- Land takeovers in 5 provinces -
APRIL 17 - International Day of Campesino Struggle
by Victoria Cervantes, La Voz de los de Abajo - Chicago
Honduran campesinos have always faced violence and repression, but since the June 28, 2009 military coup the situation has deteriorated dramatically with increasing impunity, militarization and power of the land owning oligarachy and corporate agribusiness. To make matters worse, the Honduran National Congress in December 2010 annulled former President Zelaya’s order (Decree 18-2008) for a limited land reform that would have given dozens of campesino communities title to disputed lands.
Campesino organizations denounce an increase in terror tactics and violence in which national police and other military or mysterious men, dressed in black with their faces covered but carrying police and military weapons, arrive in communities before dawn, knock down doors, pull men women and children violently out of their homes and then destroy the homes and detain community members. Bulldozers and fire have been used to destroy homes and crops. The local leaders in the communities are held in jail or placed on probation requiring them to travel distances every week to sign in at a police station. Always the threat of another traumatizing and violent attacks hangs over the community. These attacks on campesino communities have occurred in the Tutule region of La Paz (20 evictions as many as 3 in one week), in Olancho, Atlantida and other regions.
The violence and attacks on organized campesinos is infamous in the lower Aguan region in Colon where more than 50 assassinations have taken place since January 2010, and there are constant threats, violence detentions and harassment. Just during the past 4 weeks 2 members of the Unified Campesino Movement of Aguan (MUCA) were murdered and two others detained. The Campesino Movement of Rigores were harassed by armed troops after the community verbally confronted the government’s Agrarian Institute director Cesar Ham and on March 18th a land recuperation in Las Brisas, Colon was violently evicted.
Government and agro-business terror against the campesinos is paired with bad-faith negotiations or promises of negotiations to supposedly resolve land disputes. On February 23 of this year, Cesar Ham convened a meeting of campesino groups, many of whom have been recently evicted or are in imminent danger of eviction. According to some participants the meeting was “a lot of talk about possible negotiations but nothing concrete”. So far, when negotiations have resulted in settlements either the land-owners have openly refused to full-fill the agreements (the case of African Palm grower magnate, Miguel Facusse and MUCA communities) or the negotiations have resulted in untenable, smaller amounts of land and large debt burdens for the campesinos , for example, a February 17th agreement with some MUCA communities.
No wonder then that campesino organizations have decided to step up their struggle for land and to be allowed to produce food and other crops that can sustain their families and the rural economies. Honduras is one of the poorest countries in the region; the United Nations World Food Programme estimates that chronic malnutrition in the countryside is as high as 48.5% and the average rate is 34%. In a recent interview with Jesus Ponce, Secretary General of the CNTC, the campesino leader denounced the violence and attacks on the campesinos and stated, “we only want land to plant and to be productive; the campesinos will never leave land abandoned when so many are hungry; we can be part of a solution to the problems but instead the government, the big landowners, consider us to be less than animals and an obstacle to their plans. The land belongs to us and we demand Justice, Land, and Liberty! ”.
Republished from Honduras Resists