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[00:00:04]

Congratulations to the winners of the 2015 Goldman Prize, it's the biggest prize an environmental activist can get, and this is the awards ceremony.

[00:00:17]

Thousands of people are packed in to San Francisco's Grand Opera House and in the middle of the front row.

[00:00:24]

Tonight's big winner is waiting for her name to be called Berta Caceres from Honduras. It's April 2015, and Berta Casares is being honored for her fight against a proposed hydroelectric dam in western Honduras. Foreign investors, the Honduran government and some of the wealthiest business leaders in the country have backed the project, has worked with a native community known as the Lenca to oppose it. They filed legal complaints, arguing the dam will destroy their way of life. They've stacked logs and stones on roads, blocking construction equipment from reaching the work worksite.

[00:01:08]

And Berta has been credited with driving the world's largest hydroelectric contractor, China's Sinohydro Corporation, to pull out of the project. It's been a grisly battle. Protesters and security guards have clashed. A couple people have been killed. Few more have been wounded and scarred. Berta herself says she's been constantly harassed. Threatening text messages have popped up on her phone. Strangers have followed. Her mysterious vehicles have tried to drive her off the road.

[00:01:44]

But on this night, as she walks on to the Opera House stage, none of that seems to rattle her.

[00:01:51]

She unfolds her speech at the podium and adjust the mind. That's when I notice Graciella familiar, although her closest friends have never seen her like this.

[00:02:04]

The Battalino wears jeans and T-shirts. Tonight, she's wearing a sparkling pale rose gown, but her smiles are the same.

[00:02:13]

And that smile is something her friends and colleagues have always talked about how the smile has a way of making people feel comfortable and how as soon as that happens, there's a switch things up, tries to make those same people feel a little uncomfortable.

[00:02:29]

Agitation, disruption, provocation. That's what she's going for.

[00:02:35]

This paternalists, this bertelmann, so many done like Dembo loosestrife.

[00:02:42]

Yes, it's a call to action. She says the world needs to wake up.

[00:02:47]

It's running out of time. She says greed, racism and old patriarchal systems are destroying us.

[00:02:56]

Bassal, another presidential capitalist, the racist patriarchal. Burns has been delivering that message in different ways for decades. As a kid, she tag along with her mom to protests.

[00:03:12]

She co-founded her own human rights organization when she was just 22, now at 44 years old. She's reached the pinnacle of her career.

[00:03:24]

They request the premier I told the Herald this, I mean, Mullery, I will Olinka Arreola, I'll copy.

[00:03:34]

She closes the speech by dedicating the award to all the rebels out there, to her mother, to the Hlinka indigenous community, and lastly, to all the martyrs who've lost their lives defending natural resources, which are Grass's.

[00:03:56]

And a lot of stories, this would be the end of a grassroots environmental activist achieves international acclaim after years of struggling for her costs. But this isn't one of those stories.

[00:04:09]

Tonight's award puts a spotlight on Berita. The anger and resentment she's inspired over the years intensified under its glare.

[00:04:20]

Burton will go back to Honduras after this.

[00:04:23]

She'll continue to speak out against the dam, but in less than a year, she'll be silenced. A prominent environmental rights activist was shot dead in Honduras on Thursday. She was killed more than 100 other activists since 2010 in what's become the deadliest country in the world for environmental defenders. My name is Montrail, an investigative journalist for Bloomberg Green. This is Blood River. It's the story of a murder, a murder in a place where murderers thrive, where about 97 percent of all killings are left unsolved and unpunished, where environmental activists have become irresistible targets.

[00:05:35]

The homicide investigation was full of surprises from day one. Now, more than four years on, it keeps revealing new twists. We think it's quite possible that there is more to this crime that has been exposed so far. I always felt like the government wouldn't dare to touch her. I always felt that she would be threatened and she would be defamed and they try and send her to prison. But I never actually thought that the government would dare kill her.

[00:06:08]

We'll dive into those accusations.

[00:06:10]

We'll follow strands of evidence on a zigzagging path that will lead towards some of the most powerful institutions in Honduras. Before long, foreign governments and international investors will have to confront the same question.

[00:06:26]

Who in the end is really responsible for the death of Berita Casares? And as more people get drawn into that mystery, more blood will be shed.

[00:06:38]

It's not a good situation when people can literally get away with murder. Convicting people previously thought to be untouchable of serious crimes and having to pay the consequences can send a very, very important message.

