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“There is no doubt” that the death threats against social activists come from the “oligarchy”, “they are messages to give up our fight” in a country that the United Nations has ranked as the most violent in the world, said Honduran peasant leader Rafael Alegria.
This is a “violent and perverse oligarchy that is making the terrible mistake” of killing social leaders, said Alegria to Real World Radio’s correspondent in Honduras, Francisco Molina. “They can kill as many of us as they want, but they will not be able to stop the process to refound this country, it is irreversible”, said the leader. “It is time to refound this country and our people have made a unanimous decision to move forward with this”.
Alegria is the coordinator of La Via Campesina Honduras, Central America and International. On October 4 he received the announcement of the Minister of Security of Honduras, Pompeyo Bonilla, that there was a plot against his life, which was later confirmed by President Porfirio Lobo and the head of the Police, Juan Carlos Bonilla. The minister of the National Agrarian Institute, Cesar Ham, as well as the Minister of Human Rights, Ana Pineda also received death threats. They also defend the peasants who are confronted with the businessmen in the fight for land in Bajo Aguan.
Nearly 70 rural workers have been murdered in the past three years. They have been persecuted by land owners and businessmen, according to information provided by Alegria, who said the persecution is the result of the Honduran peasant movement’s struggle for land and food sovereignty in the country. The land owners and the businessmen “would first kill the affiliated peasants, the grassroots leaders, but then they killed Trejo Cabrera, the lawyer. So it seems that the violence and the repression are selective”.
Antonio Trejo Cabrera was the legal representative of the Movimiento Auténtico Reivindicador Campesino del Aguán (MARCA). He was 41 years old when he was shot to death on September 22, near the airport of Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital.
Alegria underlined that Trejo “had won lawsuits against land owners in Colon department and was putting out a significant legal fight. His death is a message, and the death threats against me also apply to all the peasant leaders”.
The coordinator of La Via Campesina regretted that almost two weeks after he was told about the plot against his life, he has no information from official authorities of how they are investigating the case or if they have found people responsible “because there are virtually no clues. It is a very vulnerable situation. Violence in this country is terrible”.
Alegria makes a comparison between the extreme violence in Honduras nowadays and the violence of the 1980s, when there were selective murders against leaders of social and left-wing organizations. But today it is worse because “we don’t know if the assault comes from the government or from the capitalists. In the 80s it was clearly the State and the forces of repression. Now it is a combination of State-Police, land owners and businessmen. They hire assassins”, he explained. “Here if you see two men in a motorcycle, it means death”.
Fear of the re-foundation
Real World Radio asked Alegria about a possible link between a threat against him and his work with the Freedom and Refoundation Party (called “Free”), led by former president José Manuel Zelaya, who will propose Zelaya’s wife, Xiomara Castro, as the candidate for the 2013 elections. The leader said the threats, to which neither Zelaya nor Castro are immune, “are messages from the violent oligarchy”. He humbly explained that he has been in this struggle for 40 years and that he has the recognition of the Honduran people, especially of the peasants, who fight within the law. “Our (the peasants) fight has always been transparent, with ethics. But they accuse us of having link with irregular organizations to make us give up the fight. But we cannot just run away. We were born here, we were raised here and I think we will die here too. So we will keep up the fight”.
The leader said it is time to “refound” Honduras. He has the unanimous support of the people, and the oligarchy is making a terrible mistake by killing social leaders because this process of refoundation is “irreversible. If you kill one, others will come”. The peasant talked about the “scared oligarchy” because their “interests would not be affected by the Free Party”. “This is not about nationalizing or expropriating, it is simply about justice. The peasants and indigenous are entitled to this land, and food sovereignty needs to be pushed from the grassroots, from the peasants, the small and medium-scale farmers”. Alegria also spoke about the need to fight poverty, illiteracy, high levels of corruption and violence. “We are living in social and political chaos in Honduras, so we are working on that”.
Miguel Facussé, René Morales, Reynaldo Canales and Óscar Nájera are the businessmen accused by peasant movements of Bajo Aguan as being responsible for the persecution and murder of rural workers.
Alegria prefers not to make personal accusations about the threat against his life. “I have said I have serious suspicions that the threat comes from the land owners, but they do not work alone. There are companies that are part of the same group, the oligarchy”, so there is no doubt the threat comes from that sector. “They own banks, land, newspapers, everything, the Attorney’s office, the Police, the Armed Forces, the State and they also have hired gunmen at their service, armed groups. So I blame those groups, not one person in particular, because I am sure that they work as an association.
“So the State should provide us with faithful information. I insist a lot that the State should investigate more and tell us that the plan has been dismantled, which would be the ideal thing and that the responsible have been brought to court. So I ask the international community, the organizations, to pressure the Honduran government because it is the direct responsible for the safety of our people”, he concluded.
* Francisco Molina is member of Movimiento Madre Tierra – Friends of the Earth Honduras
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