By: Allison Lira
San Francisco Locomapa, Yoro, Honduras
On February 25, members of the indigenous Tolupan tribe in San Francisco Locomapa commemorated two years since the 2019 assassination of indigenous land defenders Salomón and Samael Matute. Joined by representatives from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the commemoration began with a visit to the local cemetery and ended with a church service by Father Marcos Ayala.
At the time of their murder, Salomón and Samael Matute were members of the Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice (MADJ in spanish) and had denounced harassment and threats made against them on multiple occasions. Despite being beneficiaries of the protection mechanism imposed by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, the Honduran state failed to protect them.
This failure is not unusual in Honduras. Since the creation of the protection mechanism in July 2015, seven beneficiaries have been murdered and one, Albert Sneider Centeno from the afro-indigenous Garifuna community of Triunfo de la Cruz, was forcibly disappeared by men in police uniforms. 22 others who requested and were denied protection under the mechanism have also been killed. Honduras continues to be the most dangerous in the world to defend the environment, (Pasosdeanimalgrande, 2020).
In Honduras, there are 31 Tolupan tribes, 26 in the department of Yoro and 5 in Francisco Morazán, their existence dating back 5,000 years. In San Francisco Locomapa, located in the department of Yoro, the tribe there holds an ancestral community land title dating back to 1864 for a mountainous area rich in natural resources, among them, pine trees and an abundance of rivers and precious minerals.
In the last decade, the Locomapa Tolupan tribe has been asserting their territorial rights against the illegal pillaging of their lands by extractive entities, particularly by the state-backed logging industry. The resulting conflict has been fatal for the Tolupan community in the region. In recent years, more than 10 Tolupanes have been murdered.
The Honduran state, for its part, has exacted a criminalization campaign against the community and has largely abdicated its duty to bring to justice these murders. Many remain in impunity, including in the case of Salomón and Samael Matute.
WfP Solidarity Collective echos the concerns put forward by the UN Office of the High Commissioner in Honduras regarding the lack of progress made in the investigation of the murder of Salomón and Samael Matute. Due to the high levels of violence and persecution happening not just in this community but across Honduras, we also call for the passage of the Berta Cáceres Act in the U.S. House of Representative and the Honduras Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Act in the U.S. Senate.