Posts Tagged ‘Honduran oligarchy’

The caravan: Who is behind it, what internal factors provoke it, how to situate ourselves?

Reflection, Research and Communication Team ERIC – SJ

 

Ismael Moreno Coto, s.j. (Padre Melo)

Saturday, October 27, 2018

 

http://wp.radioprogresohn.net/la-caravana-quienes-la-empujan-que-factores-internos-la-provocan-como-situarnos/

 

Overflow

 

The caravan is a social migratory phenomenon that has overflowed any political and institutional foresight. It is world news. In all the international media, which never have anything to say about Honduras, today they have put it in the “eye of the hurricane” news. It is a phenomenon that has overwhelmed churches, sectors of civil society, NGOs and governments. It is an avalanche that at the beginning of this dramatic period began with a few hundred Hondurans to become an uncountable number, growing and uncontrollable, which is answered with simple gestures of solidarity, generosity and spontaneity on the part of people who see migrants pass by, and even with the highest-level military responses as the Trump administration threatens, and as the Honduran regime continues to unsuccessfully create a police wall on the border between Honduras and Guatemala.

 

 

 

 

Born in the “Juarez City of the South” It is not just a caravan. It is a social phenomenon led by thousands of impoverished rural and urban settlers that manifests itself in large and massive spontaneous and improvised caravans, with no more organization than the one that has taught the basics of survival and the manifest decision to go north to reach the territory of the USA. It’s not the first time. Last year, 2017, in the month of April there was a caravan of about 800 Central Americans, 75% of whom were Hondurans. At the same time, there is a constant movement of some 300 Hondurans who daily seek to cross the border of Aguascalientes, between Honduras and Guatemala, resulting in many of whom are lost on the road. This human and social avalanche exploded like a powerful far-reaching bomb gaining second or third importance news in the city of San Pedro Sula where it all began. San Pedro Sula is known worldwide as one of the most violent, and thus various researchers and analysts often call it the “Juarez City of the South”. It is similar with the boom of the maquilas (sweatshops) that characterize this Mexican city bordering El Paso, Texas, which was promoted in the 1970’s as a response to poverty in Mexico. Juarez City is best known worldwide for other by-products: an endless flood of internal migration, juvenile delinquency, and drug trafficking. What was this news in San Pedro Sula? A group of about 200 Hondurans announced that they were organizing a caravan to migrate north, leaving the bus terminal in San Pedro Sula, on the Honduran Atlantic coast, on Saturday, October 13.

Who was behind it?

In the beginning, the caravan was identified with the name of Bartolo Fuentes, a social and political leader based in the city of El Progreso, who said in an interview to the local media, that he would join the caravan for a few days. Bartolo Fuentes as a journalist accompanied the previous caravan of April 2017. Being also a politician of the LIBRE (Freedom and Refoundation) Party of the Honduran opposition, Bartolo Fuentes quickly became the political “scapegoat”. He was accused of such at a press conference by the government minister of Foreign Affairs while she was accompanied by the Minister of Human Rights. “Bartolo Fuentes is responsible for this caravan, he organized and instigated many people to manipulate them and lead them on this dangerous journey” she said, while calling on the Public Ministry to proceed with charges against the person to whom the regime downloaded all responsibility as a representative of the radical political opposition of Honduras. As with most things, Bartolo’s name was soon discarded and other scapegoats emerged, still more powerful than a mere local and national social and political leader.

By the time the caravan crossed the border at the Aguascalientes crossing to Guatemala it has already swelled to about four thousand people, who managed to topple the fence that police from both Honduras and Guatemala had established at the border post. And it continued to grow in numbers as it crossed Guatemalan territory and approached the Mexican border. The Honduran regime, undoubtedly with financing from the government of the United States, conceived a plan between October 17 and 20 with the purpose of convincing the migrants to return to the country. A few hundred seemed to accept this proposal, many of whom were transported by bus and others by airlift, as each person was promised immediate help and a package of undetermined services. However there are witnesses who revealed that not a few of the returning migrants were in fact activists of the National Party (the Honduran government) who sought to entice the Caravaners, and above all, to provide official publicity for the government. However, from October 23 on and with figures that increased as the days passed, the Caravan grew to almost 10 thousand migrants crossing through the State of Chiapas in the Mexican Republic.