[00:06:51]

This is a test case. You know, this is so important. I'm walking up to the house where Berita was killed.

[00:07:14]

It's early twenty, twenty, almost four years after her murder, she had bought this place with some of the one hundred and seventy five thousand dollars she was awarded for winning the Goldman Prize at the time of her murder.

[00:07:27]

She hadn't fully moved in yet. She was only staying here a couple of days a week. The subdivision sits at the far south end of the city of La Esperanza. It's a new development, flat, treeless, with plenty of lots that remain empty. Her house is small and simple. A green stucco exterior, white trim, red metal roof. A six foot high chain link fence surrounds it. From the front door, you look across a dirt road and over a barren field, Pelosi is from the East Room products.

[00:08:04]

We sold them, we went on, we put Cafcass.

[00:08:07]

It's a subdivision that's very isolated and abandoned with very few houses.

[00:08:14]

That was Gustavo Castro's first impression of the place. He's an environmental activist from Mexico. Berta invited him to La Esperanza in March 2016 to speak at a conference.

[00:08:26]

She organized Amatzia, known as political.

[00:08:30]

She told me, no, don't worry, because anyway, I don't sleep here all the time. It's not like it's my permanent fixed address.

[00:08:38]

The next official told people that didn't put him at ease, especially when Berta started telling him how nasty her fight against the Iwazaki Dam project had gotten. At one protest, security guards for the dam shot and killed a demonstrator. They claim self-defense. Baraza herself had recently been getting threats, cryptic messages, saying she should watch her back, that sort of thing. She filed a complaint for the Organization of American States. It's sort of like the United Nations for the Americas.

[00:09:16]

That organization declared that the Honduran government had a responsibility to provide security for Berita, the enemy.

[00:09:26]

She chatted a lot about the attention she was getting, the threats about the complaint she had filed, and how about how sometimes the police officers that were supposed to be protecting her weren't protecting me and we had no luck with that one.

[00:09:43]

During that conference in La Esperanza, Gustavo had planned to stay at the house of another activist, one who lived in the center of the city. But when he saw barbarities place and how vulnerable she seemed there, his plans changed. Berta said he'd be welcome to stay with her. So Gustavo lugged his suitcase into the house and settled into the spare bedroom. The next evening, they grab dinner in a restaurant in town. It was about 10:00 when Berita drove them back to the house, she passed a little security booth in front of the subdivision.

[00:10:22]

A guard watched them pull up an older man in his 70s, maybe erase the crossbar that blocked the entrance road. The man nodded at Berita as she passed. It is busy.

[00:10:35]

So Alakazam after that.

[00:10:38]

Upon arriving at the house, we grabbed chairs and sat out on the front porch to talk, had a drink and smoked a cigarette.

[00:10:45]

And we stayed out there talking until maybe 11 o'clock or so. What you. So it was small talk.

[00:10:53]

Mostly it had been a long day and a week or so, but she was very tired and she said, OK, let's get some rest, I'll show you to your room.

[00:11:04]

And so we went in for the night and I did a little work on my room and the computer on a computer. Yes, I don't know if she was already asleep, but I heard some noises coming from around the house or inside the house and I thought maybe she was doing something like thalassaemia. By now, it must have been a little past 11, 13, that's when he heard a much louder noise and we've heard a bang very loud. I thought maybe Betar had dropped something in the kitchen and I was getting ready to get up to go help because it sounded very loud.

[00:11:48]

But immediately the door to my room was kicked open and at the same time, details from her room. Who's out there? Oh, please don't do this because you cannot name everything happened at once.

[00:12:00]

Gustavo heard gunshots coming from Berta's room, and when he looked up, a man was standing in his room no more than six or seven feet away. He looked young, 19, 20 years old, a thin guy, dark complexion, black hair, wide eyes. And he was holding a gun.

[00:12:20]

You'll never know. And I threw myself towards the side of the bed in my room to protect myself. And the gunman shot me in the head. You know, he got so many.

[00:12:39]

Eukaryote key was I think it was a miracle, because when I saw his eyes and saw his decision to shoot me, I instinctively moved and the gunman evidently thought the shot had caused that and he carried into pain.

[00:12:56]

So get out the little dispatch. Gustavo had thrown his hand up in front of his face, a protective reflex, the bullet tore through the skin of his hand. Then it buzzed the side of his head, clipping a piece of his ear. Gustavo fell to the floor, stunned, bleeding and still being so effective.

