Honduran tycoon Miguel Facusse

A human rights lawyer gunned down in Honduras this weekend had reportedly declared that if he were killed, notorious business tycoon Miguel Facusse, one of the main drivers of the Bajo Aguan land conflict, would be the one behind it.

In the morning of September 23, Antonio Trejo Cabrera was gunned down by unknown assailants after attending a wedding in Tegucigalpa. He had been a legal representative for farmers in disputes with large landowners in the Bajo Aguan region, northern Honduras. A violent land conflict raging there has claimed at least 60 lives in the last two years, most of them farmers.

According to the Associated Press (AP), Trejo had publicly declared that Miguel Facusse, a billionaire landowner involved in the land conflict, would be the one to blame if he were murdered. The lawyer had reported death threats since June 2011, and the AP obtained a copy of a text message received by Trejo that stated: “You have 48 hours to get out or you’re dead.”

Facusse has denied any involvement in the killing.

The United States announced that it will support the investigation into Trejo’s murder.

InSight Crime Analysis

Facusse, a supporter of the 2009 coup, is one of Honduras' most powerful and controversial characters. Earlier this year, Reporters Without Borders named him as the biggest threat to press freedom in the country, with the NGO claiming he oversees his own private militia which “can count on support from the police and army to impose his will.”

In addition, according to a US State Department cable released by WikiLeaks, a Facusse property was the alleged landing site for a plane carrying 1 ton of cocaine in 2004, the third such incident on the property in a little over a year. As academic Dana Frank has pointed out, despite concerns over Facusse’s potential ties to drug trafficking, US Embassy staff have met with the businessman on more than one occasion. There are currently no charges against him in the United States.

Facusse holds enormous political and economic power in Honduras. If he was indeed behind Trejo’s murder, obtaining a conviction against him may prove extremely difficult, even with support from the United States.