 

   A pressure cooker The Honduran government accuses the opposition and criminal groups for being responsible for the caravans for destabilizing political purposes. The government of the United States added its weight to this accusation going so far as to accuse the Democratic Party of instigating and financing political and criminal groups so that the migrants would invade US territory in order to destabilize the American government. All these accusations have no real basis. The phenomenon of caravans is the expression of the desperation of a population for which it is increasingly risky to live in a country that denies employment, public safety and a life time of permanently gleaning for leftovers. The caravan is the explosion of a pressure cooker that the Honduran government in association with a small business and transnational elite has been stirring for at least a decade. This is the government that abandoned public social policies and replaced them with public handout programs, while consolidating the development model based on investment in the extractive industry and the privatization and concession of public goods and services.

State and corruption understood as business In turn, the public administration is led by a sector of politicians who have understood the State as their private enterprise.  They have plundered public institutions, such as the Honduran Institute of Social Security, the health system in general, and the electric energy corporation, among many others. These politicians protect themselves with political control of the justice system. The population has been progressively experiencing helplessness and abandonment. This experience and feeling was reinforced with the elections of November 2017 when the government was re-elected in violation of the Constitution of the Republic and was awarded a victory that some 70 percent of the population acknowledges was the result of organized fraud. The population no longer has confidence in politicians, the government and the higher levels of private business. The caravans are a phenomenon that expresses the despair and anguish of a people that no longer believes in solutions inside the country. This decision of the people to find their own just solution results in this extreme expression of flight.

 

Everyone looking for someone to blame and take advantage of

The government of Honduras and the government of the United States seem to need someone to hold responsible. This is so because in the end they represent an elitist sector of society that systematically despises populations with low economic resources, and will never give credit to their initiatives. Everything that comes from these lower sectors is understood as a threat, and in many cases like the one that is now observed with migrants, the initiatives are perceived as delinquent or criminal acts. They do not believe or accept the decisions, initiatives and creativity of the people. Theirs is the expression of contempt, discrimination and racism. They assume that the people cannot think are unable to decide on their own. There must be a factor, or some external actor that encourages, that manipulates their decisions. Obviously, the phenomenon of the caravan can serve to benefit the interests of other sectors. There are opposition sectors in Honduras, and perhaps in the United States, which seek to benefit from the instability caused by this migratory movement. Surely, the extreme right of the Trump administration is especially interested in capitalizing on this phenomenon to strengthen the anti-immigrant

Hunger

movement, one of the fundamental policies of his administration. The mid-term elections in the United States are a thermometer to establish whether or not Trump will continue for a second term. Accusing the Democrats of funding the migrations is a convenient argument to empower Trump towards the Republican triumph in the November elections. In turn, opposition political sectors in Honduras have also shown signs of taking advantage of this phenomenon to further weaken the government of Juan Orlando Hernández, who is also interested in using the migrant movement to accuse the opposition of being responsible for causing greater instability to the national government.

From shameful to dignified

The phenomenon of the caravan has brought light to a daily hidden reality. The caravan has been happening every day, and surely in less than a month the number of people who have been leaving is comparable to those who joined the massive exit in a single day. This daily caravan has been silent, dry, discreet, private, invisible and even shameful. But with this explosion it has become a visible, public and even dignifying caravan. This phenomenon has unmasked the false discourse and laid bare the official failure. It has dismantled that triumphalism that has claimed that the country was improving. It has proven that social compensation programs of the regime not only do not solve the problems but deepen the precariousness of the majority of society. It has revealed that a society that allows only 35 percent to participate in the formal economy is unsustainable. The massive caravan is the expression of a massive phenomenon of a model of systemic social exclusion.