[00:13:19]

I mean, your lifestyle, based on what he evidently thought that I was already dead.

[00:13:26]

Gustavo sprawled on the floor, heard footsteps retreat down the hallway, then silence. No, Bartholomeus, they want me to kiss no more than a minute past, maybe as I was down on the floor and better yelled for me cuttable with double their point of Magnitogorsk time, almost hour into this.

[00:13:51]

So I realized that she was alive and got up to go to her room to help her. She was there on the ground bleeding. I couldn't tell where the gunshots were, only a lot of blood. Little by little, she was drowning.

[00:14:07]

He broke out Gandolfini. Gustavo was kneeling over Berita in shock somehow just before Barata faded out. She managed to mouth the final message to him. Call Salvador. She said. That was her ex-husband they'd split years before, but he's the father of her four children and he remained a major presence in their lives. Gustavo search for Bertus cell phone found it on a table he had in a lot of movie material. It was a very modern phone, one that I didn't know how to use very well.

[00:14:48]

And with all the nerves and the tension, I was trying to search for familiar telephone numbers, but nobody was answering. Can I call this down? Gustavo looked back at Berita. She was gone. Now, he was alone, terrified that the killers might come back. He grabbed his own phone to make the calls. Sometimes he left voicemail messages and sometimes he didn't wait. He just punched in another number from his room. He also sent emails to friends and colleagues in Mexico begging them to contact anyone in Honduras who might be able to come to the house and help him out.

[00:15:35]

I was lying in my bed at one 25 in the morning on March 3rd, and I was in Tegucigalpa and I received a phone call from a no no.

[00:15:50]

Karen Spring is a Canadian human rights activist who lives in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital. It's about a four hour drive from La Esperanza.

[00:16:00]

So I was alone in the house and I received this phone call. And then I was like, OK, well, that's weird. I wonder who's calling me? And then somebody else called me again and it was like, that's weird. I'm going to listen to the voicemail.

[00:16:12]

That first call had been Gustavo. He didn't leave a voicemail. The second caller was an activist in Mexico who'd received a panicked message from Gustavo. The activists called Karen to see if Karen might be able to help him. And so when I listen to the voicemail, my friend, who is very active in the, you know, mining networks in Mexico, was just saying Bertha is dead and Gustav was in her house and he shot and he really needs help.

[00:16:43]

And I was like, holy shit. Oh, I listen to voicemail, I was like, oh, my God, oh my God, and I just picked up the phone and called Berta's phone number, not even, you know, thinking thinking twice about it.

[00:16:56]

And and I was just Gustavo, like like, are you OK? Is Berta dead?

[00:17:02]

Yes, she's dead. I'm like, are you sure? You know, are you are you sure?

[00:17:06]

And he's like, yeah, she's she's dead.

[00:17:08]

Karen was the first person to speak directly with Gustavo that night. She could hear that he was crying. And I asked him if he was OK. And he said her dad's dead and she's and I'm I'm OK, but I'm bleeding.

[00:17:23]

And can you please find help? I've been calling people and nobody's been picking up. And, you know, can you send people to the house?

[00:17:28]

I don't know what to do. And then he asked me if you should call the police.

[00:17:32]

And I said, don't call the police, you know, because calling the police in Honduras is like calling the Mafia to a crime scene and you can't trust them.

[00:17:47]

It might sound kind of crazy, you witness a murder, you're alone with the body, and then you go out of your way to avoid calling the police for help. But in Honduras, it's not that crazy. A few months before Berta was killed, a survey funded by the US government suggested that a solid majority of Hondurans simply assumed the police officers were on the payrolls of assassins and other bad guys. Almost no one trusted the cops. These institutions were not at the service of the people, they were at the service of some of their interest, financial or criminal, James Neilan was appointed U.S. ambassador to Honduras in 2014.

[00:18:33]

His priorities had been clearly outlined for him when I arrived in Honduras in August of 2014.

[00:18:41]

And if you'll recall, that was the height of the of the first so-called unaccompanied minors crisis when there were New York Times headlines and and cable news reports of huge numbers of Central Americans, unaccompanied children streaming across our southwest border. And my marching orders as I headed down to Honduras were to were to do something about that.

