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A courageous community leader murdered in Honduras

This week in Trócaire we were shocked to learn about the murder of Matias Valle, an outspoken human rights leader from La Confianza, the community featured in our Lenten campaign last year. Matias was waiting at a bus stop on route to his community on Friday 20th January when he was gunned down by two hooded men.

The brave father, husband and community leader was a key figure in the struggle for land being undertaken by poor farmers in north Honduras, where corrupt businessmen hold a violent monopoly on agricultural land. Despite regular death threats Matias was outspoken on the need for poor farmers to have the right to peacefully own land on which to live and grow food.

Matias Valle - courageous community leader murdered in Honduras

Top Left: Community leader Matías Valle was shot  dead on January 20, 2012. Photo: Giorgio Trucchi.

Top right:  A daughter holds a photo of her father who was murdered for legally challenging a large landowner’s right to land in Honduras.

Bottom Left: Martha Julia Lopez holds a picture of her dead husband, Seriseo Munoz, close to her heart. Seriseo (50), was shot dead last year when gunmen, hired by a rich landowner, opened fire on a group of farmers as they worked. This community is one of thousands throughout Honduras whose legal challenge for land has been met with the murder of innocent farmers. Seriseo is mourned by Martha and their four children.

Bottom Right: Pedro Serrano and his daughter, Reina  (3), live in the community of La Confianza. Every day here parents worry about the safety of their children because of the violence and intimidation they have endured. Families are risking everything for the right to own enough land, earn a decent living and give their children a better future. Photos: David Stephenson.

Last year when I met Matias he told me that he slept in a different house every night as he knew he was being watched and that there was a very real chance he would be killed. Despite this, he selflessly and publically sought justice for his community. Sadly his time ran out last Friday.

It is outrageous that yet another life has been brutally brought to an end over land in north Honduras. So much blood has been needlessly shed in this small region; in the last two years 45 people involved in the land movement have been murdered and no one has been brought to justice.

We send our thoughts and prayers to Matias’ family and community at this heartbreaking time.

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