In February 2016, Santos Filander Matute, 41-year-old member of the Tolupan tribe in Honduras, was killed in his place of residence along with four other members of his family.
Santos Matute had moved to Locomapa, Yoro with other members of his tribe in January 2016. The objective was to settle down and plant beans for a living. However, they were murdered by members of organised crime only one month after they had moved.
The reason why they were killed: being part of the Tolupan tribe and opposing illegal logging in the area. The Tolupan are indeed the most marginalised indigenous group in Honduras, living in extreme poverty in remote rural areas with little access to basic services.
Santos Matute was one of the leaders in the protests against illegal logging, and this led to criminal cases being filled against him. Even though the Court finally ruled that the indigenous community had the right to be consulted on forestry plans being implemented in their land, logging activities continued to take place. So did threats and violence against Santos Matute and other members of the Tolupan indigenous community. Despite being granted emergency protection, he suffered attacks and threats and lived in hiding.
The killing of Santos Matute and his family is emblematic because it represents the case of many other indigenous peoples that are seeing their natural resources exploited, and their voices silenced when they try to denounce it. Indigenous tribes in Honduras, such as the Tolupan, constantly challenge private companies that carry out unlawful mining activities and implement illicit hydroelectric power projects. It is through these commitments that they are recognised as human rights defenders.
HRDs that decide to speak out and fight for their land rights become a burden for big land owners, whose interests are to keep exploiting the land for profit. Unfortunately, many of these human rights defenders succumb to the same fate as Santos Matute.