March 9, 2011
This afternoon La Voz spoke via telephone with one of the leaders of the Buenos Amigos community in Saba, Colon (Aguan) Blanca Espinoza. The La Voz de los de Abajo delegation that traveled to Honduras January 22-30 of this year met Blanca and the campesino land recuperation of Buenos Amigos. While we were still in Honduras the community was violently evicted from the land. (See our previous posts from January for more history and detail).
Today Blanca informed La Voz that the campesinos remain off their land since their eviction on January 27th. Fourteen community members, including Blanca, have had legal proceeding against them. But most concerning are the ongoing death threats and harassment by paramilitary/private guards. Blanca has received death threats on her cell phone saying that "you are going to die with all of your children" (she has 9 children). She has also been followed and knows she is being watched.
Last night (March 8) around 10:30 at night a motorcycle with two men wearing ski masks pulled up in front of her house. She was terrified, suddenly a truck happened to pull up and the motorcycle took off. She believes that they were scared off by the arrival of the truck and that is the only reason that something worse didn't happen.
Two other members of the campesino group have been followed and threatened, Santos Rios and Santiago Rodriguez. Men showed up looking for Santos where they thought he was working but he was not there so they left. Santiago has been followed and threatened.
Blanca told us that representatives of the National Agrarian Institute (INA) in Colon who are looking into the land conflict at Buenos Amigos have also been threatened. The land in dispute was forclosed on and should be available for the campesinos (100 families) to obtain. The previous owner, Cesar Velasquez, aided by local police and other land owners opposed to the campesinos, is using the paramilitary, private guards, threats and harassment to drive the campesino families out of the area. Since the eviction, due to the constant threats and persecution, Blanca and others in the group have not been able to work in order to maintain their families. Because of the threats and the appearance of masked men at her house, Blanca and her family are being forced to leave the house and find other shelter.
The campesinos have filed a complaint with the human rights organization COFADEH.