Honduras: police arrest more Aguán campesinos

According to human rights organizations in Honduras, between 200 and 600 soldiers and national police agents raided the campesino community of Rigores in the northern department of Colón on the afternoon of Sept. 19. Residents reported that security forces broke into homes, destroying belongings and hitting both adults and children. There was also a report of homes being set on fire, and being menaced by low-flying helicopters. Two minors were arrested: 15-year-old Darwin Leonel Cartagena and 16-year-old Santos Bernabé Cruz Aldana, the son of local campesino leader Rodolfo Cruz. As of Sept. 20 the community had still not learned where the youths were.

This was the second raid on the Rigores community in three days, in what has been dubbed “Operation Xatruch II.” On Sept. 16 soldiers and police arrested 21 people (not 40, as we reported, following our sources). The detained campesinos, who were released later, said the police treated them cruelly during their captivity, threatening to kill women and children if they returned to their homes and to murder human rights activists who supported the campesinos. The Rigores community is one of a number of communities and organizations that have been struggling for years in the Lower Aguán Valley for land currently held by large landowners; as many as 51 campesinos have died in the conflicts in the region over the past two years. (Red Morazánica de Información, Sept. 20 via Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular, Honduras; Adital, Brazil, Sept. 20)

The attacks on Rigores appeared to be in retaliation for the deaths of a soldier and a police agent near there on Sept. 16 in what the authorities said was an ambush of a patrol vehicle by guerrilla forces. Campesinos denied from the beginning that there was an ambush and suggested that a drunken soldier accidentally detonated a grenade inside the vehicle. Vitalino Alvarez, a spokesperson for the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA), told Honduran media that the road is straight where rebels allegedly ambushed the patrol vehicle and that there aren’t enough trees and bushes there to provide cover for attackers. Alvarez says he went to the hospital right after the attack and saw injuries that were consistent with a grenade explosion, not an assault with rifles. (Honduras Culture and Politics blog, Sept. 20)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 25.

See our last post on Honduras.