Environmental defender and teacher José Antonio Teruel, 72, was shot to death on Sunday, 27 September, 2020, along with his wife Francisca Aracely Zavala, 70, and brother-in-law Marco Tulio Zavala, 68, in the municipality of Patuca, department of Olancho, in the north east of Honduras.
At 6.30pm on the Sunday evening armed gunmen burst into the Teruel family home and opened fire killing all three people.
Professor Antonio, better known affectionately as “Toño”, was a member of the Honduran Teacher Training College (Colprosumah), and with Dr. Ramón Custodio López was one of the best-known activists of the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras (Codeh) in the 1980s.
Toño Teruel also worked for a long time as coordinator of Citizen Participation in Caritas/Honduras under the direction of Father Germán Cálix. Father Calix remembers him as someone “whose human qualities stood out above their ability and professional experience. He was a sincere friend, a colleague who put all his efforts into his work; He called people by their name with great affection, or simply as companero or companerita. His simple demeanor made anyone approach to ask for his help and he never failed to extend his hand to anyone who asked for support.”
He was also a member of the Honduran Alliance for Forest Defense and Development. The forests of Olancho have been decimated by illegal logging and anyone who speaks out against the loggers is immediately a target. Toño Teruel was a strong advocate for environmental protection and had also campaigned for transparency and an end to corruption in public life. He also campaigned against what he saw as destructive mining which produced only contamination and poverty.
In the last years of his life, he held several meetings to analyze the conflict between residents of Patuca and authorities of the National Electric Power Company (Enee) due to the presence of the dam and in all his years of campaigning he was always a proponent of peaceful dialogue.