Honduras: cops evict campesinos, arrest reporters

Honduran police, soldiers and private guards injured three campesinos and detained 12 on Dec. 15 during an attempt to evict a family from their home in Coyolito community on the Zacate Grande peninsula, Valle department, on the stretch of Pacific coast in the southwestern part of the country. The order for the Hernández family’s eviction was based on a default on a mortgage held by the London-based HSBC multinational bank, but JosĂ© Luis Hernández insisted that his family owned the house and that the person who took out the mortgage had never lived there. Coyolito residents responded to the eviction attempt by blocking a road. Among the detained were two reporters from La Voz de Zacate Grande, a local community radio station.

Meanwhile, hundreds of soldiers had occupied Guadalupe Carney, a community of some 1,200 families in the Lower Aguán River Valley in ColĂłn department, in northern Honduras. The community has a clear title to its land, but the military moved in after residents blocked a road to protest recent violence against campesinos in the area. There are reports that some residents were detained and that the military was trying to confiscate the equipment of the community’s radio station. Guadalupe Carney is named after a US-born Catholic priest, Jim Carney (“Father Guadalupe”), who died in 1983, possibly at the hands of the Battalion 316 death squad.

The National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP), a major coalition of grassroots and labor organizations, charged that the two operations at opposite ends of the country were “carried out in a coordinated way with the objective of preserving the economic interests” of landowner and business leader Miguel FacussĂ© Barjum and other landowners. FacussĂ©, who is seeking to expand his cultivation of African oil palms, has been at the center of the land conflicts in the Aguán Valley. (La Tribuna, Tegucigalpa, Dec. 15; Rights Action urgent action, Dec. 16; Vos el Soberano, Honduras, Dec. 16)

On Dec. 17 the French-based organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called on the Honduran authorities to release the two La Voz de Zacate Grande reporters, Elba Yolibeth Rubio and Elia Xiomara Hernández, whose whereabouts were still unknown. The group charged that the station, which started broadcasting on Apr. 14, has been constantly harassed by the authorities for its position on land disputes involving Miguel FacussĂ©. RSF said the criminalization of opposition media had become “a sinister norm since the coup d’Ă©tat of June 28, 2009,” which removed then-president JosĂ© Manuel (“Mel”) Zelaya Rosales from office. (EFE, Dec. 17, via ABC.es, Spain; Defensores en LĂ­nea, May 10)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 19.

See our last posts on Honduras and Central America.