Justice for Margarita Murillo

Daniel Lichtenstein-Boris

South Los Angeles

Kenia, daughter of murdered Honduran social movement leader Margarita Murillo, spoke last night about government repression in Honduras and the migrant caravan- the exodus from the Narco-dictatorship of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez.

It has been a year since I traveled to Honduras to observe the fraud and violence of the November 2017 national elections.  Read my coverage here.

At a small crowded storefront in south Los Angeles on Friday Night, November 30, 2018, Kenia Murilio addressed a small crowd in Spanish– mostly bi-lingual Guatemalan, Salvadoran, and Honduran immigrants and their children, those that moved to, settled, and grown up in Los Angeles through successive waves of refugees of state violence in Central America.  The small storefront, a single room with folding chairs, was covered with posters quoting Assata Shakur and other members of the Black Panther Party, the Zapatistas, and Central American social movements from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.  A mural on one wall showed an indigenous woman raising a fist on a plain within a forest mountain and desert landscape, a snake coiled up across a river in the far right corner, the yellow bright sun shining in the left as it arched across the sky.

Margarita Murillo was assassinated on August 27, 2014.  Kenia and her family has organized protests, delegations to the state attorney’s office, and sit-ins outside the prosecutor’s office to demand justice in her case.  The government, Kenia explained, gave no response.  The lead investigator was killed.  Afterwards the attorneys just evade and delay every time  her and her family asked questions.  “We want to go to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights,” Kenia explained.  “So the government does something about it and investigates the case.” They have no interest in investigating.  Many members of her family in Honduras are documenting the tortures and murders that have been happening.  They want to bring it to an international level, to expose what is happening in Honduras.

This is part of an epoch of continuous struggle that has been going on now for generations in Central America.  It is not easy, it has taken its toll.  But we want to take this case to the Inter-American Court.  Our economic resources, of the family aren’t much, so we can have justice so the family has an answer, so the intellectual authors of this crime are brought to justice.

Not a lot of international attention has been brought to Margarita Murillo’s case.  Like Berta Carceres of COPINH, where after an international outcry several men were found guilty of her murder, Margarita also organized rural and indigenous families against multinational companies who were displacing local communities with the assistance of the government.  She had been a social movement leader for over twenty years, traveling to El Salvador and Guatemala under assumed names during the military dictatorships, dirty war, and popular resistance to state terror in those countries.

Margarita was the 120th political assassination Kenia mentioned in their area since the 2009 coup that deposed President Zeyala; there have been another sixty political murders since then.  Others they say are killed for other reasons, robbery, gangs, some other excuse, but its the government trying to kill anyone who opposes it.  We are tired of the assassinations, we protest there are public peaceful protests that are brutally dispersed, met with tear gas, rubber bullets, and in some instances live ammunition.  They are killing kids.  A one year old was killed by a tear gas canister.  A twelve year old spoke out on a media platform about the repression of social movements, and his body was found dead the next day.

Meanwhile the cost of electricity and natural gas has skyrocketed, there has been no increase in the minimum wage, and there is no working healthcare system to speak of.  There aren’t enough supplies, doctors , or nurses in the hospitals.  I just heard how in a hospital in the south, a baby died of a snake bite-they had nothing to treat him with.

Then there is the unemployment.  You have to be younger than 35 to work.  To get a job, just to get an interview, workers often have to labor for very bad pay to secure a chance at permanent employment.  The Maquilas, the factories that make apparel, they exploit women.  Workers there only make 5 dollars a week.  This is less than a subsistence wage, less than the cost of rent and lights and food.

The situation in Honduras is so bad, we had to take drastic action.  We had to leave.  We thought if we left in a group we wouldn’t be hurt.  But we are disappointed; by the United States, and by the government of Mexico.  In Mexico they have hurt us, beat us, and at the US border we face tear gas and rubber bullets.  We don’t really want to come to the U.S.; it’s not that things are so great here, but we have no other choice.  In Honduras, if you protest, they kill you.

A fourteen year old was murdered.  The father of the family said we aren’t secure here.  They left.  There are no other options.  That’s why we formed the caravan to come here.  The gangs impose taxes on the people.  They recruit kids; if you don’t join the gang they kill you.

The government of Honduras robbed the social security system, the public institutions, and the entire country, to steal it’s wealth to go to the family of President Juan Orlando Hernandez.

Now that the caravan is here, people need to help the caravan in a humanitarian way, and to help them find a place to go;  they don’t want us in Mexico, we are not going back to Honduras, no one wants us.  The U.S. won’t let us enter.  But we need to survive.

We need the United Nations, or human rights organizations to help us find a place to go, a place we can stay.  We are not going back.

How can Trump say that there are criminals, drug traffickers, and murderers in the caravan?  We are fleeing poverty and violence.  How can he say this, whey the brother of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez was just captured in Miami, charged with drug trafficking.  They say we are the traffickers?  Everyone knows the drugs come by plane.

In Honduras there has been a lot of repression.  In my community, in three years, 470 youth were killed by gangs.  All of these murders of children have gone unsolved.  Kids are found later, their bodies in a sack, or by the side of the road, or tied to a post.

There are daily strikes, blockades, boycotts, and protests in Honduras.  The governments of Nicaragua and El Salvador closed the border for 48 hours, but they reopened them, so as not to hurt business.

So we left.  People feel like they are in limbo, that they have no support, that they aren’t welcome anywhere.  But we will continue, we must, to survive.

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