Elites and regime, wounded in their self-esteem

Repression – State brutality

The caravan that started on October 13, and that opened the valve for subsequent caravans, suddenly woke up the political sectors and the business elite accustomed to having strict control over everything that happens in the country, and they strive to avoid undesirable surprises, or at least they are experts in capitalizing in their favor the discomforts or skirmishes of protests and claims of the social sectors. The elites have enjoyed the privileges of the State and only react when their infinite profits are hindered by adverse reactions, as is happening with the opposition of communities and organizations to extractive projects and concessions granted by the government to national and transnational companies. This is how it is explained that business elites react with extreme aggression when there are people who hinder their accumulation of wealth, to the point of assassinating their leaders as happened in March 2016 with the murder of Berta Cáceres.

Violence – Death Squads

In the same way, these sectors feel beaten in their self-love when, feeling at ease in their privileges, the reality of the excluded unmasks their lies with a single demonstration. This is what the caravan has done. Just after the elites and the regime of Juan Orlando Hernández have invested millions of dollars in publicizing that the country is on the right track, that the economy is healthy, and that the people are happy with the social programs, then this caravan of thousands of citizens breaks out and creates the alternative news that goes around the world. The shame of the elites is transformed into accusations against the opposition while they conspire to

Poverty – 2/3 live in poverty, half of them in extreme poverty

look for scapegoats, which in the last days of October passed from blaming a specific person, to the radical political opposition, to the Democrats, to the businessman Soros, until finally deciding to blame their denominated “axis of evil” made up of Cuba, Venezuela and Ortega de Nicaragua. It is the answer to the shame that the Honduran elites experience while not accepting the extent that those who unmask them are those sectors that the elites believe do not deserve to be considered equal because they are second, third or fourth category citizens.

 

Characteristics that help interpret this mass exodus

This phenomenon of massive human migration to foreign lands also denotes some features that contribute to understanding what underlies Honduran society:

First factor: extreme dependence on the outside. Looking outside of the country for the answers and solutions to solve needs and problems. This is a mind-set that has been accentuated for more than a century, after the establishment of the banana enclave at the beginning of the twentieth century. Looking northward and taking the road to the United States has been the dramatic reminiscence of a society that shaped its minds and hearts around the “American dream”, wanting to be like an American, with their dollars, hoping to earn dollars to buy things, to be able to spend money as it is spent in the United States. Going to the United States is that deep desire to pursue the love of a capitalism that has not been experienced within the country. It is a spontaneous movement to go in search of the promised land, it is a desperate defense of the country of consumption and of “the land of bread to carry”, as the Honduran poet Rafael Heliodoro Valle once said. It is not a massive anti-system movement. It is an intra-system avalanche of the dispossessed people who continue stubbornly to look up, to the north, for the dream that they have lived as a nightmare in Honduras. These starving migrants do not know that their initiative is shaking the system; what they do is to look in the center of the system for an answer to their needs and problems. As politicians and wealthy elites do in other ways, they always have their eyes and hearts turned northwards towards the United States, in a frank submissive attitude. It is the same attitude as that of the thousands of migrants, only that theirs is from the position of managers, of internal protectors of the interests of the empire.

Second factor: a society trapped in the struggle to survive.

Countries of Greatest Inequality – Honduras #3

In the day to day struggle, everyone is looking after their own selves, everyone and individually scratching crumbs out of the system without questioning it. The mass exodus of Hondurans has no organization other than the mutual protection offered by traveling in a group but still it is just a group of individuals searching for a new life in another country, in the country of the north. The decision to leave the country is not the result of some organization within the poor, but the expression of these individuals seeking in the same way and time the solution to their problems.