[00:19:05]

He believed the driving force behind the migration was violence. In 2012, Honduras set a world record. This was the deadliest place ever. If you didn't count countries at war for several years in a row, the country's murder rate was about 16 times higher than in the United States. Honduras wasn't only the murder capital of the world at that time, but I guess you could also label it the impunity capital of the world at that time because very few murders were actually successfully investigated to a conclusion.

[00:19:40]

In other words, it was very rare for someone to actually go to jail for committing murder in Honduras.

[00:19:47]

Everyone knew the Honduran national police had a corruption problem. Local newspapers were full of stories about uniformed officers getting tangled up in drug deals or stealing cars or even committing murders, calls for reform were gathering steam both inside and outside of Honduras just before Berta was killed in 2016, the U.S. embassy, through its weight behind an effort to purge the Honduran police of its dirty cops. The Honduran government called it the Special Commission for the Purge and Transformation of the Honduran National Police.

[00:20:27]

The commission met for the first time after Berta's murder over the next two years from 2016 to 2018. The Honduran government ended up firing almost half of its national force. More than 5000 officers out of about 13000 were expelled. Most were accused of corruption or ties to criminal groups. It wasn't just the rank and file of the nine top officers in the national police, six were pushed out of 47 active police commissioners. About half were fired today. There's still a lot of controversy over that purge, but it's not that the commission went too far.

[00:21:12]

It's that they might have been too easy on the police. Each of the three top ranking police commanders appointed after the purge would later be accused of meeting with drug traffickers who paid the officers to protect their shipping routes. However, you interpret the end result of that purge, remember, it hadn't even really begun when Berita was killed. All of those thousands of corrupt cops that would soon lose their jobs, they were still on the force. So Karen Spring wasn't being paranoid when she told Gustavo Castro not to call the police for help.

[00:21:52]

She was using common sense. When Karen hung up on that first call with Gustavo, she could tell he was terrified he was alone with a murdered friend inside a house that now felt more isolated and vulnerable than it ever had.

[00:22:14]

I was repeatedly calling Gustavo to make sure he was OK because, you know, he was really scared that the assassins were going to come back and finish the job and that they if they knew that he was alive. And so I also told him that we needed to be very careful about who knew that he was still alive at that time until he was, you know, in a safe place.

[00:22:33]

Karen started calling members of Karpin, his organization in La Esperanza. One was a man named Tomas Gomez. He agreed to drive to Bertus and get Gustavo to safety in case the killers returned to Los Emilia.

[00:22:51]

It's something like two thirty in the morning when Tomas from Gobbing arrives to get me. I heard the horn from the Gopin pickup truck and I told myself, That's Tomas coming for me.

[00:23:03]

This is here. Gustavo stepped out of the bedroom to meet him. The back door of the house connected to the kitchen was open. The killers had busted through it. That must have been the first loud noise he'd heard your son before the principal.

[00:23:21]

I went out through the front door. The gate to the fence was locked.

[00:23:24]

So I decided to jump the fence and I left with Tomas.

[00:23:29]

And it was around this time when Tomas called the police to tell them about the murder. Then he and Gustavo drove to the guard station at the entrance of the subdivision, Gustavo recognized the old man from earlier when he and Berta had passed him. Tomas asked the guard if he'd seen anything out of the ordinary. He said he hadn't. Tomas drove toward the center of town on the side of the road. They spotted a cluster of people walking. They were members of Berta's indigenous rights organization, Karpin.

[00:24:04]

They'd heard about what happened. They didn't have cars, but they wanted to help. Somehow Tomas told them to hop in the truck and he gave them a lift back to back to his house. He told them to guard the place to make sure it wasn't disrupted before the police got there.

[00:24:21]

The families, L.A., Baltimore's Azealia.

[00:24:25]

We drop the people off and we took off to leave again. The crossbar was now raised. And the old man, we don't know what happened to him yesterday, about a year to year.

[00:24:36]

And he told us that we must get past Tomas.

[00:24:39]

And Gustavo found two more groups of Karpin members walking along the road and offered them rides. When they returned to the house with the last group, they saw that the police had now arrived inspecting the house. Many of the Karpin members were also inside with them. Gustavo couldn't believe it. People were walking through the blood, leaving fingerprints everywhere and all the amenities help.

[00:25:04]

They don't say no agreement.

[00:25:06]

Obviously, the whole scene of the crime had been altered.

[00:25:14]

That's when Berta's lawyer arrived. He told Gustavo that a prosecutor wanted to speak to him and that he should just wait in the truck.

