There were women that weren’t even able to put on a bra because their whole skeleton was destroyed by the repetitive movements [in the sweatshops].
"The first threat that I received was in 2005 when I did a radio campaign with women’s stories about the situation inside the maquilas [sweatshops that make clothing to be exported to the U.S. and other countries]. There were women who had spine injuries, that weren’t even able to put on a bra because their whole skeleton was destroyed by the repetitive movements. "The women were saying that they were working under a lot of stress, that they had to produce more than 500 pieces of clothes a day, that they didn’t have time to go to the bathroom, and that they had urinary infections. They had all kinds of injuries, these young women, after six months working in a maquila.
"They’re earning 6,400 lempiras, which is around $300 U.S. dollars per month. They have a system where they work 12 hours a day for four days, and then they [are supposed to] rest another four days. But instead, they’re told that they have to deliver the order, so they work more. Our radio campaign talked about this stress and these health problems. "Then a man started following me everywhere. But I didn’t know who he was. And one day he approached me. He asked if I worked for that organization, I told him that I did. He said that I should take down those radio announcements because for 500 lempiras, he could have me killed. That was about $25. "I didn’t know who he was, or why he was telling me that, until the next day, when I saw him talking with a very elegant man. I asked someone else who he was talking with. They told me that it was a businessman, and gave me his name. He was the security boss of a maquila. I felt threatened then, and realized that a car had been following me for several days."
"[After the patient we filmed died] all of the media came to the hospital, they were on all of the floors. The military intervened in the hospital and the repression began against the journalists. They didn't let us in, and some of the military pushed us; others pushed our vehicles. "From then on, I got some pictures sent to my phone: a photo of me inside of a red car. Photos that looked dark, confusing. So I called the Colonel [a highly-placed source in the Honduran security forces]. There was a conglomerate of authorities, and he was the boss. So I told him that I had gotten some photos and that I didn’t know what they were. People had also called the TV channel to ask what time we journalists were returning, and there were two armed men hanging around the TV station. "The Colonel told me, 'Oh, everything that is happening is because of the hospital. Because no one else was able to do what you did in Honduras. The thing at the hospital had been going on for so many years, and you achieved that with the media. And from what I heard, you haven’t gotten a prize, so I’m going to give one to you.'
They told me that my phone was being tapped, and they told me that someone was following me...I left the country, scared and confused.
"There are 20 murders daily, on average. It had come down a bit, but now it has increased again. Within those, four to five victims are women, sometimes entire families of women, including kids. There are a lot of 'femicides' now. There’s also impunity in 98% of the murder cases. There are assaults on the streets, kidnappings, and extortions. "Not everything has to do with the maras [gangs]. The gangs told the government and the military this when they wanted to sign a peace treaty: 'You blame us for everything, but we don’t commit all the crimes.' And that is true. There’s a situation that I see…that the military is being given a lot of power, too much power. "There is a tax fund for security forces in the billions that we are all paying into, especially the business people. This money is not being invested in prevention, but in giving the military more power and equipment. And that is very dangerous because there is a lot of repression by the military and police."
He said that I should take down those radio announcements because for 500 lempiras, he could have me killed. That was about $25.
"There was a lot of repression, there was a lot of tear gas, tanks; the army was very repressive of media. Journalistic equipment was destroyed, there were kidnappings of journalists who were threatened, intimidated, put into military or police cars. "Things got more difficult. The majority of journalists that were killed were killed starting from 2009; 55 journalists in total have been killed since 2003, but more than 45 of those were killed between 2009 and 2015."
"When I got to the U.S., the Committee to Protect Journalists told me that I could ask for asylum, and that they could help me. And I said no, because I can’t continue doing journalism in Honduras if I ask for asylum, and I can’t be with my family. I knew that for me, it would be frustrating not to be able to continue doing journalism."
What is your advice for other young women who want to use journalism for social justice?
"We women have to unite, without selfishness, without wanting to show off. We have to unite, so our work is more visible to empower women, to give women autonomy. We can't be scared of denouncing persecution."
Editor's note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.