Margarita Murillo was shot and killed early Tuesday morning in the village of El Planón, located within the municipality of Villanueva in northern Honduras. She was walking to tend a plot of land near her home when she was confronted by three men wearing ski-masks. Her body was found lying beneath a mango tree by members of the Asociativa Campesinos de Producción Las Ventanas (Window Production Peasants Association), made up of at least 23 peasant families who have been involved in a legal dispute over properties in the area.
According to Domingo Orellana, who was one of the men who first discovered Mrs. Murillo's body, said, "About four months ago, Margarita had been named president of our group, and we have no idea who could have murdered her." In April, Raymundo García, who was the association's treasurer, was also murdered.
Apparently, Mrs. Murillo had been receiving death threats.
Mrs. Murillo, 56, was the mother of four children. One of her children, 23-year old Samuel, was kidnapped on July 26 by soldiers from his home in the village of Marañon, just south of the city of San Pedro Sula. His whereabouts remain unknown. Mrs. Murillo's husband, Oscar, was shot in the leg by a soldier during a protest in which peasants were blocking the highway in the city of Choloma.
"We are scared for our lives; we are poor people who dedicate ourselves only to working the land to support our families," said one of the peasants who arrived at the crime scene.
Mrs. Murillo has been a leading activist within Honduran peasant land movements for decades. In addition to her role in the Asociativa Campesinos de Producción Las Ventanas, she was the main coordinator for the National Front for Popular Resistance (FNRP) in the department of Cortés and one of the founders of the Liberty and Refoundation Party (Libre).
In response to Mrs. Murillo's death, the Coordinadora Indígena del Poder Popular de Honduras (Indigenous Coordinator for Popular Power in Honduras) issued the following statement:
"We condemn the murder of our associate Margarita Murillo, leader of the social forum of Valle de Sula, the National Front for Popular Resistance, and other political and social organizations of Honduras. We demand that the government [of Honduras], and particularly those institutions responsible for ensuring justice, conduct a swift investigation and punish those responsible for this horrible crime. We express our solidarity with the family of our associate Margarita Murillo and our associates at the social forum of Valle de Sula, the FNRP, and other organizations in which our associate Murillo was active. We call on the entire national and international community to repudiate the femicide against our associate Murillo and demand justice."
At the request of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, the National Congress of Honduras held a minute of silence on Wednesday in honor of Mrs. Murillo's life and legacy.