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A Lawyer for Rural Justice in Honduras Slain

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On Saturday night, September 22th, 2012, after he attended a wedding, Antonio Trejo Cabrera was shot six times. He later died at a Tegucigalpa hospital.  He was the legal representative of the MARCA campesino movement, and in June he had won the historic though still contested judgment in favor of returning three plantations to campesinos in Bajo Aguán.

“Since they couldn’t beat him on the courts, they killed him,” said Vitalino Alvarez, a spokesman for Bajo Aguan’s peasant movements, cited in an Associated Press story.  Trejo “had denounced those responsible for his future death on many occasions.”  Trejo also prepared legal challenges to a proposal by U.S. and Honduran companies to run privately-run charter cities that critics call unconstitutional, as they would skirt national labor and other laws.

He had asked for protection, but according to his brother, “nobody cared.”

The State Department issued a statement on September 24th, saying “the United States is saddened and outraged by the murder of Honduran attorney and human rights defender Antonio Trejo Cabrera and urges the Honduran government to conduct a full and transparent investigation his death immediately.”

In June 2012, I visited Bajo Aguán with an international mission and listened to the testimonies of peasant activists who had been beaten and tortured, brutally evicted from their lands by police, military and members of private security guards on the plantations concentrated in the hands of three wealthy landlords.  There have been 53 people associated with campesino movements in Bajo Aguán, as well as a journalist and his partner, killed since September 2009. A number of private security guards have also been killed.

Almost none of these cases has been effectively investigated. Since that time, peasant protests have continued to meet with repression.

And now the lawyer who defended those movements, Antonio Trejo Cabrera, has been killed.