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Exclusive: Priest Fears for Life After Coup in Honduras

El Diario/La Prensa, News Report, Eva Sanchis, Translated by Elena Shore Posted: Jul 02, 2009

NEW YORK - Members of the military fired on a peaceful march Wednesday as demonstrators walked to the capital in protest of the coup that overthrew President Manuel Zelaya. Among the protesters was the well-known Honduran environmentalist Father Tamayo.

The violent repression of the march occurred in the town of Limones at two in the morning, Tamayo said yesterday after being reached briefly on his cell phone. The protest included about 4,000 peasants, trade unionists and other citizens of Zelaya's native province of Olancho.

Father Tamayo was able to flee after being sheltered by fellow environmentalists and is now in hiding somewhere in the mountains of Olancho. But he said he still fears for his life and that of his colleagues. Since 2001, there have been several attempts on his life as a result of his environmentalist positions, and since Monday, he is no longer being guarded by the security forces that were assigned to protect him by the ousted government.

"The Army came into Limones, attacked our people, fired on our buses and took a lot of people, but there were some people who were able to save me," the priest said.

The priest, who won the prestigious Goldman environmental prize in 2005, said that about 200 army troops attacked the demonstrators.

"I dont know what happened to the rest of the people. I am trying to find out," said Tamayo. "Please tell Amnesty International about our situation," the priest pleaded before the phone line went dead.

Since 2001, Tamayo has led a peasant movement against the illegal logging operations in Olancho, an eastern province of Honduras about the size of the neighboring country of El Salvador. Despite its more than 1.5 million valuable hectares of forest, Olancho remains one of the poorest parts of the country. The United States and the Caribbean are the main recipients of the illegal timber.

Since the coup on Sunday, when the military arrested President Zelaya and took him out of the country, to Costa Rica, news has spread of the growing militarization of different areas of Honduras, even among the rural populations of Olancho.

Related Articles:

Coup in Honduras - Viewed from Inside and Outside

Why Honduras Matters

Crisis in Honduras

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