Honduras: campesino leader kidnapped, released

Honduran campesino leader Juan Ramón Chinchilla was safe and was staying in an undisclosed location on Jan. 11 after two days in captivity, according to the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP), a coalition of labor and grassroots organizations. Chinchilla, a leader in the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA), said a group of hooded men seized him on Jan. 8 on a road near La Concepción, Tocoa municipality, in the northern department of Colón. The kidnappers questioned him, beat him and burned his hair, Chinchilla said. Most of the men wore uniforms; some spoke English and one spoke a language Chinchilla couldn’t understand. He escaped while the kidnappers were moving him to another location on the night of Jan. 9.

The FNRP thanked political and social organizations and the international community for mobilizing in Chinchilla’s defense. The kidnappers “were concerned about the national and international pressure,” Chinchilla told an interviewer. “They were monitoring the news on the internet and radio. That is why they decided to move me to another location…. I believe that all of this pressure helped so that something worse did not happen.”

The Lower Aguán Valley in northern Honduras has been the site of repeated and often violent land struggles between campesino families, grouped together in the MUCA, and large landowners seeking to use the land for growing African oil palms. Chinchilla and the FNRP suggested that three of the largest landowners in the country, Miguel Facussé Barjum, Reinaldo Canales and René Morales, were behind Chinchilla’s kidnapping. (Prensa Latina, Jan. 11, Jan. 12; FNRP website, Jan. 12, from Rel-UITA (Argentina))

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 16.

See our last post on Honduras.