Honduras: thousands cccupy land in massive agrarian protest

In a dramatic show of force, more than 3,500 Honduran campesino families occupied land in estates in different parts of the country early in the morning of April 17 to demand implementation of an effective national agrarian reform policy. The mobilization, the Honduran activity for the International Day of Campesino Struggles, was organized by a coalition of 10 campesino groups, including the Unified Campesino Movement of the Agu√°n (MUCA) and the Honduran branch of the international rural workers’ movement V√≠a Campesina. In a statement issued on April 17, the organizers said protesters had occupied a total of 12,000 hectares in eight of the country’s 18 departments: Cort√©s, Yoro, Santa B√°rbara, Intibuc√°, El Para√≠so, Choluteca, Comayagua, and Francisco Moraz√°n.

On April 18 security forces dispersed the largest land occupation, at a 2,500-hectare estate operated by a sugar company in San Manuel, near San Pedro Sula in the northern department of Cortés. The campesinos, members of the San Manuel Campesino Movement (MOCSAM), left peacefully in the afternoon after a police contingent arrived with a court order.

The protest organizers said the lands the campesinos occupied either belonged to the government or were not “fulfilling a social function.” “The [Agrarian] Reform Law is clear and states that government lands are for the purposes of the Agrarian Reform,” the organizers said in their statement, but despite requests for these lands over the years with the National Agrarian Institute (INA), the government’s response had been “open repression, violent evictions, the imprisonment of campesinos and campesinas.” If the lands were turned over to the campesino families, they would produce “4 million quintales of corn, 1.5 million quintales of rice, and 800,000 quintales of beans for the food sovereignty of our people,” according to the statement. (A Honduran quintal is about 46 kg.) The protesters were also demanding passage of a law they proposed in October 2011 for “integral agrarian transformation.”

Government officials charged that the mass mobilization was politically motivated. But protesters dismissed the claim. “We aren’t criminals,” Marvin Morales, a schoolteacher and a leader in the San Manuel occupation, told a reporter, “and what has forced us to move into the land is hunger, not the influence of other political sectors.” (Communiqu√© from Honduran campesino goups, April 17, posted on Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular website; La Tribuna, Tegucigalpa, April 18; AP, April 19, via Fox News Latino)

On April 19 thousands of students, unionists and others marched in various cities in a protest called by the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP) to protest increases in the price of fuel, basic foods, public transportation and public utilities. In Tegucigalpa a large march started from the Francisco Moraz√°n National Pedagogic University (UPNFM) and moved to the center of the city, where a committee including activist leaders Juan Barahona and Carlos H. Reyes and former president Jos√© Manuel (“Mel”) Zelaya Rosales presented the National Congress with a list of popular demands. Thousands also marched in the industrial capital, the northern city of San Pedro Sula, and there were protests in El Para√≠so, Juticalpa, Choluteca, La Ceiba, Santa B√°rbara and Col√≥n. (Red Moraz√°nica de Informaci√≥n, April 19, via FNRP website)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 22.

See our last post on Honduras and the world campesino struggle.