In a ceremony broadcast on national television from the presidential residence in Tegucigalpa on Feb. 17, Honduran president Porfirio (“Pepe”) Lobo Sosa and National Agrarian Reform Institute director (INA) César Ham signed an accord with two campesino organizations to finance the purchase of land for campesino cooperatives in the Lower Aguán Valley in the north of the country. The government has presented the land deal as at least a partial solution to long-running disputes in the Aguán that have left more than 50 people dead over the past two years.
President Lobo and the two organizations, the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA) and the Authentic Claimant Movement of Aguán Campesinos (MARCA), agreed in April 2010 on a plan for campesino cooperatives to acquire thousands of hectares of land currently held by large landowners, principally agribusiness and food processing magnate Miguel Facussé Barjum. But the deal has stalled repeatedly over the terms of the financing and over campesino charges of harassment by the government, which has militarized the region. The Feb. 17 agreement establishes that the land purchase will be financed by a 15-year loan from the Honduran Bank for Production and Housing (Banhprovi) at an annual rate of 6% with a three-year grace period. (Proceso Digital, Honduras, Feb. 17)
The campesino struggles in the Aguán Valley have received strong backing from other social movements in Honduras, and activists chose Tocoa, a city in the region, as the site for a Feb. 16-20 International Meeting for Human Rights in Solidarity With Honduras. More than 1,000 people attended, including supporters from Latin America, Europe, Australia and the US. Attendees announced their support for the struggles of Honduran organizations, denounced the rise in human rights violations following a 2009 rightwing military coup, and called for an international day of solidarity with Honduras to be held on June 28, the anniversary of the coup. The conference also addressed other issues in the hemisphere; the demands included the release of five Cubans imprisoned in the US for alleged espionage and the withdrawal of United Nations troops from Haiti, where another meeting is to be held in July. (Adital, Brazil, Feb. 22)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Feb. 26.