On Wednesday morning, three hooded and armed people shot and killed Honduran peasant leader Margarita Murillo in Villanueva, a rural area in Cortes department. Murillo died as she lived: with a hoe in her hands, ready to produce and give life in the lands for which she always fought.
She was buried on Thursday in Renacer Cemetery, near San Pedro Sula. A few hours before, at her funeral, several Honduran social and popular leaders committed to strengthen their unity to refound the country.
Murillo, member of Via Campesina Honduras, had an enviable record for any social activist: in 1985 she founded in her country the National Rural Workers Union (CTNC – one of the most important organisations at national level); she also founded the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP) in response to the Coup d’etat of June 28, 2009 and the Libertad y Refundación Party (LIBRE) which was created in the framework of this resistance. In the past elections, Murillo was candidate to the House of Representatives for that party.
Her struggle was reason enough for oppressive groups and death squads to kidnap and torture her in the 80s, in times of State Terrorism. She focused a large part of her life to the struggle in El Salvador against the Dictatorship under the pseudonyms of “Cipriana” or “Raquel”. After the 2009 Coup, her son was kidnapped and her husband was shot by the oppressive forces.
Real World Radio interviewed the general coordinator of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), Bertha Cáceres, and the peasant leader and Honduran MP Rafael Alegría, also member of Via Campesina International. Alegria was at Murillo’s funeral when he was interviewed.
“She was a renowned activist in the social movement. A strong, energetic woman, who gave herself to the struggle in a critical and passionate way”, this is how Cáceres described Murillo, and added that she was one of FNRP’s national leaders, but someone who never abandoned the agrarian struggle”.
“These coward murderers found her with a hoe in her hands. She was on her way to sow cucumbers, to work the land, to give life”, added COPINH’s member, who referred to the attack against Murillo by three people as “work of the groups in power and the Honduran State”, which she blamed for the murder.
Cáceres also said that the Inter American Human Rights Commission had established precautionary measures for the Honduran government to protect her life. “But she was never ensured protection, despite denouncing several times the death threats she received”.
Cáceres added that “practically, Murillo’s funeral is a mobilisation in itself, an act of protest”, and she highlighted that “there is widespread concern among the social and political movement”. “This has made us think about the urgent need to close ranks in response to the oppression that continues criminalising people in this country, with many strategies to harass and murder social and political activists”.
COPINH’s representative said that last Saturday, in a meeting of the FNRP, Murillo had said that they needed to keep fighting no matter what. Despite “the pain we are accumulating for our friends who were murdered, such as Margarita, for the level of vulnerability, defencelessness, impunity and criminalisation, which is part of this State’s terror policy, we have hope, we want to continue fighting for this country”, highlighted Caceres by the end of the interview.
Meanwhile, Alegria highlighted that Murillo focused all her life to “organisation, capacity-building and the peasant struggle for an Integral Agrarian Reform”. “She was a remarkable activist”, he added.
The leader regretted the fact that the “list of peasants murdered in Honduras amid the utmost impunity continues to grow”, and blamed the national government. In this way, he explained that on April 9th, he presented an Integral Agrarian Reform Bill to the House of Representatives, but “this bill continues inside a drawer, it seems there is no will by the government”. They hold a huge part of the blame for these murders, because the agrarian reform could take place in a peaceful way, without spilling blood, but this happens when there are governments with determination to promote agrarian processes with justice, peace and freedom”. “We continue fighting for an Integral Agrarian Reform”, he highlighted.
A moment of silence was held yesterday in Congress and Alegria called the attention on the high number of peasants murdered in the country and of peasants who have been criminalised for their struggle. Alegria also made reference to the Agrarian Reform Bill.
The leader said to Real World Radio: “Yesterday I said that a moment of silence for our friend wasn’t enough. It is necessary to discuss and pass the Integral Agrarian Reform Bill. This is our immediate struggle. Margarita gave her life for this and we will continue with the struggle. “In honor of the achievements, personality and dignity of Margarita Murillo, the struggle will continue”, concluded Alegría.
This podcast was produced and first published by Real World Radio.