama-clinton State Department in the United States. And although absolute proof was never provided, it appears that that military coup which ousted Zelaya from power on June 28, 2009, was also backed by the U.S.
During that overthrow, the military removed Zelaya from his home at gunpoint and he was taken away by aircraft to a U.S. military base. Within Honduras and prior to the military having consolidated full control of the country, the Honduran embassy released a cable saying that, “The Embassy perspective is that there is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and national congress conspired on June 28 in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup.”
Under any other circumstances such an uprising might have been cause for a formal condemnation of the takeover, a formal cutoff of support for Zelaya’s military-placed successor Roberto Micheletti, and a demand to restore democratically-elected Zelaya to power.
Since Zelaya was not exactly supporting the U.S. “party line” and with some complicity on behalf of the U.S. clearly evident already with the ouster plane landing on a U.S. military base, the U.S. moved quickly to take advantage of the power change happening in Honduras. As Hillary said about that period in her own memoir, "Hard Choices", she made the decision then to create a plan with other regional leaders “to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot.” The U.S. ended up helping the new military-led group that had kicked Zelaya out to hold new elections in November 2009. In spite of boycotts by opposition leaders and international observers, the elections proceeded ahead, directed by the same people and groups who ousted Zelaya in the first place.
Since that time, Honduras has become one of the most violent and assassination-laced countries in the world. The leadership of the country has taken on formally-organized persecution of journalists and social justice activists, with blockage of reporting and arrests being just the tip of the iceberg here. It is also on record that, according to Global Witness, some 101 Honduran environmental activists were killed between 2010 and 2014. That total has gone up since then to a total of 124 land and environmental campaigners.
The Truth About the Murder of Berta Cáceres
One of those environmental activists, Berta Cáceres, was shot and killed while in theory being protected by Honduras’ state forces, after she had received death threats connected with her opposition to a hydroelectric dam.
Cáceres, a 2015 winner of the Goldman environmental prize in 2015, had made an international name for her protests with calls for the U.S. to revoke military aid to Honduras. The U.S. was angered by those protests, since it saw Honduras as a major ally in its so-called drug war as well as a block to the left-leaning alignments of the country under the Zelaya administration.
Since the military coup, the U.S. has assisted the new government with continued targeted training of Hondura’s special forces groups. Although the purported purpose of those teams is a fight against gangs, organized crime and terrorism, locals in the country say the Honduran special forces are being used to go after community leaders and local activists identified as a problem by the Honduran intelligence apparatus. International activist and watchdog group Global Witness reports also that, as many major environmentally-destructive projects have been launched in the country, extensive linkages between the political, business and military elites to combat environmental protesters have been uncovered.
As the investigation has proceeded into Berta Cáceres’ killing, eight men have been arrested. One of those was a current member of Honduras’ military at the time of the shooting. Two were retired military officers.
The Honduran government has, not surprisingly, denied any involvement with her murder. But recently-leaked court documents connected to the prosecution of those charged in the murder say a very different story. They suggest this was a precisely-designed extrajudicial killing directed by internal military intelligence officers and Honduras’ and the Honduran special forces trained by the United States’ own intelligence teams.
These documents, leaked to The Guardian in the U.K., show that Maj Mariano Díaz, the one officer charged in the case who was currently serving in the Honduran military, and a second suspect, Lt Douglas Giovanny Bustillo, were “unusual” in many ways.
Both joined the military on exactly the same day and had served together all the time until Bustillo’s retirement in 2008.
Both received U.S. military training during their service for Honduras.
Internal Honduran military records also show Díaz had special training in counterinsurgency in several places. This included at special forces bases in Tegucigalpa and in the Bajo Aguán, as well as at the Inter American Air Force Academy in 2005.
Díaz, with a distinguished service record as a decorated veteran of the special forces, has the rank of chief of army intelligence. He was reportedly on a fast track to a near-term promotion of lieutenant colonel at the time of the murder. It is therefore possible that this killing was something Díaz took on as an assignment, to expedite his promotion.
Since the leaked documents from the court also show that when Díaz was arrested, he was also being investigated for drug trafficking and kidnapping. So the killing of Cáceres could also have been part of an internal deal to get those investigations dropped.
Bustillo also took logistics and artillery courses in 1997 at Fort Benning, Georgia. This was he same base which had also trained many other Latin American officers – running into the hundreds – who were later found to have committed human rights abuses.
Beyond these two individuals, Sgt. Henry Javier Hernández, another suspect, was an expert sniper who had served in Díaz’s command before. The case prosecutors believe Hernández may have acted as a military intelligence informant even after he left the military in 2013.
Now add to that that among the five civilians also arrested in Cáceres’ death include the manger for the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam that Cáceres had protested against. Further, this project is managed by Desarrollos Energéticos SA, (Desa). Roberto David Castillo Mejía, that company’s president, was also formerly a Honduran military intelligence officer, and Roberto Pacheco Reyes, its secretary, is a former Hon- duran justice minister.
And Desa, in one of those coincidences that few believe could truly be a coincidence, had from 2013 to 2015 employed suspect Lt Bustillo as its head of security.
Beyond this, there was also evidence uncovered last year by The Guardian about a former Honduran solider who said he had seen Cáceres’ name on a “hitlist” which was supposedly passed on to U.S. trained units in the country.
The case is proceeding at this point but with the power of the Honduran government to squelch proceedings there, it is unclear to what degree any true justice will emerge for Cáceres and the others killed in the past by U.S. backed death squads.
In the meantime, the U.S. last year granted the Honduran government $18 million of aid in reward of their efforts to support U.S. causes. The U.S. is also the main provider of military and police support to the country.
Narco-oligarchs Supported by the World Bank
It is not just the U.S. and the narco-oligarchs in Honduras that are behind the violence. In a law suit filed March 9, the World Bank's International Finance Corporation is accused of financing Corporacion Dinant when owned by the late Miguel Facussé Barjum, a brutal Honduran narco-oligarch whose death squads targeted his workers and people whose land he wanted to steal.
In Embassy cables leaked by Wikileaks, it was apparent that the U.S. State Department knew that Facussé was a drug trafficker since at least 2004 and worked closely with U.S. trained and funded Honduran troops to not just engage in drug trafficking but wage war on workers, activists, journalist and anyone else who stood in his way.
The World Bank gave money to Facussé knowing that he was a criminal and the so-called bio-fuel projects the money was supposed to fund would be used to pay for death squads, gross violation of human rights, land grabs and environmental destruction.
In 2014, an internal World Bank investigation said that the International Finance Corporation violated its own social and environmental rules in approving a $30m loan to Facussé.