"When Roberto David Castillo graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point, the Honduran cadet was confident he’d leave behind a legacy...
Castillo is certain to be remembered: [in 2021], the Honduran high court found him guilty as the joint perpetrator in the 2016 assassination of the indigenous activist Berta Cáceres, then one of Latin America’s most prominent environmental defenders...
'He used his military skills to order her murder – and not just to kill her, but to persecute her,' said Brigitte Gynther, a human rights advocate who worked with Cáceres."
The above is a short excerpt from an exposé in The Guardian about how the U.S.-financed West Point education received by Roberto David Castillo empowered and benefited him. U.S. military training bestows prestige and power on its recipients when they return to their home militaries. Drawing on a report by SOA Watch and other human rights organizations, the article describes how after graduating from West Point, Castillo became an officer in the Honduran military and used his military and government positions to directly benefit his corporate pursuits.
After one of his companies received a concession for the Gualcarque River under questionable circumstances and without the consent of the Lenca people, Castillo used his military skills to profile the opposition to the project and its leader, Berta Cáceres. Castillo knew where Cáceres was, when she was going to travel, and what she and COPINH were planning. When Castillo and the criminal structure he was a part of could not silence Cáceres through intimidation, criminal charges, or bribery, he used his military skills to coordinate her murder. According to information presented in court, he coordinated with SOA graduate Douglas Bustillo, who in turn worked with fellow SOA graduate Major Mariano Diaz, to plan the murder.
Journalist Chiara Eisner reveals how the relationships Castillo acquired during his U.S.-financed college education at West Point benefited him after he was arrested for Berta Caceres' murder. Castillo's former West Point roommate lobbied the US Ambassador to Honduras and his classmates working in Congress and federal agencies who "were up to help." It is these types of relationships that can contribute to and facilitate impunity, often occurring behind the scenes. Indeed, despite a court finding Castillo guilty for Caceres' murder, it is noteworthy that he has not yet been sentenced for the murder. Caceres' family's lawyer has expressed concern that the delay in sentencing could leave Castillo's conviction vulnerable to appeal and open the door to impunity. This would not be a surprise given Castillo's connections.
If it were up to West Point or the U.S. government, the fact that the U.S. provided a 4-year military education for Castillo would not be known. U.S. military institutions do not disclose the names of the international cadets they train, nor provide any public oversight about what those whom the U.S. has gifted an education do afterwards. The issue is not only what is being taught, but the fact that a prestigious U.S. military education bestows significant power and prestige on elites from Central America and other countries, without any accountability for what they use that power and prestige to do.
As SOA Watch's Brigitte Gynther explained in the article, "US-trained military figures have caused immeasurable destruction and death in Central America over the past several decades and continue to do so today."
Read the full article, "The U.S. military trained him. Then he helped murder Berta Cáceres" in The Guardian here.