Monday, February 27, 2012

New Threats In Aguan- Amnesty International

Amnesty International - HONDURAS:  
Two human rights activists in the Lower Aguán region in Honduras received a death threat on 22 February.
Wilfredo Paz is the spokesperson of the Permanent Observatory of Human Rights in the Aguán (Observatorio Permanente de Derechos Humanos del Aguán), a group that monitors human rights violations in the Aguán region. He is also a member of the National Front of Popular Resistance (Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular, FNRP). Juan Chinchilla is an activist with the group Campesino Unified Movement of Aguán (Movimiento Unificado Campesino del Aguán, MUCA), campaigning for land rights of peasant farmers amid ongoing disputes over land ownership. The Observatory and MUCA have been working together on a number of initiatives, and were both involved in the organization of the International Meeting in Solidarity with the Aguán that took place from 17 to 20 February. The meeting drew substantial media attention to the human rights situation in the Aguán.

On the morning of 22 February, Wilfredo Paz received a threat by SMS, directed at Juan Chinchilla. The SMS said “Can you read well? Juan Chinchilla. Your name is on the list we’re after your head. You’re running things you shouldn’t do, but we’ll look for you in the same way you’re looking for socialism” (Lee bien? Juan Chinchilla. Tu nombre está en la lista buscamos tu cabeza .Estás ejecutando cosas que no deves de hacer, pero te vamos a buscar como tu buscas el socialismo). Although Wilfredo Paz was not mentioned in the message, he also feels threatened as it was sent to his phone, and because he has received threats in the past. Neither Wilfredo Paz nor Juan Chinchilla reported the threat, due to a deep lack of trust in the authorities which has escalated in recent months due to forced evictions, arbitrary detention and harassment of human rights defenders by police.

Wilfredo Paz is a beneficiary of Precautionary Measures granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2009 due to concerns for his safety, which ensure that he receives adequate protection in accordance with his wishes. No action has been taken by the authorities to comply with Precautionary Measures. Juan Chinchilla was kidnapped in January 2011 by unknown men, and was ill-treated before managing to escape. The incident was immediately reported to the authorities, but to date no one has been held to account.  

* Call for an independent, thorough and impartial investigation into the threats against Wilfredo Paz and Juan Chinchilla, with the results made public and those responsible brought to justice.
* Urge the authorities to take immediate steps to provide appropriate protection to Wilfredo Paz and Juan Chinchilla, in accordance with their wishes.

Attorney General:
Sr. Luis Alberto Rubí  
Fiscal General de la República
Lomas del Guijarro, Avenida República Dominicana
Edificio Lomas Plaza II           
Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Fax:                  011 504 2221 5667
Salutation:     Sr. Fiscal General / Dear Attorney General

Minister for Justice and Human Rights:
Ana Pineda
Ministra de Justicia y Derechos Humanos
Col. Lomas del Mayab,
Ave. República de Costa Rica
Tegucigalpa MDC, Honduras
Salutation:     Estimada Sra. Ministra / Dear Minister

Non-governmental organization:
Observatorio Permanente Internacional de Derechos Humanos en el Aguán         

The Lower Aguán region is at the centre of a series of land disputes between peasant farming communities and various companies and private landowners that have erupted into violent clashes. Since 2011, large numbers of military personnel have been deployed to the Aguán region amid concerns of unrest. There have been widespread reports by campesino groups that private security guards and military have targeted peasant communities. Forced evictions have been reportedly carried out by the security forces. For example Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action following the forced eviction of the community of Rigores in June 2011 (AMR 37/006/2011,  

The Honduran government and peasant farmers’ organizations, including MUCA, have been negotiating a solution to the conflict that would see the sale of the disputed lands from a private owner to the organizations with the mediation of the state. In February, a provisional agreement on land ownership was reached with some, but not all, of the communities. While the talks have been taking place in recent months, human rights organizations and activists in the area have been reporting harassment and intimidation against  local community activists, both men and women, and unlawful killings.

