TEGUCIGALPA, HONDURAS: A law firm that submitted the cell phone content of environmentalist Berta Cáceres, murdered in March 2016, presented this week a paper which contains a series of controversial digital chats featuring conversations that the deceased indigenous leader maintained with distinct people in her circle which were analyzed by investigated forensic experts.
The paper, titled “War on Development,” was published this week by the law firm Amsterdam & Partners, the firm retained by Desarrollos Energéticos S.A. (DESA).
The paper is based, they explain, upon a review of thousands of pages of evidence and digital forensic data “which contains alarming revelations regarding the events of 2016.”
Some of the digital data points found in the annexes of the paper, where there is a transcription of cellular messaging conversations, extracted from Berta Cáceres’ phone. The telephone had been important evidence that the Public Prosecutor’s Office had not wanted to submit to either the lawyers of Berta Cáceres, or the defense of those accused of her death, they commented.
It wasn’t until about two months ago, that is, shortly before the trial began, that the content of the device was delivered to the two parties. The lawyers of one of the defendants linked to DESA then submitted the contents to analysis by forensic experts.
The controversial chats
Three situations can be deduced from the extracted cellular chats and conversations.
The first of these is that former military member, Douglas Geovanny Bustillo, was looking at nearly 4 million Lempiras that Berta Cáceres received for a prize. The second is a tormented romantic relationship between Berta Cáceres and Aureliano Molina, a member of the COPINH [her former organization]. And the other is an apparently healthy relationship between Berta Cáceres and David Castillo, the Chairman of the Board of DESA and from whom she received money and other personal support.
For example, Douglas Geovanny Bustillo, the former-Security Chief of DESA, sent a message to Berta Cáceres on September 20, 2013 which said:
“My life has no meaning without you”
Additionally, in February 2015, Bustillo sent her an image that led to the following conversation:
Berta: Who is this?
Bustillo: hahaha as if you don’t know
Berta: I think I know who this is
Bustillo: Great, it makes me happy that you know who I am
Berta: And who could be mad about that?
Bustillo: Well I don’t know; what if your partner is jealous and read my message and saw the photo where I am telling you that you look more beautiful in the other picture?
Later, in February 2016, the correspondence between Berta Cáceres and Bustillo feature a message that she forwarded, that Bustillo had sent to another person which the leader [Berta] later discovered.
“You no longer have the strength you did before it seems you have sold your consciences and ideals. And you turned your back to the people of la Tejera … They only used them for the prize of your boss. And they haven’t helped them, not even with the maternity center despite the fact that they received L.3.75 million, almost 4 million.”
Berta makes a claim in the message to Bustillo, accusing him of being a figurehead of the company [DESA] and he defends himself by telling her that he does not remember the company. He insists that, “don’t be unfair with your people. Help them to not be ungrateful.”
“What is your problem with the prize? Poor [ignorant]! What can someone like you know about these things? And don’t get too excited. It’s a pity to see the role to which you’ve been relegated.”
Conversations with David Castillo
Another one of the annexes contains conversations between Berta Cáceres and David Castillo, the Chairman of the Board of DESA, who was detained this past March, on the two-years anniversary of Berta’s death.
Occurring between 2014 and 2016, the exchanges suggest that Castillo supported Berta Cáceres by lending money and providing vehicles for her travels.
What’s more, the exchanges reveal that Castillo paid for a surgery and part of the medical treatment of a family member of Berta Cáceres.
On the other hand, their correspondence indicates that both were prone to exchanging their feelings for one another. The chats make it clear that the two took several breakfast and dinner dates together.
Berta: Listen! You’re crazy! What are you thinking giving me so much money?
Castillo: Look – it’s ok. Take care of yourself. Bring back some Italian grappa.
This was seen in a conversation held on October 25th, 2014
In December 2014, there are also records of messages between the two, such as one where Castillo writes to Cáceres to wish her a Merry Christmas and she sends him a grateful response for his message, and even invites him to visit her.
In March 2015 there are messages in which Berta Cáceres informs David Castillo of their demonstrations at the American Embassy and confirms that her children had received visas.
There are other messages from December of that year, three months before her death, where the two wish each other a happy New Year.
Chats entre Berta y Aureliano
Another of the digital transcript archives featured in the white paper are the conversations between Berta Cáceres and Aureliano Molina, the leader of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) and her partner.
The chats show an intense intimate relationship, in which Molina constantly insulted her, demands money from her, participation in projects and even telephone reimbursements.
In one of these conversations, in February 2015, Berta says to Aureliano
“Another thing. I have the necessary criterion, and I’m not stubborn. At these levels no one can make sure that I’ll be there or that I’ll arrive.
Nor do I stand by the supposed companions who should have the minimum decency to ensure the safety of someone from their own organization.
I’m in several things to keep me from falling into any one trap.”
In February 2015, they exchanged the following messages
Aureliano: Don’t fuck with me, I have the will to do things. You’re no obstacle. Everything works, don’t fuck around.
Berta: Don’t take your problems out on me.
Aureliano: You’re to blame, who else would I take it out on?
Berta: I hope he’s at the next meeting.
Aureliano: He should really be speaking about these things without fear already.
In these conversations Aureliano demands Berta for a formal relationship like he has with his wife. Aureliano’s demands that she give him positions in projects.
Berta Cáceres also rebukes him
“You’re incredible. After COPINH went ahead and passed on your behalf an area worth nearly 400 thousand, with no guarantee from you at all, after they had given you support and opportunities, with which you’re leaving.”
In 2016, two months before her death, as part of a claim to pay a debt, she wrote:
“Good morning. I imagine that he is involved in his affairs – look I already decided that the deed to the land will definitely be in my name. I have no other option, so I will thank you for expediting the power to do so. On the other had, you knows about my urgencies I’m facing. You said that to me that second time, although the first time you told me something different, that you would pay me the land of Sigua. At these levels I imagine that you’ve already solved your Santa Cruz problems, so I ask you to pay me something, if possible, please I have a serious emergency with the children and my mother, I hope you can understand.”
Thus, Aureliano Molina reacts annoyed by the accusation. And Berta Cáceres answered by offering to pay him in a few months. “And I will not be fucking after that,” she adds.
Berta Cáceres responds:
“Look, enough, that’s it, don’t you think? You leeched off of me, you hit me and it wasn’t enough, but also in front of her. You talked shit about COPINH and me.”
The analyzed conversations also include a dialogue between Berta Cáceres and a Swiss journalist named Yanik, whom she informed of outstanding threats against her from a mining company.