[00:25:23]

Resolvers ear and hand were still bleeding and throbbing with pain. More police and army soldiers were now streaming into the crime scene. The media soon arrived.

[00:25:34]

They, too, were walking into the house. But no one could see Gustavo behind the tinted windows of the truck.

[00:25:42]

He lost almost Mitros a few meters away. I could hear them giving the news reports saying there was one Gustavo Castro and was wounded because there was a lot of blood in my room. But I wasn't there, which is not getting me out of trouble. Mr.. They must have found his suitcase in the spare room. His name was printed on the luggage tag. Back into USA, Karen Spring was racing to get to the crime scene. I put out a communique that had been killed and I got in my car and I think like three o'clock in the morning and I drove to Esperanza.

[00:26:27]

And when I got there, her body had been taken from the crime scene and it was in the back of a pickup truck outside of the public prosecutor's office in La Esperanza.

[00:26:38]

It was about eight o'clock in the morning now. Crowds were gathering around that truck. People trying to get a glimpse of Berta's body. Berita was probably Lesperance as most well-known citizen, people were mourning, they carried pictures of her, they spray painted her name on walls and sidewalks, and their sadness was edged with anger. It had been more than seven hours since the murder and her body was right there in the back of a truck in the middle of a public square covered only with a dingy gray blanket to Karen.

[00:27:13]

This was an insult heaped on top of a tragedy. She started looking for Gustavo, someone said he'd been taken to a local priest's house where the police were guarding him, and I insisted with the police that they let me in to see him.

[00:27:29]

They wouldn't let me right away. And then they finally allowed me in. And Gustavo was in a room. He was bleeding from his ear and he was sitting with Berta's oldest daughter telling her what had happened. Gustavo's nerves were shot as he told the story to Barrass family. Karen recorded everything on her cell phone.

[00:27:54]

She was beside.

[00:27:56]

He said he didn't know where to begin, but he went on to give them a detailed account of the evening where he and Berta had gone out to eat. How they returned to the house, sat on the porch, went to their rooms. As he spoke, he kept his voice low, sometimes dipping into a whisper. He didn't trust the government types hovering around him, the ones who'd been questioning him for hours. People kept coming in and out of the room interrupting.

[00:28:31]

So are after about 20 minutes, Gustavo got into the details of the murder itself, how he'd heard a very loud bang, which he thought might have come from the kitchen, and how seconds later he heard three gunshots.

[00:28:48]

Yeah, this to say, this is.

[00:28:55]

You know, he then talked about how Bhatta called his name after the gunman left, how he found her on the floor, how he pleaded with her. No, Tobias, don't go and check that they conmigo stay with me. And how she told him to call Salvador her ex-husband. Make everything that cost. I just I just got the call. Finally, he described how he struggled to use her phone and find her contact list and then how he realized she was gone.

[00:30:22]

In the middle of all of this, the police were still pressing Gustavo for more information.

[00:30:29]

And so in that the couple hours that I was with him, a person that was sent from the public prosecutor's office who is going to sketch the face of the person that he could remember had shot him, showed up, Gustavo would describe the gunman and the police sketch artist would turn his words into an image that he had been going through a night, Natalie.

[00:30:53]

And I said, OK, I don't know anything about these sort of things, but I agreed to collaborate. And so a person comes in and everything was prearranged, very well planned. And the person the expert comes in who's going to do the drawing, and they're trying to convince me that he's really good, that he's an expert in these sort of things, you know, so they're trying to convince me that what he's going to draw was going to be good with.

[00:31:22]

I said, why?

[00:31:23]

Gustavo started describing the guy, the young face, the short, dark hair.

[00:31:29]

Nabulsi that catalogers always, you know, the eyes, the lips.

[00:31:35]

He registered all of it. And he started to make the drawing. And I told him, no, this isn't the person I saw. So he embraces a little bit and then he redraws it more or less the same. So I say, no, no, no, no, no. That wasn't his hair. So he traced it. And then he went back to drawing essentially the same thing.

[00:31:55]

The new illustrator, Gustavo, hadn't slept in two days. Someone finally bandaged his ear and hand, but they still hurt.

[00:32:06]

He hadn't eaten yet. He was looking at me.

[00:32:11]

So I was like, draw whatever you want. And so they asked me, OK, well, what's the percentage of similarity between this drawing and the person you saw? 80, 90, 100 percent, I don't know, whatever. Just put 80, 90 percent. I don't remember what I said, but obviously I approved it. I did not realize the importance of that piece of evidence, you know, potentially as a prima.