Kathy Price, Campaigner
Amnesty International Canada (English Speaking Branch)
1992 Yonge Street, 3rd Floor, Toronto, Ontario M4S 1Z7
Tel: 416.363.9933 ext 322
Fax: 416.363.3101

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Sunday 19 February 2012
Tocoa, Bajo Aguan, Colón, Honduras – from 16 to 20 February 2012
In Tocoa, beneath a sun heralding a scorching summer, with grief in hearts outraged by the recent events in Comayagua, Comayaguela, and El Progreso, where fires have destroyed the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of people, suggesting that there is a horrific plot against the people. In an inexhaustible spirit of rebellion and solidarity, over a thousand people
have come together, from the north to the south, including many peoples from Our America, as well as activists from Europe, the USA and Australia. We have also received the good wishes of people and organisations from throughout the continent, registering their solidarity with us.
A huge and diverse spectrum of social movements, organisations, and cultural, artistic and political initiatives were present, travelling from different parts of the country to take ownership of the event and the aims of the International Human Rights Conference in Solidarity with Honduras. There were four days of discussions, denunciations, exchanges, and proposals which we are now making public through this declaration.
We begin by honouring the living MEMORY of the women and men who have struggled and given their lives and now form part of our path to justice... We pay tribute to each and every one of them. To their relatives, friends and colleagues we say that we do not forget them, that their words live on in our struggle, and that they continue on in all of our voices and hands.
The Assembly embraces every child in the campesino settlements in this region, who in their own workshop said that they wanted to live without fear, have safe houses with lots of food, a painted school, and to play lots and lots and lots. We make a COMMITMENT to carry on the struggle for the children of this country and the world.
From the workshop on Women’s Bodies, Struggles and Resistance, came a forceful demand to support for the growing women’s movement in this region, this country and throughout the world, which fights against all forms of violence and aggression against women for being women, both outside and within organisations and homes. We encourage them to take a leading role in all spaces and movements as subjects and protagonists, with financial resources and the power to make decisions and not only as cooks and mothers.
Once again, and with a powerful collective voice, we DENOUNCE to the world the growing and unstoppable violation of human rights in Honduras, exposed in all its brutality by the spokeswomen and men of a huge number of organisations which defend life and justice. In particular we heard numerous testimonies from women, men and children from the Bajo Aguán region. The war against the people of Honduras, waged with such savagery since the coup d’état, has taken the form of murders, persecution, criminalisation of organised social action, kidnappings, sexual attacks on women, a climate of terror deliberately targeted at
- A definitive solution to the agrarian conflict in the Bajo Aguán without degrading negotiations for the sale of land which already belongs to the campesinos.
- The immediate release of our brother, José Isabel Morales, unjustly incarcerated in La Ceiba Prison.
- We demand the acquittal of over 500 people charged as a result of the struggle for land.
- We demand the total and immediate demilitarisation of the Aguán region and of the entire national territory.
- Imprisonment and punishment for the murderers and those who have attacked the Honduran people who fight for the lives, justice and freedom for everyone.
- We support the consolidation of the Permanent International Human Rights Observatory in the Aguán so that the proposals made at this conference may be carried forward together with everyone’s struggle for a dignified life in this region.
- We demand an immediate investigation and punishment of those responsible for the killings of the prisoners in Comayagua.
This Assembly extends, with equal strength and conviction, its solidarity with all the peoples of the world who are fighting against the death that capitalism tries to impose everywhere, and would in particular like to make the following declarations:
- Freedom for the five Cuban anti-terrorists held in the Empire’s prisons.
- We demand that the military troops leave Haiti.
- We express our solidarity with the indigenous peoples of Panama in their struggle for the autonomy of their peoples and territories.
- We support the struggle for land by indigenous peoples and campesinos in the whole of Meso-America and Abya Lala.

  1. -  We greet the world’s peoples, who with their cries of outrage and from the heart of the capitalist first world, have today denounced this predatory system which condemns the majority of people to poverty. 
  2. -  As the Honduran people we will continue to gather together in this process of re- foundation which is strengthened by these events where speech and solidarity have dominion over the silence of death. 
  3. -  We gathered together to strengthen solidarity with all peoples supporting the international event in Haiti in July and we will continue this year in preparation.

