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Karla Zelaya is part of the communications team of the Unified Peasant Movement of Aguan (MUCA), an organization fighting for agrarian transformation and fair distribution of lands in Honduras. She was kidnapped in Tegucigalpa, the country’s capital, on October 23 and she made it out alive. But she was warned to keep her mouth shut.
“The threats began on August 22, a day after nearly 26 peasants, together with lawyer Antonio Trejo, who is no longer among us, were arbitrarily arrested just for demonstrating in defense of the rights of the peasant people outside the Supreme Court of Justice” said Karla in an interview with Real World Radio’s correspondent in Honduras, Francisco Molina, before she was kidnapped.
“I got the first message that read ’this is how you will end up for defending that bitch. Watch your back”. Then I started getting messages with constant threats. I told my colleagues at MUCA and they became concerned about the situation. I then filed a report before the Committee of Families of Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH)”, she said.
Nearly 70 peasants have been murdered in Bajo Aguan in the past three years, in an agrarian conflict where social organizations point at land owners and businessmen as the masterminds behind the threats, persecutions and murders of rural workers, mostly executed by hitmen.
Karla was captured by three men near her home. They forced her into a car, they blindfolded her and they took her to an unknown place. The goal of this “express” kidnapping was to cause terror through torture and fear, through investigating the peasant movement and its leaders, said Molina. “Her kidnapping, the threats and murders in the past weeks reflect the systematic human rights violations, especially against peasants”.
Karla will graduate soon as a journalist, a profession that has also been victim of violence in the country. Twenty -three journalists were murdered in the past three years. Karla represents the role of the social communicator. She’s a young woman, committed with the poorer classes in Honduras. She was not born a peasant, but she harvests freedom and justice in the countryside. She helps breaking the media barrier and supports the voices of the peasants of her country. Those who perpetrate the injustices and exclusion in Honduras that affect 300,000 peasant families, want to continue silencing their voices.
“We have not received any call from the authorities to secure our safety, nor from the Ministry of Security or the Ministry of Human Rights. We have to take care of ourselves”, said Karla. The Honduran state undermines the threats, so leaders or activists who suffer threats are finally kidnapped, as it happened to Karla, or even murdered.
Communicators and Their Duty to Help the Have-Nots
Karla was born and raised in Colon department. She then moved to the capital city and managed to have a better standard of living. Thousands of residents of the rural areas in Honduras do the same every year. The poverty they face in the countryside reaches 65% of the population. Karla never imagined she would go back there, an area controlled by large agro-exporting companies.
She explained that the communicators have the duty to help people. “We are the means for the people who have no voice or vote, to be listened. I know the risks and I know that anything could happen at any time. There is no justice here, most cases remain unpunished. We do not exist for the authorities”, she emphasized.
Karla filed a report before the Attorney’s Office in order to gain protection and justice. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (ICHR), thanks to the action of COFADEH, will also issue precautionary measures in the coming days so that the State will protect Karla’s life.
* Francisco Molina is a member of the Movimiento Madre Tierra – Friends of the Earth Honduras.
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