[00:32:47]

The police knew something that Gustavo didn't. A couple hours before he sat down to do the sketch, they'd arrested someone in connection with the murder, but they withheld this news from Gustavo. The man they detained was Berta's ex-boyfriend. His name was Aureliano Molina, but friends called him by his nickname Lieto. Gustavo had never met Lieto, but Lieto had been one of the people he'd spoken to on the phone after the murder when he was calling everyone in Bertus contacts when Gustavo eventually saw a picture of Leito.

[00:33:25]

It was a mug shot. And that photo shocked him. That's because the police sketch he'd done, the one that didn't really look like the gunman he'd seen. Well, it looked a lot like Leito.

[00:33:41]

This is a total package. So it was all a setup. Honduran authorities have always denied any wrongdoing in the investigation and police at the time said that they were following several leads, but that's not the way Gustavo saw it to him. It seemed the investigators were convinced the killer was someone close to Bhatta, like her ex-boyfriend. Lieto had been one of the first people that Karen Spring had called. After she spoke with Gustavo, she'd reached him at his house in a town called San Francisco LIMPIA.

[00:34:22]

That's a three hour drive from Berta's house in La Esperanza. I called Aureliano Molina, you know, 45 minutes into my whole slew of phone calls that I made in response to the phone call I received from Mexico. And I called Aureliano Molina and he and I the first thing I asked him was, where are you? And he said, I'm in San Francisco. What happened? And I was Berta was murdered. And so I had I knew that he wasn't even in La Esperanza that night.

[00:34:52]

So I knew, too, that he wasn't involved at all in the murder.

[00:34:57]

Lieto had called Gustavo at about 2:00 a.m. on the night of the murder. He told Gustavo that he'd heard what happened from Karren. He said he'd drive to La Esperanza to try to help him. Shortly after Lieto arrived at about 5:00 in the morning, police arrested him.

[00:35:17]

Leto's relationship with Berita had ended just a few months before some members of Berta's inner circle, including her mother and her oldest daughter, didn't get along with him. But it wasn't anyone from Berta's family that pointed the finger at Lieto to them, the idea of him murdering Berta was absurd, but someone did place lieto at the scene of the crime. It was the old guard at the entrance to the subdivision. He said he saw Lieto flee the area before police first got there.

[00:35:53]

Could be he took with the old man that guarded the entrance, declared that Tomas, instead of driving me out of the subdivision that morning, had actually taken lieto out. So his testimony didn't match those given by Tomas and me, but it was absurd.

[00:36:08]

The of to bury the problem, Gustavo says the old man's description of Leto included physical details that would be impossible to catch from a quick glimpse through tinted windows in the dark stadium, which is I or so there were lots of ways in which it became evident that this old man had been threatened or tortured or something.

[00:36:36]

But his testimony was false. So had it squared with the version that said little was guilty of this murder on Nicoleta and Krupali.

[00:36:51]

Protests erupted in the Honduran capital after Verity's murder, students demanding justice hurled rocks at riot police. Those police shot tear gas and rubber bullets back at them. Berta's murder instantly became international news, partly because of the attention she just received from the Goldman Prize. Senators were on the floor of the U.S. Capitol urging Honduras to conduct a full, sincere investigation. Celebrities jumped in. Leonardo DiCaprio tweeted about Berita. Susan Sarandon posted a video.

[00:37:27]

I'm calling on the Honduran government to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the tragic murder of Berta Casares. And I demand that the perpetrators be held accountable. Environmentalists all over the world, we're now talking about our Zarka, the name of the hydroelectric dam that Battah had been fighting. They talked about the violence that had surrounded the project, about the threats Berita had received, about the security protections she was supposed to have received. The day after the murder, the minister of security held a press conference.

[00:38:07]

He said the government was willing to protect her whenever she asked for it. The minister suggested that the night she was killed, Batta had not reached out to them.

[00:38:18]

But no, I'm not it easy if I opened my mouth, although we're not here to say whether the security failed, but the assassination occurred.

[00:38:27]

The police were responsible for protecting her. Patrols were sent to her home to protect her at her request. We always tried to comply with her demands and protect her. Unfortunately, this happened and we're working to investigate it.

[00:38:41]

We established around the perimeter Bertus family interpreted statements like that as scapegoating, as if it were Bertus fault, as if she'd failed to specifically ask for protection. The night of her murder, Berta's oldest daughter, Olivia, spoke at a candlelight vigil for her mother, screaming political asylum in ASALA.

