CAMPESINOS from Bajo Aguán, northern Honduras, have been met with blows by police under the Porfirio Lobo regime and, on top of that, are being portrayed as criminals, while their leaders have been prevented by the courts from taking part in any protest demonstrations.
These maneuvers are intended to avoid social mobilization against the abuses of a state which only responds to the landowning oligarchy.
The desinfomémonos website recently revealed that 350 campesinos from Bajo Aguán were violently repressed in Tegucigalpa for demanding an urgent Supreme Court to the agrarian conflict in the region, as well as an end to the repression and impunity of the law and order forces.
Sirel Vitalino Álvarez, spokesperson for the Aguán Unified Campesino Movement, one of those banned from taking part in demonstrations, stated, “We cannot stop reclaiming justice or abandon the struggle for our rights. We have now experienced in the flesh the manipulation of those who control the country. We have seen the power that they have and their plans to destroy us. However, they are not going to stop us and we are going to continue demanding justice.”
According to published information, from September 2008 through now, 53 people close to or belonging to the Bajo Aguán campesino organizations, plus a journalist and his partner, have been killed in the context of the agrarian conflict in the region. Another campesino disappeared on May 15, 2011 and has not been found.
This is just one example of a number of violations of human rights which have exposed the economic interests of the ruling forces in Honduras, engaged in an overt campaign to demobilize, de-legitimize and criminalize the campesino movement in Bajo Aguán and the social, indigenous and Garífuna movements in the region.
Ollantay Itzamná’s exposé on the Alainet.org website of the recent massacre of five campesino brothers in the north of Honduras (date unspecified) prompted national and international attention. Their gunned down and scattered corpses were seen throughout the world, demonstrating the lies and barbarity of Honduras under the present regime.
Itzamná emphasized that the most grotesque response was that of Miguel Facussé, a landowner involved in the killings and one of the supporters of the June 2009 coup, who said, “Why do they approach my property knowing that my men are armed?” The government immediately alerted the population to the alleged presence of guerrilla campesinos, trained outside of the country, and the National Congress approved the Anti-Terrorist Act criminalizing the social movements. In this way, the central problem of the country was reduced to a secondary plane.
This issue of land is the principal focus of conflict with the campesino movements, given that they are facing not only police repression but private armies, such as Facussé’s.
Close to 80% of Honduran territory is forested. Of the total cultivable land, 1% of landowners hold one third, while 375,000 small farmers have no land to cultivate. Moreover, nearly 75% of national agricultural products are grown by small farmers, Itzamná reports. The large agricultural businesses produce to export, without noticeable benefit to the country.
The government is more interested in associating itself with national and international private capital. While campesinos are dying of hunger for lack of land, it is preparing to create “private cities,” with their own sovereignty, like a country within a country, given that they will control their own capital and even foreign financial relations. They will also have their own police and thus significant impunity.
The Argentine daily La Nación reported that, in order to achieve this, the Lobo administration has signed a memorandum of understanding with private investors as a framework for the creation of the first of these cities, in an as yet undefined place. These private preserves will not even have to deal with taxes, as they are not obliged to transfer resources to the Honduran government. For Oscar Cruz, former attorney for the Defense of the Constitution, “part of national territory and the population within it is being ceded, without placing any limit on numbers or extension.
For the Honduran Black Fraternal Organization (OFRANEH), the project masks the intention of handing over “100 square kilometers of national territory to international financial capital,” and allowing all kinds of illegalities such as money laundering.
The project is based on the “charter city” idea of U.S. economist Paul Romer. What a coincidence that he should be American! Romer has already stated in an Internet blog, Freakonomics, that the path to follow has been marked out and it is expected that the first steps will begin this October.