Honduras: second human rights attorney murdered

Unidentified assailants gunned down Eduardo Manuel Díaz Mazariegos, a prosecutor with the Honduran Public Ministry, shortly before noon on Sept. 24 near his office in Choluteca, the capital of the southern department of Choluteca. Díaz Mazariegos had worked on human rights cases as well as criminal cases for the ministry. He was the seventh Honduran prosecutor murdered since 1994, and his killing came less than two full days after the similar murder of Antonio Trejo Cabrera, an activist private attorney who represented a campesino collective in a dispute over land in the Lower Aguán Valley in northern Honduras. (La Tribuna, Tegucigalpa, Sept. 24; EFE, Sept. 25, via Univision)

The Associated Press wire service reported on Sept. 24 that Trejo had written a request in June 2011 for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish) in Washington, DC, to order emergency precautionary measures for his protection. “If anything happens to me, to my goods or to my family,” Trejo wrote, “I hold responsible Mr. Miguel FacussĂ© [and two others that AP declined to name], who can attack my life through hit men, since they know that the lawsuits against them are going well and that the campesinos are going to recover the lands that [FacussĂ© and the others] stole from them illegally.”

Cooking oil magnate FacussĂ© is the main owner of disputed land in the Aguán; presumably Trejo also named the two other major landowners in the dispute, RenĂ© Morales and Reinaldo Canales. After Trejo’s murder FacussĂ© issued a written denial of any “direct participation of my person or of the personnel of my companies in so abominable an act,” although he added that Trejo had committed “fraudulent acts against [FacussĂ©’s] company.” Marlene Cruz, an attorney who represents another Aguán collective, told AP that she and Trejo were scheduled to attend a hearing at the CIDH in Washington on Oct. 19. Cruz is now thought to be in danger.

Trejo, who came from a campesino family and was born in the San Isidro collective in northern Honduras, was also involved in another high-profie case: he had filed a complaint against a neoliberal project, the Special Development Regions (RED, also known as “Model Cities”), for creating privatized autonomous regions in the country. Trejo denounced the project in a television debate less than 24 hours before his assassination, saying it was backed by “Ali Baba and the 40 thieves of the government.” Michael Strong, the director of the US-based MGK Group, a leading “model cities” sponsor, said he was “horrified” by the murder and that “if Trejo had lived long enough to be acquainted with us, he would have concluded that our approach is beneficial for Honduras.” (AP, Sept. 24, via El Nuevo Herald, Miami)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 30.