 

This trait of the characteristic and behavior of Honduran society, submerges its people in confinement, in the political evil of isolation, which leads to each person being locked into their own search, individually preoccupied in resolving their own individual affairs, under the adage that “the ox licks only itself”[i], or what they say on the roads and streets of our neighborhoods and villages: “Everyone is getting what they can.”[ii]  It is the logic of survival; everyone seeks to find their own solutions and will make commitments with anyone, in order to get ahead. Other people only get in the way, uniting with others to meet and search together seems to hinder their search. Everybody complains about what is happening, about the rising costs of fuel, water, and electric power.

Everyone protests against the government, but when it comes to looking for common solutions, the default is to let others do so. The massive exit to the north reveals that people still do not put trust in others and the community. It is an expressed rejection towards the organization, towards the political parties and towards institutions of any sort. The massive exit is the failure of any kind of public response, and the resounding triumph of an individualistic reaction. The phenomenon of caravans is the extreme expression of the individual seeking to escape from a structural and systemic problem. In such an environment, everything that comes from above and from outside is absorbed, and then even those who have crushed the people still get elected, in exchange for a “charity bag” or some dubious handouts. In a society trapped in the “rebusque”[iii], the charity handout programs have an immediate success, but when the problems remain intact, and the privatization or concessions policies take even more away, the struggle to survive becomes unbearable until ending with explosions like the massive caravans of migrants.

 

Third factor:

Half of the children do not attend school

a society that opts for the vertical relationship in detriment of horizontal relationships.

People look to “go up”, to the north and upwards. The mirage of the migrants is focused upwards and outwards. They stopped looking to their sides, everyone walks, advances with their own steps forward, without seeing who is at their side. It is the syndrome of the “banana republic” seeded by the Americans and leaving them left waiting and enthralled for the return of the white people. There are many, thousands who are taking these same steps, but each one looking out for themselves, the self-interest of the individual. In this individualistic culture they were born, they were schooled in its message, they grew, and they have suffered for it.  And so they seek their escape to the north – individually. Even if they are in a caravan, even if they are thousands. It is a caravan of individual journeys.

 

Honduran relationships are based on looking upwards, on the vertical, depending on those higher up in a relationship where the vertical line is the decisive one. It is the paradigm of power, of the patriarch, of the “caudillo”[iv] in the Honduran case. The caudillo is expected to solve ones’ personal or family problem; the leader who solves  problems in exchange for loyalty. It is the United States, the maximum expression of the caudillos, the father of the caudillos. That vertical line is sustained at the cost of weakening the horizontal line of relationships, the line of equals. The horizontal line is so tenuous that it is almost invisible, as if it does not exist.  At most we see each other, to see who can get more with whom or who are moving upwards, to see who has climbed in the power of those who are in command.

 

This vertical mentality[v] has permeated strongly social organizations, community organizations, NGOs and their leaders. The phenomenon of international cooperation has contributed particularly strongly to this mentality. The relations that are established with special emphasis are bilateral between the donor organism and the beneficiary organization, which in turn accentuates direct and vertical relations with the grassroots organizations. And these, by benefiting from cooperative funding, strengthen relations of dependence with the NGO which in turn, has a vertical dependency with their donor organism.

 

This vertical line is prioritized over the horizontal lines. The relations between the grassroots organizations, the encounters among the different grassroots leaders, are linked by a tenuous horizontal line, because the emphasis is placed in the vertical line, in the upward dependence. Finally, social organizations and NGOs are left alone, with very little impact on the people. When the people turn to force, not only does this exceed the capacity of existing organizations, but the first to be surprised are these same social and popular organizations and their leaderships. These groups have a lot to say and many formulations, but the people are not with them.

 

The axis of evil.

