According to local and international NGOs, powerful landowners, logging companies, drug traffickers and informal crime bosses control the lands. With almost no formal authority in the region, community members who have opposed logging have been threatened and murdered, and others have fled. Tamayo himself has been harassed and violently assaulted, and has had a bounty put on his life.
Not willing to stay silent as he witnessed the effects of clear-cutting and water shortages, Tamayo mobilized local residents and drew the government’s attention to Olancho’s urgent environmental issues. In 2003, he led a regional campaign that stopped the development of a major highway that would have increased access to forests for new sawmills. Later that year, Tamayo led the “March for Life,” a 3,000-person, 120-mile, weeklong march to the nation’s capital. It brought the environmental debate to the national stage and inspired other rural communities to organize against illegal logging. One month later, the Honduran president agreed to meet with Tamayo. In recognition of his efforts, he was awarded the 2003 Honduras National Human Rights Award.
In June 2004, more than 5,000 people joined a second “March for Life,” drawing attention to alleged corruption in the government’s National Forestry Agency. The March led to a government investigation, prompting the resignation of the agency’s General Manager. Recognizing that the viability of these successes requires sustained pressure, Tamayo is reaching out to other isolated communities in Olancho and continues to strengthen his national campaign to ensure the protection of Olancho’s forests for years to come.
Father Tamayo’s resilience and peaceful efforts have led observers to compare him to Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., and César Chávez. Undaunted by the violent backlash that his activism has unleashed, Father Tamayo has remained staunchly and selflessly committed to the nonviolent defense of the forests and the people of Honduras.