Honduras: campesinos arrested as Aguán violence continues

Honduran authorities say armed rebels killed a police agent and a soldier in a military-police patrol the afternoon of Sept. 16 in the Lower Aguán Valley, the site of numerous violent struggles over land over the past two years. According to Gen. René Osorio Canales, head of the Armed Forces Joint General Staff, the soldiers and police agents were in two vehicles carrying out a routine patrol at the La Consentida estate, in Sonaguera municipality in the northern department of Colón, when they were ambushed by “people with high-caliber weapons, people who have dedicated themselves to guerrilla activities.”

Police agent Antony Costly was killed at the scene, and Mariano García Bernal, a soldier, died later at a hospital. A police agent and two soldiers were wounded. The patrols were part of the Xatruch II deployment that President Porfirio (“Pepe”) Lobo Sosa ordered into the area on Aug. 15 in what the government said was a response to the violence there. (AFP, Sept. 17, via Univisión TV; Proceso Digital, Honduras, Sept. 17; El Heraldo, Tegucigalpa, Sept. 18)

Campesinos from the area gave activists and human right workers a different account. They said there was an ongoing dispute over ownership of the La Consentida estate, which is held by a producer for Standard Fruit. Campesinos had occupied it but were removed earlier in this month. They returned on Sept. 16, and private guards at the estate called in the police and military. According to the campesinos, the two deaths resulted from a grenade exploding inside one of the vehicles—a grenade the agents and soldiers may have been planning to throw out the window at the campesinos. After the explosion, the patrols arrested some 40 campesinos from the nearby Rigores community, and apparently took them to a police station in Tocoa municipality.

As of Sept. 17 human rights groups were asking for calls and faxes, in Spanish, to the Tocoa police station (+504 2444-3101, +504 2444-3105, fax +504 2444-3105). Adrienne Pine, a professor at American University in Washington, DC, called on the night of Sept. 16 and asked a woman who answered the phone how the campesinos from Rigores were being treated. “Like dogs,” the woman answered. “Are they being tortured?” Pine asked. The woman laughed and said: “If only that were true.” (Quotha blog, Sept. 17)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 18.

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