Thirty-Six Campesinos and Campesinas Detained May 23rd in Different Parts of Honduras
The landowning oligarchy and Honduran regime are going all out to retaliate against the campesino movement that shook the big landowners with massive land recuperations of agrarian reform land on April 17th of this year.
Today, 17 members and leaders of the Unified Campesino Movement of Aguan (MUCA) were detained in the province of Yoro as they were returning to their settlements in the Aguan Valley of Colon. The campesinos were taken to the police station in Progreso where lawyers from the Jesuit organization ERIC were working to get them released as of this writing. In the Aguan region three farmers were arrested (in two different incidents), and in the province of La Paz another 16 campesinos, including 2 minors, were detained as they were on their way to work their fields, three of the detainees are members of the indigenous organization COPINH and others are affiliated to the National Center of Rural Workers (CNTC). One farmer remains in custody this evening. The Permanent International Human Rights Observatory in Aguan also reports that several well known campesino leaders in Aguan, (Vitilino Alvarez, Juan Ramon Chinchilla, Adolfo Castañeda and Ramon Sanchez) have received new death threats from the private guards of oligarch Miguel Facusse claiming that they will lose their lives in the next hours.
In a phone interview, Jesus Ponce the General Secretary of the CNTC, strongly denounced the actions today and stated that there has been a war against campesinos for some time but now the big landowners and the government are retaliating for the campesino movement's recuperation of lands on April 17th. (Note: see the earlier blog entry for April 17th for more details).
There are more than 100 arrest orders issued against campesinos across the country related to land recuperation. Ponce stated that besides the detentions today, there have been violent evictions, but the campesinos have returned to the lands again. In San Manuel, Cortes the campesinos just returned to the land this week after their second eviction. The San Manuel sugar cane fields are also claimed by oligarch Jaime Rosenthal who obtained the land even though it was agrarian reform land and should have gone to the campesinos originally.
Ponce explained that the government and big land owners are trying all kinds of threats and tricks. Some of Rosenthal's paid employees at the sugar processing operation at San Manuel are currently protesting in Tegucigalpa demanding that all the campesinos in the land recuperation should be arrested - trying to confuse public opinion and incite violence against the campesinos.
The campesino organizations at the national level are demanding that the 1993 Law of Modernization of Agriculture (a law which nearly destroyed agrarian reform in Honduras) be abrogated and they have proposed a new agricultural reform law, but the Congress has gone on a month's recess after tabling the campesinos' proposal previously. He also condemned the blatant threats made by the most powerful agribusiness land owner in the country, Miguel Facusse who is threatening thousands of campesinos in Aguan with violent eviction if they can't immediately come up with the money to pay him for land that was to be titled to the campesinos of MUCA after they signed an agreement with the Lobo government.
Today's repression comes at the end of a month that has seen a further escalation of violence and murder of campesinos, journalists, resistance leaders and LGBT activists. There has also been an escalation of militarization fueled by the United States that led to the murder of at least 4 indigenous community members including two pregnant women and the wounding of numerous others when a joint operation of the United States DEA and Honduran military fired from a helicopter at a small boat coming down a river in the Miskitio. Honduran military spokesmen have said it was an error, but the U.S. State Department and DEA have not apologized nor explained what happened.
All of this is leading to ever more insistent calls for the United States to cut off aid, especially military and security aid to the Honduran regime.
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