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Home About Us Equipo Sur Stories of Honduras Plan to Assassinate Campesino Leaders in the Aguan Valley
Plan to Assassinate Campesino Leaders in the Aguan Valley PDF Print E-mail

Translation of DefensoresenLinea.com article by Marvin Palacios.  Read article in Spanish here.

In new testimony given to the Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH), Yoni Rivas and Vitalino Alvarez of the Unified Peasant Movement of the Aguan (MUCA) reveal the existence of a plan to kill them.

The Secretary General of MUCA, Yoni Rivas, told defensoresenlinea.com that the situation in the Lower Aguán Valley continues to be worrisome, given the ongoing monitoring by police, soldiers, and hitmen who closely follow the work of the campesino leaders throughout the country.

"There is ongoing monitoring that it is being carried out by police and military infiltrators who are paid by the landowner [referring to Miguel Facussé] and in every operation we have found one or two policemen or soldiers who are working to persecute us," said Rivas.

One of the most recent instances occurred on March 11 when Yoni Rivas, Juan Chinchilla, Vitalino Alvarez and their driver, Leonel Cruz, were traveling by car from the Lower Aguán Valley to the city of Siguatepeque.

They noted that at each police checkpoint – located at various points from Tocoa to La Ceiba – the authorities stopped them and verified that they were traveling from the Aguán.

"When we were at the height of La Masica, (department of Atlantida), they asked us to lower the car windows and one of the officers said: ... here they are... there they go.... this scared us a lot, and we were worried that we might not make it to Siguatepeque where we had a meeting the next day," recounted Rivas.

As they passed through the community of San Juan Pueblo, the campesino delegation met another checkpoint located a few meters after crossing the bridge into community. Here again the police asked them to lower the windows of the car and then asked them to park at the side of the road, where they then thoroughly searched the automobile and their personal belongings.

"They asked us for our identity cards, and we believe it is an enormous control that they are exercising over our movement, and again we felt afraid because the Lean sector is a valley where Miguel Facussé has a lot of land and also has groups of assassins. For this reason, we stayed at the Genesis Hotel, on the outskirts San Juan Pueblo" described Rivas.

Hitmen operating in Aguán

He added that they stayed there, but "we were able to confirm that they had something prepared that night for us. At 3:30 am when the bus from Tocoa to Tegucigalpa came, we went out to the road to wait for the bus. Leonel Cruz, the driver of the car stayed at the hotel, and I went with Vitalino Alvarez and Juan Chinchilla to get on the bus."

While they were waiting for the bus, a pick up truck with several heavily armed men came to the hotel. The men went to the front desk and asked the manager, who informed them that three of the campesino leaders had gotten on an inter-city bus.

"Upon receiving the information that we had left the hotel, the armed men left and headed towards Tegucigalpa, but we had already boarded the bus and that's what saved our lives. Minutes later we communicated with Leonel Cruz to ask why those men had arrived at 3:30 in the morning. Leonel informed us that the person at the reception desk told him that the men had asked if the people who were driving in a troka (a blue pickup), which is what we had been in, were at the hotel.  The receptionist was scared and informed them that the three of us were leaving," said Rivas.

Rivas emphasized that he had no doubt that the armed men would have been waiting all night to ambush them, but the decision they made in the early morning hours of Tuesday, March 12, to board a bus, had saved their lives.

"That's what allows us to continue to denounce this persecution and even Colonel Alfaro's (Commander of the Xatruch III Task Force) smear campaign in the Aguán and across the country, so that when we are murdered, neither the peasant base nor Honduran society can speak out.

In testifying at COFADEH, Yoni Rivas was accompanied by MUCA spokesman Vitalino Alvarez and  journalist Karla Zelaya, who is in charge of communications for ​​the peasant movement.

 

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