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“Last week, on Thursday precisely, I was notified by the Minister of Security and by the President himself about plans against my life. They told me I should take the necessary steps and precautions”, said Honduran peasant leader Rafael Alegría, coordinator of La Via Campesina International, to Real World Radio.
This is not a movie. This happened in real life, in a Honduras led by Porfirio Lobo after the Coup d’ Etat perpetrated by Roberto Micheletti and the armed forces in 2009. Over 50 peasants have been murdered in the past two and a half years in Bajo Aguan, in the context of the struggle for land.
Alegría, who is also a coordinator of La Via Campesina Honduras, has been one of the most visible faces of the peasant struggle in that country. On October 4, the leader was told by Pompeyo Bonilla, the Minister of Security, that there is a plan against his life. Several Honduran social organizations joined Alegría and demanded an urgent meeting with the Police Reform Commission, to inform them about this, and they also requested a meeting with Lobo.
The President confirmed there that there is information about the plans against Alegría, the Secretary of the Agrarian National Institute, Cesar Ham and the Human Rights Minister, Ana Pineda. This information was ratified by the head of the Police, Juan Carlos Bonilla. According to Prensa Latina news agency, Ham and Pineda share with Alegria the defense of the rights of peasants confronted with businessmen in the struggle for land in Bajo Aguan.
“They didn’t say anything else, not the reasons, not anything. I’ve personally taken the necessary precautions, I’ve denounced this at national and international level in a press conference”, said Alegría in the interview with Real World Radio. “We are demanding the State bodies to speed up the investigation, dismantle the plan and ensure my safety. At this moment we are fine, I’ve received a lot of solidarity from my country and also at international level, and I’m very pleased with that”, said the leader.
On Monday, several social organizations issued a public statement where they express their concern about the “official information received against the freedom and life of human beings, especially our friend Alegría, a defender of peasant rights, mainly the right to land”. “For this reason, we are denouncing this before the institutions in charge of the investigation and before international bodies”, they add.
The Committee of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras, the National Rural Workers Union, the Workers Union Federation, the National Association of Farmers and La Via Campesina signed this statement. The press release highlights several moments since 2009 where Alegría was threatened, notified about plans against him or persecuted.
On July 2nd, 2009, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights decided to extend a precautionary measure to protect the life and integrity of several Honduran people, among them Alegria. On August 11th of the same year, at midnight, two people shot against the office of La Via Campesina Honduras in Tegucigalpa with heavy weapons. According to information gathered by Real World Radio, this is not the first time hit-men came to look for Alegría in La Via Campesina’s offices. In those opportunities, the leader was not there. In addition, on February 8, 2011, the peasant was informed confidentially that there were plans to kidnap and torture him and the coordinator of the National Peoples’ Resistance Front, Juan Barahona, in Miami, US.
The organizations that issued the press release yesterday are requesting the authorities to speed up the protection mechanisms for human rights defenders, to investigate the denunciations by the victims of persecution and threats and to identify and try the people responsible for these events. They also request solidarity for the Honduran people in general.
Alegría told Real World Radio that Lobo offered him a police officer to protect his life. "We have a problem in this country, which is that the credibility of our police is gone", he said. “At this moment, without ruling it out (the protection of the police), we are receiving support and solidarity by several social movements who are with me, and so far nothing has happened, we haven’t seen anything out of the ordinary, and we are in contact with the State’s security bodies”, he added.
The peasant leader said that the authorities of the country do not ensure the respect to life and human rights and that he has the support of different social sectors. “We are expecting pressure by the international police so that this violent plan is dismantled”.
The coordinator of La Via Campesina Honduras also denounced this to the Human Rights Attorney’s Office. He highlighted that the threat is not only against him, but also against ministers Ham and Pineda, “in addition to people from the United Peasant Movement of Aguan (MUCA), who have also denounced threats against their physical integrity”.
On September 22nd, Antonio Trejo Cabrera was shot to death near Toncontin International Airport, in Tegucigalpa. He was the legal attorney of the MARCA Movement. Two days later, in Choluteca, Manuel Eduardo Diaz, Human Rights Attorney was also murdered.
Alegría also rejected a political asylum. “I was born and raised here, and I will die here”, he said and highlighted that he has “important social commitments with the different organized sectors of the Honduran society, indigenous people, peasants and the resistance itself”. Alegría highlighted he is part of a “process of struggle, of building and rebuilding our country, with the LIBRE Party” led by former President Jose Manuel Zelaya and which will propose Zelaya’s wife, Xiomara Castro, as presidential candidate for 2013. “There aren‘t any doubts that this is causing unrest around the oligarchy groups of power, who are the ones threatening my life”, said Alegria.
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