[00:39:04]

It was a political crime.

[00:39:06]

She had been threatened. She had declared many times, I'm being followed by hit men. It's a farce when they claim she was murdered because she renounced the protective measures granted her, she never renounced those protective measures, a noncurrent ISAF media has calculated.

[00:39:25]

The only people who seemed uninterested in the threats she received were the investigators as far as the family could tell. It seemed that the police consider this an open and shut case. It was a crime of passion, a spat between Batta and an ex-boyfriend. Any evidence that got in the way of that theory was ignored. The day after the murder, a reporter cornered the security minister and asked about the other victim, the activist said to have been in the house with Bear to see what happens when that happened.

[00:39:59]

Look at him. Yes, we do have knowledge of this person, but we don't want to divulge more details than that because this is an important person, one who will cause us to step back and take a pause in the investigation and think.

[00:40:12]

I don't know about the name of the film. After his encounter with a sketch artist, Gustavo became convinced that the evidence wasn't guiding the investigators. Still believe the investigators must have been guiding the evidence. So this is not a battle. It was a planned killing, they wanted a clean murder one, shall we say, where she was alone, a clean job without any witnesses. And the story was going to be that it had been an assault. Nobody would be able to contradict that.

[00:40:45]

The problem would have ended there. But the second scenario is there was a witness who survived. You saw one of the gunmen I saw from just a few meters away. So their Plan B was going to be blame someone from going in and plan B for in the. So Gustavo is sitting there alongside the police and the puzzle pieces of an elaborate conspiracy seem to be falling into place, then breaking apart, then recombining into new shapes, Plan A was to kill Berita without any clues whatsoever.

[00:41:34]

But they hadn't counted on a witness Plan B then was to blame someone who worked with Berita and coping like Lieto the ex-boyfriend, to frame it as a classic crime of passion. The problem was the longer the police held Leito, the more people vouched for him, his alibi was sound. He hadn't been anywhere near Bertus House at the time of the murder. See on the it and in the end, they had to let him go. And so the third scenario was, OK, now we can't do that.

[00:42:15]

So Plan C is blame, Gustavo? Gastrin is good, but I. For three days, he answered their questions, he led investigators through Bartosz House, recreating the events as he remembered them step by step.

[00:42:38]

He sorted through countless police mug shots, diplomats from the Mexican embassy in Honduras arrived to try to help. At the end of the third day, he'd given police all he could. Now it was time to go home, his embassy helped him reserve a ticket back for early the next morning. The Mexican ambassador sent a message that night to the lead Honduran investigator with all the travel details.

[00:43:06]

Ilibagiza sent them in their fiscal new capitals, but he never responded to that message.

[00:43:17]

So when we were ready for the flight, we left for the airport thinking, OK, they're not interested in us anymore.

[00:43:23]

You know, it wasn't a big deal when we got to the airport with the security people from the embassy and the ambassador and, well, also the consul.

[00:43:33]

At the time of departure, 5:00 in the morning, all the investigators and the police were hiding in the airport.

[00:43:41]

They came out and they blocked the gate and they told me, Catherine, you cannot leave. You don't say anything without Castro embracing. He felt like he was trapped in a horror movie, but the script kept changing. First, he was cast as the lone witness, a victim, one who'd been shot and whose blood was all over the crime scene.

[00:44:09]

Now, in a twist, Gustavo couldn't quite believe he somehow had become the prime suspect. Coming up on Blood River, we'll venture into a community that was torn apart by the battle over the dam where neighbors fighting neighbors, they told me, OK, woman, what we're going to do is kill you. When they told me they were going to kill me. That's when I felt the first blow, the first strike of the machete hit me in the head.

[00:44:44]

And after that, another machete hit me here in the chest. That violence years later would lead investigators to new clues and to new suspects in Berta's murder. That's next time on Blood River. Blood River is written and reported by me, Montrail tofor Forras is our senior producer, Maya Cueva is our associate producer. Our theme was composed and performed by Xenia Rubinos special thanks to Eduardo Thompson, Angela Nevus and Carlos Rodriguez. Francesca Levy is the head of Bloomberg Podcast's.

[00:45:29]

Be sure to subscribe if you haven't already. And if you like what you hear, please leave us a review that helps others find out about the show. Thanks for listening.