By Kibret Yebetit
On the morning of November 23, 2013, campesino activists Maria Amparo Pineda Duerte and Julio Ramon Maradiaga were gunned down in the outskirts of Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. It was the eve of the presidential election, and the two associates of the National Center for Rural Workers were on their way back from a workshop on election monitoring. Filmed the following day, this video follows family members as they visit the site of the killing. When they do, heavily armed police officers arrive as well.
Human Rights Issue
While many attribute the killings to a climate of rampant gang and drug-related violence in Honduras, human rights monitors say that violence is used as one form of intimidation and repression of leftist social movements in the country. Frontline Defenders has documented increased threats to activists and journalists, especially since the 2009 coup. According to the Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America, nearly 230 Hondurans have lost their lives in politically motivated attacks in the past four years. RightsAction tracked armed attacks and killings of political activists and their family members in the six months leading up to the November election, and found more activists and family members of the leftist LIBRE party killed than all other political parties combined. Both Maria Pineda and Julio Maradiaga were reportedly active in the LIBRE party.
Behind the Camera
Eric Torres Alvarez, who filmed the video, works with “La Voz de los de Abajo” (The Voice of those from Below), a Chicago-based organization that supports various resistance groups in Latin America and is also a part of the Honduras Solidarity Network. Alvarez traveled to Honduras last month as an election observer. He told the Human Rights Channel that the military was a constant presence around polling stations, and that because of that, people were afraid to talk to him. Even Alvarez filmed under the fear that he could potentially be detained or even killed for what he was documenting and reporting.
Perhaps because of the climate of intimidation and fear among Honduras’ journalists and human rights activists, the Human Rights Channel has found little citizen and advocacy footage from Honduran human rights groups. This video playlist on targeted killings in the Bajo Aguán Valley includes video primarily produced by international organizations rather than local ones. They include testimonials from campesinos who have witnessed or experienced targeted violence, as well as advocacy videos from organizations fighting for these residents.