The following agreements were approved at the conference plenary:
- To create committees in solidarity with the Honduran people in the countries, cities and communities of those who have participated in the conference.
- Establish an international day of solidarity with the Honduran people to be held on June 28th. Hold actions outside embassies on this day throughout the world.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Report: Encuentro Internacional de Derechos Humanos en Solidaridad con Honduras

Report from the International Gathering for Human Rights in Solidarity with Honduras (Encuentro Internacional de Derechos Humanos en Solidaridad con Honduras)

A La Voz de los de Abajo delegation of 8 people is in Honduras(February 14-22) to accompany the campesino movement and support the Internacional Encuentro por los Derecho Humanos en Aguan February 17-19. This Encuentro focused on the ongoing, increasingly grave Human Rights situation in Honduras, and particularly in the Aguan Valley where more than 60 campesinos, as well as journalists, have been assassinated by private guards of wealthy landowners, police, and the notorious Honduran military.

For two and a half days a diverse group of more than a thousand people concerned with the human rights situation in Honduras, came together in a large high school auditorium in the hot, dusty town of Tocoa, in the Aguan Valley, in Colon, Honduras. Every departmento (state) in Honduras was represented, but there was international interest in this conference and there were also participants from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Brazil, Cuba, the United States, and several European Countries. The delegates sat in plastic chairs on the floor of the auditorium and in the bleachers along the walls, attending to the speakers on the stage but also talking among themselves, sharing information, exchanging contacts, and building connections.

Mel Zalaya, the president of Honduras who was deposed in the June 2009 coup, “El Golpe de Estado”, was one of the first people to speak and presented one of the ongoing themes of the conference: impunity. He described being taken out of his house by a hundred armed and masked soldiers, put on an airplane to Costa Rica and left on the runway still in his pajamas.

No one, he said, has been brought to justice for this terrible crime against the rule of law in Honduras. A constitutional democracy was destroyed and no one has been held accountable. Speaker after speaker described assassinations, disappearances, torture, and intimidation that happen daily with impunity.ere were also participants from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Brazil, Cuba, the United States, and several European Countries. The delegates sat in plastic chairs on the floor of the auditorium and in the bleachers along the walls, attending to the speakers on the stage but also talking among themselves, sharing information, exchanging contacts, and building connections.

In addition to indispensable and heart-rending testimonials of repression in Honduras, particularly repression of the poor, the landless, and anyone who speaks out on their behalf or tries to help them organize, the conference offered a sophisticate and complex analysis of the underlying causes of difficulties faced by Hondurans. To an extent that may be surprising to visitors from wealthy countries of the north, campesinos in Honduras understand and are articulate about the economic, political, historical and cultural antecedents that contribute to their situation. The logistics of the conference were impressive. A thousand people were transported, fed, housed, and given opportunities to participate in large group decision making. It all came off without a hitch and with an overall atmosphere of camaraderie in a mutual struggle.

Finally, while deeply serious, the conference was energizing and fun. Performances included two of the original members of the Nuevo Trova movement from Cuba, dancers from Garifuna communities, traditional Baile Folklorica, rappers from one of the most successful land recuperation communities, spoken word drama, and popular Latin American music.

The Encuentro was a vivid reminder of the deadly problems Hondurans face everyday, but also a celebration of international solidarity in the face of repression, and a challenge to redouble efforts towards a time when there will be safety, justice, and democracy in this beautiful country.

More videos, pictures, and other information from the Encuentro is available:

Friday, February 17, 2012

Delegation Report: Standard Fruit Uses the Army & Police to Attack Campesinos

A La Voz de los de Abajo delegation of 8 people is in Honduras
(February 14-22) to accompany the campesino movement and to support
the Internacional Encuentro por los Derecho Humanos en Aguan February
17-19. We are traveling with compañeros and compañeras from the
National Center for Rural Workers (CNTC) and will be sharing ourexperiences and the stories of the campesinos.

