Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Militarization and Murder in Aguan

TAKE ACTION NOW: In the United States -

Call and write to the Department of State: Call Benjamin Gedan, Honduras Desk Officer, at (202) 647-3482, or email him at:

Tell him that it is a violation of US law for US-supplied weapons to be used to repress civilian populations and that you demand that the US cut off all military and police aid and training to Honduras’ security forces.

Send a copy of the HSN Statement to your Representative and two Senators and tell them you support the demand to cut off military and police aid and training.

CONGRESS: to contact your member of Congress

SENATE: to contact your Senators, or Call: 202-224-3121 ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Honduras Solidarity Network

Condemns the Militarization and Murder in the Aguan Region of Honduras

August 22, 2011

The latest wave of violence and death in the region of Aguan in Honduras underscores the fact that justice and reconciliation in Honduras are not on the agenda of the Lobo regime, the Honduran oligarchy or the U.S. government. Instead the plan in the countryside is for more militarization and violence and more power to the powerful agricultural oligarchy and agro-corporations, and for the destruction of the campesino movement.

Just this week 11 people were killed and numerous others wounded in the lower Aguan River Valley on the northern coast of Honduras. The Lobo government is now sending more than 600 troops to the already militarized region and threatening to send as many as 1,000 which would bring the military force in the region to at least 1500. The new troops include members of the battalions trained by the U.S. and which participated in the invasion of Iraq. While the Honduran army and government officials accuse the campesinos of being part of guerrilla groups and blaming them for the violence, the pattern of death and violence in Aguan clearly shows that the campesino communities are the targets of an official campaign of repression and extermination.

Since the coup d’état on June 28, 2009 more than 44 campesinos and activists have been murdered in the Aguan region by military, police and private security forces. Campesino cooperatives have been attacked, forcibly evicted, homes and co-ops destroyed and their members harassed and arrested. Campesino leaders have received death threats, and have been kidnapped and tortured as well as murdered.

On August 14th a campesino cooperative was attempting to occupy lands on the Paso Aguan estate that they believe qualify for land reform distribution under Honduran law but that are currently occupied by the Dinant Corporation palm oil plantation. Witnesses report that 40 private Dinant security and 120 soldiers from the 15th Army Battalion quickly arrived (army troops are using trucks donated to the military by the U.S. government in 2010) . They surrounded the campesinos and opened fire leaving one 17 year old campesino and 5 private security guards dead. Witnesses also say that all the victims were killed by the same military issued rifles. The campesinos are members of the Campesino Movement Los Rigores. A long time established community of the Los Rigores movement was attacked by the state police and private security guards for the palm oil industry on June 23, 2011. More than 100 homes were burned to the ground, crops and animals were destroyed and close to 100 families were left as landless refugees.

On August 15th a pick-up truck full of people leaving the Institute for Agrarian Reform drove past the Dinant Corporation processing plant gates and were fired on, leaving 5 people dead. The INA offices are most often kept busy by campesinos coming and going in pursuit of land conflict resolutions and there are numbers of campesino families who are living their after being illegally evicted, but the murdered people were actually working to distribute Pepsi promotional materials. The Dinant guards were seen at the plant gates immediately prior to the armed attack on the truck.

On August 17th, guards reported to be employees of the owner of Dinant, Miguel Facusse, opened fire on campesinos working on the Salama Cooperative, seriously wounding 3 of the peasants.

The Honduras Solidarity Network (HSN) condemns the violence against the campesino communities in Honduras and the latest and ongoing militarization of the region of Aguan.

We are deeply concerned about the campaign against the campesino organizations including the media campaign by Honduran officials accusing well known leaders of the Unified Campesino Movement of Aguan (MUCA) and another organization, MARCA of being responsible for the violence on August 14th (although that land recuperation was not even affiliated to the MUCA or MARCA). This media campaign also accuses the MUCA, MARCA and other established and well known organizations such as the Campesino Movement of Aguan (MCA) of being armed guerrillas. We understand that land conflicts in the region can never be resolved without meaningful land reform and economic justice. We understand that the purpose of the Honduran government's accusations is to justify increasing violence against the poor campesinos and their organizations and to support the idea that the United States and other countries should continue and even increase military and security aide to Honduras.

