Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Businessmen collude with Honduran government to jail residents of Zacate Grande and displace them from coastal lands


For decades the communities of the Zacate Grande peninsula have suffered from constant harassment and arrests ordered by big businessmen and government functionaries.

Those who continue to resist pay with jail time, as is the case of Abel Antonio Perez and Santos Hernandez from the Puerto Sierra village in the Playa Blanca community, who were sent to the Nacaome penitentiary on May 19th, 2016. Both are peasant leaders and members of the Association for the Development of the Zacate Grande Peninsula (ADEPZA).

They appeared on Thursday at 2pm in front of the Amapala court for a sentence review hearing where Judge Iris issued a warrant for their arrest for not having showed up to sign the registry verifying their presence in the country.

They have several previous charges and arrests for the crimes of usurping land and building on the private land of José Casis Leiva and Edilberto Cruz.
 

Santos and Abel are part of a group of 44 families who are affected by the wall built by Edilberto Cruz, owner of the Puma gas station in San Lorenzo, who has been showing up with the Relleno and Nacaome police since May 14, 2011, to ask the people left inside of his wall to abandon the property that they live on.

Don Faustino Perez, Abel Perez’s father and now one of the two arrestees has been living on this land for over forty years, yet only has a certificate of use (dominio útil) to validate him as the owner of the land wher he lives, since the State always considered the Zacate Grande peninsula as private rather than national lands, which is why Don Faustino never received a title from the Property Institute or the National Agrarian Institute (INA).

Every year during Holy Week, Zacate Grande’s beaches fill up with visitors, and at Playa Blanca Santos and Abel helped clean up the beaches and parking areas for visitors. A few days later Jorge Casis Leiva accused them of using the area of his supposed property for parking. Now they are jailed for not have followed the court-ordered probationary measures stemming from the accusation.

The government’s hands have long been dirty for harassing and jailing peasant leaders and organizers. In 1902 the State bequeathed the Zacate Grande island to General Terencio Sierra as a reward for his good work as President of the Republic, who went on to grant it before his death through a colonial title to his Nicaraguan niece Carmen Malespin, giving her 500 lots of Zacate Grande lands, but never mentioning in the document what part of Zacate Grande those lands were in.

In 1970 the construction of an artificial land bridge connected Zacate Grande with the mainland and turned the island into a Peninsula. This and the building of the port of Amapala led big businessment and investors little by little to show up and take over ownership of the beaches, with Carmen Malespin giving her approval without having ever set foot on the island. She began to sell off small beachside lots, and that is how businessmen like the Facusses, Nassers, Rosentals, Kafatis, Canahuatis, Larachs, Maduros, and prominent functionaries linked to corruption such as Lena Gutierres, Juan Orlando Hernandes, Arturo Corrales, Leonardo Callejas etc. began taking ownership over the majority of the beaches of the peninsula.

After Callejas pushed through the 1992 Agrarian Reform law, 32 beaches were given away almost 70% of the peninsula was legally given over to Miguel Facusse Barjun, a businessman implicated in enormous thefts such as that of the National Investment Corporation (CONADI) who was also the uncle of ex-president Carlos Flores Facusse.

Miguel Facusse Barjun died in 2015, but amongst his heirs is his son Miguel Mauricio Facusse, who today is considered one of the two richest Hondurans in Central America, as well as his daughter Elissa Facusse, wife of Fredis Nasser, owner of Petrosur, majority investor in Grupo Terra, stockholder in the gasoline company Uno as well as DESA. As a wedding gift, Miguel Facusse gave his daughter ownership of the Gaviotas beach, leading to the brutal eviction of the Cárcamo Sanchez family, who lived on the beach, in 2003. Narda Ofelia Sanchez, after being sent to prison, won her case on three occasions and was never removed from her beach, yet to this day nobody has paid for the material damages suffered by the family nor the immense damage to Honduras as a country cause by the privatization of one of the most beautiful beaches of the Gulf of Fonseca, the Gaviotas beach.

Next to the Gaviotas beach is the Blanca beach and the village of Puerto Sierra, where since 2012 there have been warrants for the arrest of Faustino Perez, Santos and Abel, and Gabriel Moreno. The accusations were made by Edilberto Cruz, the supposed owner of the Uno Gas Station in San Lorenzo. On what is left of the community Jorge Casis Leiva has put up signs warning not to enter because it is his land, since he considers himself the owner of the whole community for having purchased it from the Malespin family.

Currently there are 36 accusations against residents of Zacate Grande for the same charges faced by Santos and Abel – usurping land, damaging the environment, and building on private land. At any moment any of them could go to jail for not complying with measures such as showing up to sign the court registry or not having the money they have to come up with every month so they can make the trip.


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