In Honduras: Peasants vs. the 10 ruling families

Posted: March 27, 2014 in Peasant Land struggle in Honduras

In Honduras: Peasants vs. the 10 ruling families

­por Orsetta Bellani­­
Exclusive for El Reportero

Every day, twenty people are killed in Honduras. It’s the most violent country in the world and the causes for this can be found in its history.

In the 70s, while in the neighboring countries (Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua) left-wing guerrillas were consolidating, Honduras was a US fiefdom. The country was used as the basis for the operations of the Contra, the guerrilla force used by the U.S. to combat the Sandinista government of Nicaragua.

Honduras has been the “Republic of Bananas” par excellence. Here for 10 years banana companies like Chiquita and Dole, whose trucks are forming endless processions in the streets, have replaced the state. In the city of Tela, who hosted the eponymous banana company in the last century, the corporation brought electricity, school and work. Today, more than a Banana Republic, Honduras has the appearance of a Republic of the African Palm.

As a result, as revealed by the Honduran Foreign Minister, the country currently imports half its supply of maize and rice, with an obvious loss of food autonomy.

According to Rel-Uita, Honduras today produces over 300 thousand metric tons of palm oil and 70 percent is sold in foreign markets.

The estates of palm oil, whose oil is destined for the food industry and the production of agrofuels, are grown by farmers who – according to the data provided by organizations member of the campaign “Vamos al Grano” – around 75 percent live on a dollar per day.

They work with chemicals that contaminate soil and poison the aquifers layers of the third poorest country in Latin America. This creates intolerance among the peasants and generates income for the Facusses, one of the most powerful in the country and throughout Central America.

“In Honduras there are ten families who make the decisions. They control industries, banks, media, police, the Supreme Court, the Public Ministry, the National Assembly and the Government,” says Miriam Miranda, Chair of OFRANEH (Honduran Black Fraternal Organization). The Honduran oligarchy began to be structured in the midtwentieth century, when a handful of Jewish and Palestinian families migrated to Central America, attracted by the foreign capital investment of the multinational mining and banana companies. These families have been able to put aside the historical tensions between the two peoples and now control 40 percent of national production. The State is its largest customer in a context in which, as emphasized by the president of COPINH (Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras) Berta Caceres, “the State does not exist, but rather strengthens the institutions who hold effective control.” Almost all Honduran oligarchs contribute financially to the two parties, and several members of these families have been ministers of the government in power.

In 2009, former President Zelaya blocked the same oligarchy he belonged to. He announced minimum wage increase of 66 percent, accession to ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, an alliance between progressive Latin American countries promoted by Chavez) and promised agrarian reform.

It was never approved: on June 28th, 2009, the day that Zelaya had called the people to vote for a consultation to decide whether to convene a constituent assembly, the country’s oligarchs staged a coup. Zelaya was overthrown and a government in line with the interests of the oligarchy put in place, so intertwined with drug-trafficking that according to Wikileaks, it uses Facusse’s properties as a landing strip for aircraft. An example of the arrogance of the Honduran oligarchy is the Lower Aguan issue. In the 90’s the government privatized the land, following the advice of the International Monetary Fund.

“Because of the threats, here in Lower Aguan everybody started to sell, especially to Facusse. Those who refused were killed,” denounces Vitalino Alvarez, from the organization MUCA (Aguan Unified Peasant Movement). Then, when the peasants rebelled, the government promised the restitution of much of the land. Not only the terms of the agreement have not been met, but also by early June Miguel Facusse threatened to evict seven farms – about 4,000 hectares – negotiated with the government, where they settled thousands of peasant families affiliated to MUCA.

However, by late June the peasant organization MARK (Authentic Vindicator Movement from Aguan) won an important victory: Tegucigalpa court of first instance ruled the restitution of 1,800 hectares of land to the families of the same organization who were dispossessed of their land in 1994, acknowledging the illegality of its ­acquisition by Facusse and Rene Morales Carazo. However, according to the MARK, the corrupt Honduran judges admitted protection measures filed by the two landowners, thereby reversing the ruling.

That decision sets the stage for further violence in the Lower Aguan where from the beginning of 2010 until today, Facusse’s guards have killed 51 people involved with farmers’ organizations and one journalist and his partner.

“The decrees of the government legitimate impunity since the coup: when it is so widely it is applicable to a plan,” said former President Zelaya during the inauguration of the International Meeting for Human Rights in Solidarity with Honduras, which took place in February in Lower Aguan.

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