Honduras: Organizations Condemn Military-Landowner Violence and Slander Against Campesinos

Below is a new communique from the Aguan campesino organizations condemning the escalation of violence and the propaganda to justify violence against the campesinos of Aguan. In recent weeks there have been more assassinations and there have been attempts against spokespersons for the Campesinos Movement and Resistance in the Aguan.  The military recently released a video of armed groups in the Aguan implying that the campesinos are involved in such groups – however it was the campesino organizations that denounced these armed groups back in 2011.

La Voz de los de Abajo condemns the statements issued by Colonel Germán Alfaro Esclante of the Honduran military in command in the Aguan. We condemn the  big landowners such as Miguel Facusse whose private paramilitary guards are implicated in most of the murders and violence in the region. We strongly condemn the fact that the U.S. Government continues to fund and support the militarization of Honduras despite the obvious consequences and death squad connections of the National Police and Honduran Military.

The Regional Agrarian Platform of the Aguan Valley communicates the following to the Honduran people and the international community:

1-  We condemn the systematic, dirty, and malicious campaign of the landowners in the Aguan, through the La Prensa newspaper and their spokesmen, including Colonel Germán Alfaro Escalante, head of the Xatruch III Operation, who was trained at the U.S. School of the Americas in 1984 to protect the interests of capital.

2-   This campaign seeks to prepare the conditions to continue the murders of the organized campesinos in the Bajo Aguan with impunity and to pressure the judicial system to rule in favor of the landowners in the case of the La Trinidad, La Despertar and San Isidro cooperatives, which belong to MARCA. They were given legally given to the campesinos on June 29, 2012 by the judicial authorities when a Francisco Morazan court issued a final judgement about the land.  So we are not land invaders.

3- We make clear that the farms La Confianza, La Aurora, La Lempira, La Concepción, Marañones, Isla I and Isla II, which add up to 3,962 hectares of land, were acquired by signed agreements between the government and MUCA on April 13, 2010.  The agreements are for 11,000 hectares, of which the government still owes 7,038 hectares to MUCA.  Similarly, MARCA signed agreements on May 24, 2011 for 1,600 hectares of land, of which only 667 hectares in the San Esteban farm have been handed over; the government still owes 933 hectares.

4- We reject the assertions, through fake videos and publications by the La Prensa newspaper, which seek to make us look like armed groups with high caliber weapons such as AK-47s, M-16s, and .223 guns. On April 26, 2011, we denounced armed groups under the command of paramilitary leaders, which clearly coincides with the photograph published in the La Prensa newspaper today (April 3, 2013).

5- We condemn the plan of Operation Xatruch, commanded by Col. Alfaro Escalante, which seeks to assassinate campesino leaders such as Juan Ramón Chinchilla, Yoni Rivas, Vitalino Álvarez, and Wilfredo Paz, the spokesperson for the Permanent Observatory of Human Rights in the Aguán in Tocoa, Colon.

6- We make clear that the problems of land tenure in the Bajo Aguan were provoked by former President Rafael Leonardo Callejas, when he approved the fatal and unconstitutional Agricultural Modernization and Development Act, which contradicts articles 344 to 350 of the Constitution.

7- We call on national and international human rights organizations to be attentive for any situation which could occur in the coming days against the humanity of the campesino leaders.

We are not birds to live in the air, we are not fish to live in the water, we are campesinos who need to live on the land.

Tegucigalpa, Honduras

April 3, 2013.