land-grabbing

Honduras: protest slaying of campesino leaders

Rights activists and indigenous protesters clashed with riot police in Tegucigalpa Oct. 20 following the murder of two prominent campesino leaders—the latest in a wave of repressive terror.  The protest at the Public Ministry was called to demand justice in the case of José Ángel Flores and Silmer Dionosio George of Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA). The two were slain by unknown gunmen Oct. 18 as they left a community meeting in Tocoa, Colón department. Tocoa is in the Lower Aguán Valley, the center of a longstanding conflict between campesinos and large landowners accused of acquiring their lands in contravention of Honduras' agrarian reform laws. The two activists were supposedly under protective measures ordered by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The orders were issued in May 2014 for several campesino leaders in the Aguán following a wave of killings and death threats. (Human Rights Watch, HispanTV, Oct. 21; Honduras Solidarity Network, Oct. 18)

African women protest at Mt. Kilimanjaro

Women from various African countries gathered at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to demand land rights Oct. 15, during observations of International Day of Rural Women. The protest, dubbed the "Women to Kilimanjaro Initiative," is an attempt to bring attention to denial of land rights and other unequal treatment women face across various economic sectors. [Organizers noted that women are particularly vulnerable to land-grabbing in countries where rural families often lack legal title to their lands, and are less likely to receive just compensation for lost lands. A small delegation of women even climbed the peak itself—an elevation of nearly 6,000 meters above sea level—in a symbolic statement of their determination.] Under the social media campaign #Women2Kilimanjaro, the women called on governments to enforce laws and policies that promote land rights and gender justice. The women also circulated a petition that will be delivered to regional leaders in the coming days.

Tunisian fellahin resist land-grab

The farmers and agricultural workers of Tunisia's Jemna oasis have issued an urgent call for solidarity in defense of their communal property against a government-backed land-grab. The Jemna oasis historically belonged to the local farmers, until it was expropriated by French settlers and then by the Tunisian state after independence. İn the aftermath of the 2011 Revolution, the farmers successfully fought to recover title to the lands, organizing production collectively in a "solidarity-based micro-economy." The Tunisian state is now trying to re-expropriate the oasis to turn it over to local or foreign cronies, in what the farmers call a "counter-revolutionary attempt to maintain the capitalist order." Most recently, the government declared the Association for the Protection of Jemna Oasis to be an illegal entity. The Ministry of State Properties and Land Affairs, which leased the land to private operators before 2011, issued a statement threatening to cancel the call for tenders on the Association's' date harvest. It is now harvest season, when dates are sold to vendors and intermediaries through the Ministry's call for tenders. If pressure is not put on Tunis to issue the call for tenders, the harvest will be lost. The oasis accounts for some 10% of the arable land in Tunisia. (Lucha Internacionalista, UIT-CI, TunisiaLive, Oct. 10; Nawaat, Sept. 27)

ICC to prosecute environmental crimes

The International Criminal Court released a policy document Sept. 15 calling for prosecution of individuals for atrocities committed by destroying the environment. The document, prepared by chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, sets out the types of cases that the court will now prioritize, including willful environmental destruction, illegal exploitation of natural resources, and "land grabbing." The ICC has already shown a willingness to apply its authority to situations involving environmental destruction. Between 2009 and 2010, then-prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo successfully obtained arrest warrants from the court against the president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, for acts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Among other acts, these alleged crimes involved the contamination of wells and destruction village pumps in Darfur to deprive targeted populations of water. Al-Bashir's trial has not yet commenced as he continues to evade arrest. (The Conversation, Sept. 23)

Prize-winning peasant ecologist attacked in Peru

Máxima Acuña de Chaupe, the campesina grandmother in Peru's Cajamarca region who won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for defense of her lands from the Yanacocha mining company, survived an attack that took place on her property the morning of Sept. 18. "She has fainted!" are the last words heard in a video recorded by Yanacocha security personnel. The video indicates between 15 and 20 helmeted security guards entered Acuña's property, and began uprooting a 200-square-meter field planted with potatoes and yucca. When Acuña and her husband, Jaime Chaupe, began shouting and throwing rocks, they were set upon by security guards, sustaining blows to the body and head. Yanacocha claims the family is illegally occupying the field, and issued a statement saying the company was "peacefully exercizing its rights" in the incident.

Mexico: clashes over power plant in Morelos

Communal farmers from the pueblo of San Pedro Apatlaco in Mexico's Morelos state clashed Aug. 30 with federal riot police at a protest over construction of an aqueduct bringing water to a new gas-fired power plant under construction at nearby Huexca, Yecapixtla municipality. The clash took place as police tried to clear a bridge the protesters were occupying, linking the municipalities of Cuautla and Ayala through Apatlaco pueblo (which lies in Ayala). The farmers were attempting to bar a crew from the Federal Electric Commission (CFE) from blocking off a common area long used by residents for the aqueduct right-of-way. Troops from the new federal anti-riot force, the Unified Command (Mando Unico), were brought in to clear the bridge. Some 15 protesters were detained, with injuries reported on both sides. Opponents say the aqueduct will pass through more than 100 eijidos (agricultural collectives) and communcal lands, and that the affected communities were not consulted. There were similar protests two years ago over construction of the gas pipeline feeding the plant, part of the Morelos Integral Project (PIM). (El Sol de Cuautla, Diario de MorelosLa Jornada, Educa, Aug. 31; La Unión de Morelos, Excelsior, Aug. 30)

Iran: Ahwazi farmers protest land-grab

Dozens of Ahwazi Arab farmers held a demonstration in front of the headquarters of Iran's state sugar refinery, the Amir Kabir Company, near the regional capital Ahwaz on Aug. 25, protesting the parastatal's confiscation of over 1,000 hectares of agricultural land. The farmers from two villages, al-Shemria and Tel-Aswad, brought documents they said prove their ownership of the lands, which were seized for sugar-cane farming with no warning, legal justification or compensation. Representatives of the firm clashed with protesters after security forces threatened the demonstrators with arrest if they failed to leave the area around the entrance to the headquarters building.

Colombia: terror targets indigenous leaders

Village leaders report that a total of 18 indigenous campesinos in the north of Colombia's Cauca department have been killed this year, in a presumed paramilitary campaign of intimidation. In one case last month, a pregnant woman was among three slain when they were stopped on the road between the towns of Caloto and Santander de Quilichao. She was headed with her family on motorbikes to a local hospital when they were ambushed by gunmen and left dead on the road. Paramilitaries have left pamphlets in local villages warning them to drop their campaigns for restitution of usurped lands. (RCN, Aug. 23; Contagio Radio, July 22; Extra, Cauca, July 15))

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