The Manhunt for the Killers of Berta Cáceres

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Felix Molina, a radio journalist in Honduras, had run into his old friend, environmental activist Berta Cáceres, at an airport in February, 2016. Berta seemed nervous, as if something bad was going to happen to her—and soon.

“She was certain of it,” he remembers. “She said, ‘They’re going to kill me, Felix. They’re going to kill me.” About a week later, Berta was dead.

Felix began investigating Desarrollos Energeticos, or DESA, the Honduran company behind the Agua Zarca dam project Berta had spent years fighting. Felix eventually obtained a list of the company’s executives, and on the morning of May 2, 2016, posted it online. By the end of that day, Felix’s life—and the lives of several others connected to Berta’s story—would take frightening new turns.

That Monday was a day off for most people—Labor Day in Honduras. But nothing about it was quiet. The action began with 10 separate raids at homes and offices all across the country. Investigators rifled through closets and under bedsheets. They confiscated mobile phones, computers and tablets. And they arrested four people. All of them, police believed, were involved in a murder-for-hire scheme that resulted in Berta’s death.

Sergio Rodriguez was one of them. He was the environmental and community relations manager for the company overseeing DESA’s Agua Zarca project. Also arrested was DESA’s head of security, a military officer, and a young man believed to be one of the hired gunmen. During the raids, police said they found the same kind of .38 caliber handgun used to murder Berta.

Felix, meanwhile, monitored news of the arrests and headed over to his radio studio. On the way there, while his taxi cab was stopped at a light, two people approached the car. One of them pointed a gun at him. The taxi driver stepped on the gas and sped away. Once Felix got to the studio, he wrote about the incident in a social media post. “Ufff,” he wrote, “what a country we live in!”

Felix counted himself lucky to have escaped what he initially thought was a random armed robbery attempt. But by the end of a day filled with news of raids and arrests, Felix changed his mind. He no longer thought someone was trying to rob him—he believed it was an attempt at payback.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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