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Dina Meza glanced over her shoulder at the man sitting at the table behind us at the Intercontinental Hotel.
“Let’s get out of here,” she said.
The man, who had a bit of a paunch, thinning hair, and was typing on a laptop, did not look menacing to my colleague Daniela and me. But then, we were not the ones who have been receiving threats on our life due to our work. We were not the ones who had to go to the U.K. in order to escape the escalating danger.
We trusted Dina when she said it was time to go somewhere else.
Dina, with dark hair, almond eyes, and a bright smile, is a journalist and human rights defender in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. She works with COFADEH, the Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras, as well as being active in movements in defense of rights of women and campesinos (peasants). She worked on radio programs for COFADEH and for the Women’s Movement for Peace.
I fell in love with Sambo Creek the moment we turned onto the sand-swept main road, just as the sun was setting. A Garifuna village on the north coast of Honduras, the strong sense of community was immediately evident. Naum, our host from OFRANEH (Organizacion Fraternal Negra de Honduras) met our car and walked us through the village. He greeted every man, woman, and child we passed by name.
“Are you from Sambo Creek originally?” I asked Naum.
“I was born here, raised here, and I will die here,” he answered, in a tone of voice that implied he did not feel stuck, but rather would not want to live anywhere else.
I was riding in the back of a pick up truck with Vitalino, one of the leaders of MUCA (the Movement of Unified Campesinos in Aguan) in Honduras. The terrain was breathtaking; lush, green and mountainous. Vitalino had just been showing us some of the community projects that MUCA has been working on, including fish and chicken farming.
“The community’s nutritional intake has changed since we started this project,” he said proudly, pointing out that it is a source of income for the workers as well.
The late-afternoon light on the campesino dwellings we were passing in the truck was golden, Vitalino was warm and gregarious, the view was intoxicating, and a general sense of well-being prevailed. Until I asked Vitalino: “Do you intend to stay in Aguan?”
“I don’t think I’ll be alive much longer,” Vitalino answered, matter-of-factly.
I arrived in Honduras 10 days ago, having been warned about the dangers of the country and the dire situation facing human rights defenders.
The start of the new year has seen a dangerous turn for the worse for human rights defenders in the Americas. In the last 2 weeks alone, Front Line Defenders has documented a number of cases of killing, attempted killing, attacks and death threats to human rights defenders throughout the region.
Front Line Defenders is extremely concerned about the apparent increase in violence and intimidation against human rights defenders in the Americas region. As the region continues to deal with the legacy of the past and makes strides towards justice and accountability, it is more important than ever to ensure the safety and security of human rights defenders working on the front lines of securing political, social, cultural, economic and other human rights for the people of the region.
You can read more about these cases on the Americas page at www.frontlinedefenders.org and you can stay updated on news about human rights defenders around the world by signing up for the Front Line Defenders e-bulletin via the website.