Honduras: three die in continuing Aguán violence

Unidentified persons seized Gregorio Chávez, a 69-year-old campesino, on July 2 while he was working near the Paso Aguán estate in the Lower Aguán Valley in northern Honduras. Residents of the nearby Panamá community said they heard gunshots and found signs that someone had been dragged toward the estate. After searching for four days, on July 6 residents found Chávez’s body buried on the estate, with evidence that the campesino had been tortured, according to a communiqué by the Permanent Human Rights Monitoring Center for the Aguán.

Chávez’s murder indicates that the violence in the Aguán is not subsiding despite several agreements between the government and a number of campesino organizations aimed at ending the region’s longstanding agrarian conflict. The Paso Aguán estate is owned by cooking oil magnate Miguel Facussé Barjum, probably the richest man in Honduras and the focus of many of the land disputes. Panamá residents accused Facussé’s security guards of kidnapping and murdering Chávez, who was reportedly not a member of any campesino organization but supported the large Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA).

After giving Chávez a proper burial, local people occupied the entrance to the estate and held it until July 7, when police agents and soldiers from the 15th Infantry Battalion cleared a space so trucks could carry out African palm oil, the estate’s main product.

Murders continued in the region over the next two days. On July 7 campesino Jacobo López Erazo was shot dead near his home in the community of Quebrada de Arena. He had worked with MUCA organizations. On July 8 campesino José Luis Dubón, a member of the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP), was shot and killed near the La Lempira settlement. Another campesino, Francis Bueso, was wounded; he received emergency surgery in a hospital in Tocoa, Colón department. Local people responded to the new killings with a second demonstration at the Paso Aguán estate on July 8. The protesters demanded an end to the killing of campesinos, the immediate withdrawal of troops from the Aguán, a definitive solution to the agrarian conflict and the approval of a Law of Agrarian Transformation.

The Permanent Human Rights Monitoring Center for the Aguán suggested that the latest outbreak of violence was a reaction to a court ruling upholding a claim by another campesino group, the Authentic Claimant Movement of Aguán Campesinos (MARCA), to land held by Facussé. According to Facussé, an appellate court has now overturned the lower court’s ruling. (Adital, Brazil, July 11; Vos el Soberano, Honduras, July 12)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 15.

See our last post on Honduras.