The United States government is one of the principal supporters of the continuation of the coup through the regime of Porfirio Lobo and the principal supplier of military and security equipment, money and training to the Honduran military, national police and other security forces. From the tear gas canisters fired at teachers and students in the cities to the trucks, training programs and even weaponry our tax dollars are being used to violate human rights and perpetuate violence.

Take Action Now!

Member organizations of the HSN

8th Day Center for Justice (Chicago, Illinois)

Agricultural Missions

Alliance for Global Justice

Center for Constitutional Rights

Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America – CRLN (Chicago, Illinois)

Collectivo Graciela Garcia (Los Angeles, California)

Comite de Solidaridad Seattle-Honduras (Seattle, Washington)

Friends of Honduras (Seattle, Washington)

Friendship Office of the Americas

Hands off Honduras (Minneapoli/St Paul, Minnesota)

Honduras Accompaniment Project – Friendship Office of the Americas

Hondureños por la Democracia

(Washington, D.C.)

Interfaith Committee on Latin America (St. Louis, Missouri)

International Action Center

International Socialist Organization

La Voz de los de Abajo (Chicago, Illinois)

Latin America Grassroots International

Latin America Solidarity Organization - LASO

Madre Tierra (Florida)

Task Force on the Americas (California)

Milwaukee Latin America Friendship Committee (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)

National Lawyers Guild Task Force on the Americas

Portland Central America Solidarity Committee – PCASC (Portland, Oregon)

Proyecto Hondureño (Boston, Massachusetts)

Rhode Island Mobilization Committee to Stop War and Occupation – RIMC (Rhode Island)

Rights Action

School of Americas Watch– SOAW (various regions)

Sister Cities U.S. - El Salvador

(various cities)

SOA Watch South Florida

Tonatierra (Phoenix, Arizona)

US Peace Council

USA Hondureños en Resistencia (New York, New York)

Witness for Peace (various regions

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Another Campesino Murdered: Two more in police custody

Early this morning, Sunday August 14, campesinos from the Movimiento Campesino Colonia Nueva Vida de Rigores, occupied the Empresa Palmera Panama, ten minutes from the community Rigores in Trujillo, Colon. Shortly afterwards palm company security forces and the military launched an attack, opening fire on the campesinos, killing 17 year old Javier Melgar. Authorities in Colon have refused to recover the body and the palm company security forces refuse to allow Melgar's family to recover the body. On Saturday, August 13, palm security forces and military, believed to be the same forces responsible for today's attack, opened fire in the Rigores community. The same day in the nearby community of Guadalupe Carney, home to the Campesino Movement of the Aguan, seventeen year old Lenikin Lemos Martinez and eighteen year old Denis Israel Castro were beaten by police, arrested and charged with murder in what their neighbors claim are false, politically motivated charges. On Tuesday, August 9 the MCA had visited Rigores with a women's brigade from the Via Campesina. The community of Rigores was violently evicted and over 100 homes burned on June 24 by police and irregular security forces that also work for palm plantations. On July 1 the same forces again attacked the community, burning homes that families were attempting to rebuild, but the presence of an international observation delegation deterred further violence. Again, on August 2, police and private security forces perpetrated an armed attack on the community wounding a man from a neighboring community, Ariel Lara. Since the year 2005 Rivera has requested eviction orders but all had been suspended by courts. On May 15, 2011 Francisco Pascual Lopez, a farmer from the neighboring community of Rigores was tending his cattle when, according to an eye witness, security guards working for Miguel Facuse shot Pascual in his land, and then dragged him alive into the Finca Panama. The witness ran for help, and even though community members found a trail of blood police refused to enter the Finca Panama to locate the injured man. The Finca Panama belongs to Honduran palm oil businessman Miguel Facuse who over the past twenty years has acquired enormous extensions of land in the Aguan often through fraudulent, illegal and violent means. Campesino organizations in the region had been immersed for decades in legal and political processes for the recognition of their land rights. Following the June 28, 2009 military coup the political and legal processes hit the wall of impunity created as part of the coup, and communities began occupying lands. From a report by Annie Bird, Co-Director of Rights Action.
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