 

Instead of looking for “scapegoats” inside and outside Honduras, the fundamental problem is a Honduras in the hands of some alliances that can be named as the axis of evil. These alliances are made up from a small political elite that has lived embedded in the State and uses its resources as its private property, in collusion with an authentically oligarchic business elite that manages the threads of the entire economy and state investments. They are but a minor partner of the capital of transnational companies. This triple collusion forms the real Honduran government, which is structured around a model of infinite accumulation at the proportional expense of denying opportunities to some six million of the nine million Hondurans that make up the population.

 

These three actors are co-opted by three other powerful actors: the American Embassy based in the capital, the armed bodies led by the high-ranking officers of the Armed Forces, and by public and hidden figures of organized crime. These six allied actors form the real axis of evil, wherein lies the highest share of responsibility of what happens with the almost endless deterioration of Honduran society. In this axis of evil and its development model, based on the accumulation of wealth with the corrupt control and exploitation of natural assets and the privatization of public goods and services, that one begins to find the fundamental answer to the question of “Why are the Hondurans fleeing and why are they forming caravans that attract thousands of Hondurans?”.

 

How to understand our position in reference to the migrants in this phenomenon of caravans?

 

  1. First of all, to accompany the analysis and research, to scrutinize the internal dynamics of the movement and provide elements so that society can have its own criteria, and thus to avoid manipulation by political sectors, the corporate media and officials whose interest is to manipulate and capitalize in their favor this human tragedy. The migrant population has something to tell us, it has in itself a message, searching for external elements within, but the most important actor is the people who emigrate, who are uprooted. Not to listen to them while seeking some forces that push them, is to fall into the same script narrated by Trump and Juan Orlando Hernández. The migrant people have something to say (their own word), their suffering and exclusion gives them the right to be considered sacred, and we have to respect and listen to them.
  2. Accompanying, being close to caravans to listen to their voice and contribute to meeting their immediate and basic needs, is a condition that makes analysis and reflection valid. To accompany does not necessarily require giving material aid. It may be necessary to support with resources, but it can also be a temptation to free ourselves from the helplessness of not knowing how to answer the fundamental questions that arise from their sufferings and anguish.
  3. The coordination between national and Central American, Mexican and continental networks is fundamental since it is a phenomenon that originates in Honduras, but has repercussions and international connotations. No network is in itself sufficient as the reality of the caravan phenomenon can exceed all resources. Isolated or independent efforts make the response more sterile. Effectiveness is increased when responses connect with the greatest number of instances of support.
  4. To denounce and unveil the official discourse of the political manipulation of the caravan. The different international sectors should help to find answers first from Honduras, and from Hondurans, not from the “official spin” of Honduran powers, but from those sectors that have been and are close to the populations from which the Caravans originate. This search for answers must start from a pivotal observation: political responsibility resides fundamentally in the current Honduran regime and in the development model based on investment in extractivism and the privatization of public goods and services, in a system of corruption and impunity. From this denunciation, we Hondurans demand that there be new elections to allow an early return to the constitutional order, and that with a new government a great national dialogue would be convened to formulate the priorities leading to the reversion of the current state of social calamity that has exploded in this massive migration.
  5. A direct pastoral support of consolation, mercy and solidarity with the pain and despair of our people, expressed in communication strategies that link traditional media, such as radio, television and written media, with social networks.

 

[i] “el buey solo se lame” idiom “Independence is greatly appreciated” or “better to trust in oneself than others”

[ii]  “cada quien librando su cacaste” idiom “everyone taking care of their own interests”

[iii]  “rebusque” idiom for “search” for an alternative or a way out

[iv] Caudillo – strongman or dictator

[v] An Adlerian understanding of this “vertical mentality” is characterized by an admiration for those “at the top”, or those aspiring upwards rather than towards others

 

(translation and footnotes by Phil Little)

Las 5 Familias mas poderosas de Honduras

La caída de la familia Rosenthal tuvo como consecuencia el reordenamiento del poderío económico en Honduras, por muchos años la poderosa familia Rosenthal manejo los hilos financieros y políticos en la zona norte del país, área donde viven y mantienen sus capitales los más adinerados. Aquí los 5 hombres económicamente más poderosos del país.

