Thursday 18 January 2018

'The police don't protect me - that's how Honduras works'

Consuela Soto at her home in Honduras. Photo: Frank McGrath
Consuela Soto at her home in Honduras. Photo: Frank McGrath
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Consuelo Soto (46) has been involved in the struggle to secure land rights since 2002. She has paid dearly.

In April 2015, her husband Luis de Reyes Marcía was murdered. Although she is living in the shadow of a death threat, she remains steadfast in her determination to continue the fight.

She was first offered 30,000 Honduran Lempira (HNL) to go away - around €1,200, a lot of money in a country where half the population live on less than €5 a day. It was increased to 40,000 HNL (€1,600), then 50,000 LNP (€2,000). One colleague was offered a staggering 400,000 HNL (€16,000).

"Thank God I never had that moment of weakness [to accept money]. I was angry that if they were offering money, that it wasn't to the community.

"But the moment I cut communications, I started to get threats; voice messages left on my phone saying they would kill me and the other two [activists], rape me and cut me up into little pieces."

Worse was to come. In 2015, her husband was invited for a drink.

"They just shot him on the way to the meeting," she said. "I was visiting my sick sister. My brother called me at 5am to say they found my husband's body on the side of the road.

"After my husband was killed, I was told to go and I left for a month. That man went to my house when I was away and fired a shot. Thank God I wasn't there because I would have been killed."

A mother of seven, she remains in the family home but leaves for up to a month for San Pedro Sula, the second city of Honduras where her daughter lives.

"I'm not going to give up the struggle, even though I'm afraid. Of course I feel threatened. The police should be protecting me but they don't. That's just how Honduras works."

Irish Independent

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