Gustavo Castro Soto, coordinator of Otros Mundos Chiapas – Friends of the Earth Mexico, who was with Lenca leader Berta Caceres on Thursday early morning when she was murdered in Honduras “has not slept for two days, is tired and is transferred from one place to the other by the Honduran Prosecution Office to testify once and again. He is not feeling very well and this is being used by the authorities”. The environmental activist was shot and wounded in the attack against Berta´s home in La Esperanza municipality, Intibucá department, but he managed to save his life.
This is what activist Domingo Lechón, of Otros Mundos Chiapas, said on Sunday in an interview with Real World Radio. The organization has been in permanent contact with Gustavo Castro, “almost every hour”, who hasn´t been able to leave Honduras yet.
“They are looking for some kind of contradiction, some kind of statement, aiming to incriminate the struggles of the Council of Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), coordinated by Berta. “We think that he is still detained because they are looking for him to point to a member of COPINH, or that he contradicts himself in one of the many statements he is giving. So we are concerned about this situation. Right now he is at the Mexican Embassy in Tegucigalpa (Honduran capital city) but he is not allowed to leave the country”, added Domingo. Gustavo is at the Embassy since yesterday´s afternoon.
AT 5 am this morning, the Otros Mundos Chiapas coordinator was at Tegucigalpa´s airport joined by the Mexican Ambassador and Consul to Honduras, ready to board a plane to return to his country. But members of the Honduran Prosecution Office blocked his departure, saying that he still needs to testify. According to Domingo, the Mexican official authorities didn´t let the Prosecution Office representatives take him, and drove Gustavo back to the Embassy. This is “for now, the safest place for him”, said the activist, “considering the situation in the country and the links between companies and the government, with organized crime. This is why we fear so much for Gustavo´s life”, he highlighted.
“The Mexican Ambassador and Consul had to escort him in an official car to take him back to the Embassy. We still do not know clearly what is the status or the reason why he is being kept by the Honduran Authorities and what would be the procedure to follow”, denounced a press release by Otros Mundos Chiapas today.
The organization will give a press conference on Monday, at 12:30 pm at Centro de Derechos Humanos Agustín Prodh (Serapio Rendón 52B), in Mexico City, capital of the country.
Lawyers trusted by Otros Mundos Chiapas and Gustavo recommend him to stay at the Embassy, because he has the right to give statements from there, although the Honduran authorities insist on him leaving. “He has to say no, he needs to remain at Mexico´s Embassy until he returns to Mexico”, said Domingo, although the Embassy is giving him an almost diplomatic treatment.
With reference to this, neither the Mexican government nor Chiapas authorities have contacted Otros Mundos Chiapas. Gustavo is also member of the Mexican Network of People Affected by Mining (REMA) and the Meso American Movement against the Mining Extractive Model (M4).
Domingo said that his colleague is “extremely sad because he saw her friend die, the great leader Berta Cáceres”. “He is saying that he is not being treated very well; he is a victim, but many times he has been treated as a suspect; they didn´t give him his suitcase and he had to wear the same bloody clothes for three days”.
But the list of mistreatments doesn´t end there. “They wouldn´t let him sleep and barely fed him. He was not seen by a doctor, despite his injuries, until after a considerable amount of time. He said that he could tell that they were trying to wear him down so that he´d be psychologically weak”, added Domingo. Our interviewee said that Otros Mundos Chiapas thinks that the Honduras authorities are trying to make Gustavo incriminate someone from COPINH or the organization in itself, and thus “rule out other possible investigation paths, that we think are key, such as investigating the companies against which Berta fought”.
“Gustavo told us that they were insisting on showing him pictures, for instance, of COPINH members and asked him about the movement once and again, in one way or the other. Gustavo right away told us that this was the danger”, said the environmental activist.
Otros Mundos expects that social movements and organizations remain alert at international level, denouncing and exerting pressure for Gustavo’s release and spreading information. Real World Radio asked Domingo what is their demand for the Honduran government: “That they ensure Gustavo Castro´s safety and let him leave as soon as possible. He wants to go back to his family, his colleagues, get some rest and recover from his injuries to continue with our work for a better world, a dignified, wholesome, fair life, as Berta Caceres fought for her entire life. We want to continue the legacy of this struggle and move forward together with other movements”.
This podcast was produced and first published by Real World Radio.