Monday, March 23, 2015

Evictions and Violence for National Campesino Day in Hondura

CNTC's Franklin Almendares explains
campesino position to landowners
claiming the campesino land
March 3rd was Honduras’ “National Campesino Day” and the government celebrated with more attacks and repression against the organized campesinos.  In Santa Maria, La Paz, the CNTC ((National Center for Rural Workers)  campesino group, “Juan Almendares Bonilla” was violently evicted from the land they have lived on and cultivated for 6 years. The homes and crops belonging to the 30 families were destroyed in the eviction and 15 members of the community were detained including 3 women and 2 minors. The women and children were released the same day but have to report regularly to the police station - as of March 23  Nine other members, Máximo Carrios, Luis Beltrán Aguilar, José Antonio Vásquez,  Edi Benjamín Vásquez, Oscar Martínez, Esteban López, Héctor Emilio López Chicas, and Arnold Cruz López Rodríguez remained in jail (as of March 23 all were released). Then on March 9th the police detained Samuel Vazquez, a member of the group and also a member of the CNTC regional secretariat for La Paz; he was released on bail later the same day. 

Campesinos meet with CNTC
 leaders and INA (both photos)
In late January as part of La Voz de los de Abajo accompaniment with the CNTC communities, I attended a mediation session with another campesino group and the same locally powerful landowners disputing ownership of the land of "Juan Almendares" at the regional Agrarian Institute office in Comayagua (see photos). At that session there were agreements to remeasure the lands and to attempt to settle disagreements without evictions or violence. However that campesino group reported that they had been violently evicted before and regularly harassed by unknown armed men.  I spoke to the mother of a young campesino from the group who was murdered by gunman near their home. At this time the INA, which has played a very mixed role in the agrarian conflict in the past, is undergoing massive budget cuts and  tasks are being turned over to the government agency called Private Property Council and the function of issuing land titles is being given to a combined public/private enterprise (Coalianza) in which the current President, Juan Orlando Hernandez, and other members of the elite are partners. At this time the INA is not providing services to the campesinos of “Juan Almendares” and the few services they provided to the campesino movement nationally are being withdrawn.

The CNTC (Central Nacional de los Trabajadores del Campo) celebrated their 30th anniversary on January 21st of this year, but they had to cancel festivities because of the number of evictions and detentions and attacks against their members. At this time besides the nine campesinos from “Juan Almendares” the following CNTC members are held in jail/prison: Omar Mejía Gálea, Benancio  Palomo Chavarría, Edgardo Hernández, detained January 10, 2014 and members of the group “Buena Vista”, la Brea, Comayagua;  Héctor David Gáleas López,  Nery Antonio Gonzales, Ángel Arnaldo Martínez Márquez, Manuel Nicolás Domínguez,  José David Aguilar Gáleas,  Jacinto Bardales detained one October 11, 2013 and members of the group “Grupo 18 de Abril la Pollera”, Quilaperque, La Paz; Osmar Lara miembro of the group “Campesino Unidos para un Futuro Mejor”, Márcala,  La Paz y José Isabel Morales (Chabelo) from the Campesino Movement of Aguan at Guadalupe Carney, Trujillo, Colon who has been imprisoned since 2008. There is also repression against CNTC communities in Progreso, Yoro; Cortes; Santa Barbara and Francisco Morazan. There are 2,601 members with some kind of charges against them related to their movement participation (700 are women) and there are 79 current eviction orders issued that affect 2 thousand families. In 2014 alone, 7 CNTC members were murdered because of their participation in the agrarian struggle. 
Evicted community in Progreso, Yoro

2012 eviction  of CNTC community, La Paz

The CNTC is being targeted around the country because it is a national organization with groups in 14 of the 18 provinces and it  has refused to give up the struggle for a just agrarian reform or to give up land recuperations. Despite the fact that they have legal status (personalidad juridica) and represent more than 400 affiliated campesino communities, the Hernandez government is working to criminalize them and the campesino movement in general more than ever. Recently Franklin Almendares, the General Secretary of the CNTC,  was at a meeting on agrarian matters  convened by government ministers and including campesino organizations and he was told that they would not deal with "groups that don't respect private property" - i.e. the CNTC.  They will, however, deal with and command groups that don't respect human life or the property of the campesinos and campesinas. 

V. Cervantes- March 22: updated with new info March 24

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