Honduras: violence continues against activists and the media

Honduran campesino Henry Roney Díaz was killed on May 7 when soldiers, police and private guards tried to remove campesinos occupying an estate in the Aguán River Valley in the northern department of Colón. Díaz was a member of the El Despertar cooperative, one of the groups forming the Authentic Claimant Movement of Aguán Campesinos (MARCA). Manuel Vásquez, another member of the cooperative, was wounded in the same clash.

The FoodFirst Information and Action Network (FIAN) reports that the security guards were working for the wealthy Nicaraguan René Morales, one of the largest landowners in the region. Morales’ farms have been the target of several land occupations since April 30, when campesinos from MARCA and the larger Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA) decided to take over the La Trinidad, El Despertar, San Esteban and Guanchías estates to protest what they consider the government’s failure to comply with agreements signed in April 2010.

Another campesino, José Paulino Lemus Cruz, was shot dead on May 10 as he traveled from the Guadalupe Carney community to Los Leones, also in the Aguán Valley. Lemus Cruz belonged to a third local organization, the Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MCA). Other members of the group discounted robbery as a motive; none of the victim’s belongings appeared to have been taken. Supporters of the campesino movements say the two latest deaths bring the number of activists killed in the valley over the last 15 months to 27. (Adital, Brazil, May 10; Rel-UITA, Argentina, May 11, via Lista Informativa Nicaragua y Más blog; La Tribuna, Tegucigalpa, May 11)

Violence against journalists also continues. Two men on a motorcycle gunned down television reporter Francisco Medina outside his home in the northern city of Morazán on the night of May 10. Medina was often critical of the police and of private security firms contracted by ranchers in the area and had received death threats, according to colleagues. He was the 11th journalist killed during the last year and a half in Honduras. Only two of the murders have been solved. (Tico Times, Costa Rica, May 13, some from AP)

While violence flared in the north, from May 4 to 7 the Honduran government hosted a conference in Tegucigalpa to promote business investment in the country. Speakers at the conference, “Honduras Is Open for Business,” included President Porfirio (“Pepe”) Lobo Sosa, former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe (2002-2010), US under secretary of commerce for international trade Francisco Sánchez and Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim. Foreign investment declined by 46% during the unrest following the June 2009 coup that overthrew then-president José Manuel (“Mel”) Zelaya Rosales. (New Statesman, UK, May 8)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 15.

See our last posts on Honduras and Central America