Most early mornings in any rural Honduran community you see campesinos with machetes, rubber boots and water on bikes or on foot heading off to work the land and create the food that fills the stomachs of their families, their communities, their nation. This Tuesday was no different, except that as the sun rose it discovered far more people than normal, mostly women, from communities around the country walking, biking or getting on buses holding signs, sticks, machetes, umbrellas and written statements. January 25th is Day of the Honduran Woman, and the Resistance movement decided to celebrate the occasion by taking over highways across the country.
The La Voz de los de Abajo delegation travelled to the takeover at Planes with a community leader from Guadalupe Carney, one of about a hundred members of the community also headed to the takeover. Women in Resistance, a section of the National Front of Popular Resistance (FNRP), called for the actions to show that the fight against the coup regime and for the re-founding of the country is not over, to highlight the bravery and determination of women in the struggle and to protest the repeal of an important land reform decree by the congress.
Decree 18-2008 was initiated by President Manuel Zelaya in 2008 in consultation with the peasant movement to try to resolve long standing conflicts over land titles in favor of the peasant groups struggling for land. Though it had already been largely ignored by the de facto government since the military coup of June 28th, 2009, its formal repeal by the national congress added fuel to the already explosive agrarian situation in Aguán and other regions of the country.
Peasants from at least five land reclamations in the Aguán region made their way to the highway takeover at Planes. Amidst chants of “Con la mujer en la casa, la constituyente se atrasa” (“with women at home, the struggle for the constitutional assembly gets set back”), “Mujeres del Aguán, en las luchas siempre están” (“women of Aguán are always in the struggles”) and “Militares de Aguán, matando campesinos están” (“the military in Aguán is killing peasants”), hundreds of people took over the major highway crossing at Planes in the municipality of Sabá, Colón.
The delegation was immediately called on to inquire why the police had detained a young unarmed man making his way to the demonstration. While the police claimed he had run from them when they asked to see his identification, they could give no further reason for his detention and finally let him go. In the exchange that followed the police stopped a young many to take away his machete, an instrument carried by nearly everybody in rural Honduras. The officers, all heavily armed with AK-47’s and tear gas canisters, quickly moved aside, however, when a large group of campesinos from the nearby land takeover called Buenos Amigos came marching over with machetes and sticks in the air.
The occupation was one of many highway takeovers and protests around the country including Jutiapa, Puerto Cortéz, Santa Cruz de Yojoa, El Progreso, Choloma, San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa. It was yet another demonstration that the resistance is alive and well in Honduras. Especially in the Aguán region, where campesinos are killed, disappeared and beaten regularly by private guards of the large landowners in collaboration with police and military, it is a sign of tremendous strength that hundreds of people still had the bravery to shut down a major highway for six hours. The dream of re-founding Honduras from below is something that hundreds of killings and thousands of beatings, jailings and threats have been unable to deter.
Afterward: Repression continues
After leaving the highway takeover, the campesinos went back to the hard realities of their day-to-day struggles. Within two days of the occupation, one of its largest contingents, the campesinos from the Buenos Amigos land reclamation, were violently evicted by the police. While they vow to return within 48 hours, in the mean time pressure on the police is urgently needed to demand the release of the three people detained during the eviction- José Santos Rios, Santiago Rodriguez and Jorge Santos. The number to the police station where they are being detained in Tocoa, Colón is (504) 2444-3105. (UPDATE: All detainees have been release, thanks for those who called in to put the pressure on!)