Location: Salado Lislis community, Atlantida province

Date: February 16
Standard Fruit Uses the Army and Police to Attack Campesino Families

It is beautiful; green fields of beans, peas, tomatoes, corn, papaya
trees, coconut palms and African palm with wooden and palm houses
scattered throughout the scene it could be an advertisement for themodel small farming community in Central America –but bulldozer tracks
run across many of the fields of vegetable and almost all the houses
are smashed flat, or reduced to piles of sticks with household items,
shoes, even toys scattered in the debris. We walk with the campesinos
and campesinas around the settlement, stopping at the piles of rubble
that were their houses and they tell us what happened.
On February 8th at 6 am more than 200 armed troops (in National Police
and the Army's 15th Battalion uniforms, with bulldozers from a
private company arrived at the community. Many of the troops were
wearing shirts that said “DOLE” under bullet proof vests with markings
of the National Police or military. The judge who accompanied thesecurity forces (juez ejecutor) to execute the eviction order was
wearing a Standard Fruit (more well known as Dole ) vest. It is not
unusual for a big land owner to pay for an eviction but thecampesinos told us it is unusual and probably illegal for judges and
“official troops” to wear uniforms of the big agribusiness landowners.
The community also was sure that the “Dole” shirted troops were really
private security from Standard Fruit Honduras who had been given
government security uniforms for the eviction, something which the
campesinos and their representative from the CNTC say is illegal.

The entire community was given only 30 minutes to gather their familymembers and belongings and leave their land and homes. The men, women
and children had to run and evacuate their lands finally heading
towards the border with the adjacent department of Colon where the
eviction order would not have power. It began to pour rain and the
community was gathered on the Colon side of the border with no water,
food, or shelter until they were able to move again to safer places.

Meanwhile the armed troops used bulldozers to destroy more than 80 of
the homes and to destroy fields, cut down plants and trees, and pulled
up yucca. But the campesinos are determined to continue on the land

and to win title to it. On February 13 a group of the families from
the campesino movement moved back onto their land, knowing that their
claim to the land should be recognized under the agrarian laws. Their
situation is precarious. They are living in makeshift shelters and
some abandoned buildings. Their school for more than 60 children fromthe community is closed. Their teachers were from an NGO project and
the community doesn't know if they will come back. Yet the situationis even more precarious because they know that there is a high risk of
another eviction at any time.

The campesinos asked us to let the world know about their struggle and look for ways to help them pressure for a peaceful resolution of the land ownership for
them. They also have emergent need for food, water and for accompaniment.

One way we can help in the U.S. is to pressure Standard Fruit (Dole)
Corporation to give up their illegal claim to the land and to immediately stop all threats of
violence and violent actions against the community. The Honduran government and security forces also need to be held accountable for their collaboration with the agri-corporation and for the ongoing threats and violence in the countryside.

Call Dole at 818-874-4000 and demand they give up their land claim in Honduras against the Salado Lislis community in Atlantida!
Background and History- Standard Fruit and Salado Lislis
In June 2010, 100 families recuperated land in Salado Lislis that is
eligible for agrarian reform expropriation. The land was claimed by
Standard Fruit Honduras (part of the Dole brand in the US). Standard
Fruit Company is a U.S. Corporation, which along with United Fruit
Company, notoriously dominated the Honduran economy and politics for
years. Standard Fruit (Dole) had a 100 year concession for land along
the coast in this area of Atlantida. When the concession expired, the
land was returned to the Honduran government which then immediately
sold the land to a questionable, newly-formed company called Standard
Fruit Honduras. The new “Honduran-owned” company was formed to side
step a Honduran law which prohibits foreigners from owning land within
a certain distance from the coast line. The Honduran name used to
register Standard Fruit Honduras is actually that of the Chief of
Security for Standard Fruit (Dole) operations in Honduras, thus being,
what Hondurans call a “presta-nombre”, someone who sells the use of
their name for property transaction that require a Honduran citizen.

Despite two years of legal processing and negotiations with the
National Agrarian Institute (INA), the obvious irregularities with
Standard Fruit's claim, and the eligibility of the land for
expropriation, the land title has not been resolved. Decree 18-2008
issued by former President Zelaya, ousted by the coup d'e'tat of 2009,
would have resolved the conflict in favor of the campesinos. The
decree was yet to be enforced when the coup d'e'tat took place and
then never enforced prior to being annulled in early 2011 by the coup
government of Pepe Lobo. Adding to the insecure situation for the
campesino families in Salado Lislis is the fact that their land also
borders palm plantations owned by the infamous large land owner Rene
Morales, a major palm grower and processor, who is involved in much of
the extreme violence against campesinos in the nearby Aguan Valley,
where more 46 campesinos have been assasinated in the last year and a
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