Jorge Canahuati Larach es un empresario de origen palestino de padres hondureños nació en Estados Unidos consolido su poderío económico en el área de las comunicaciones, actual propietario y presidente de grupo OPSA La Prensa, El Heraldo, Diez, Estilo también con fuertes inversiones en el sector de embotelladoras, franquicias alimenticias y farmaceutica: Pizza Hut, Kentucky, Embotedallora de Sula (Agua Azul, Aquafina, Pepsi, Seven Up, Mirinda Naranja Mirinda Uva, 7Teen,  Enjoy,  Adrenaline, Gatorade, Quanty, Link, SoBe Energy, Té Lipton envasado) Laboratorios Finlay. Jugo un papel  importante como financista y ejecutor en el golpe de estado de 2009 desde entonces su poder económico ha ido en asenso.

Puesto #4

Fredy Antonio Nasser Selman es un empresario hondureño de ascendencia judeo-palestina.

Presidente y propietario de “Grupo Terra” un conglomerado de compañías y negocios vinculados al sector energético, concesiones y comunicaciones, su grupo es dueño de los aeropuertos de Honduras los cuales fueron concesionados a su persona por los próximos 20 años en el sector energético se consolida como el dueño de Gasolineras  “UNO”  Emce, Enersa, planta termoeléctrica, Río Blanco, planta termoeléctrica, Lufussa, planta termoeléctrica, planta termoeléctrica, Petróleos de Honduras (Hondupetrol) es considerado un magnate a nivel centroamericano ya que sus inversiones sobrepasaron nuestras fronteras.

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Puesto #3

Miguel Mauricio Facusse de ascendencia palestina, es heredero de la fortuna de su padre el extinto Miguel Facusse Barjum una fortuna bañada de sangre que casi desemboca en una guerra civil al interior de una zona llamada “El bajo agúan” su fortuna se debe a los múltiples negocios con el estado y entre sus empresas se encuentran Yummies Zambos, tajaditas y yuquitas, Yummies Ranchitas, nachos y jalapechos, Cappy, maíz con queso, gorditos y tornitos, Zibas, papas y anillitos de papa, Ziba’s Costi Rica, papas fritas, Ziba’s francesa, papas a la francesa, Taco del Rancho, picante, jalapeño y barbacoa,  Chicharrones del Rancho, limón y picosito, Mazola, aceite y margarina, manteca Pura, Íssima, pasta de tomate La Rojita y Sofrito, Íssima, salsas para pastas Ranchera, Íssima, salsas para pastas Tomate y Albahaca , Íssima, salsas para pastas Con hongos y 3 quesos, Íssima, Ketchup, Isssima, sopas de pollo, camarón y resollo Oriental, Íssima, spaguetti y tallarines, Íssima, consomé de gallina y depollo así como grandes extensiones de tierras a los ancho y largo de Honduras.

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Puesto #2

Camilo Alejandro Atala Faraj es un magnate hondureño de origenárabe palestino. Es el presidente ejecutivo del Grupo Financiero FICOHSA que es propietaria de Banco Ficohsa , Interamericana de Seguros, Ficohsa Express, PSI, Proyectos y Servicios Inmobiliarios, Dicorp, divisas corporativas, Fundación Ficohsa, DIUNSA, Supermercados la colonia y en el area hotelera cuenta con la inversión publico privada mas grande del caribe Indura Beach Resort que cuenta con el campo de golf mas grande del caribe.

Puesto #1

Mohamad Yusuf Amdani Bai Presidente de Grupo Karim’s, de origen Pakistaní, naturalizado hondureño, es el hombre mas rico de Honduras, Karim’s tiene su matiz en Pakistán, en la actualidad las compañías del conglomerado operan en Estados Unidos, Honduras, México, Guatemala, Republica Dominicana, Nicaragua y Emiratos Árabes, siendo los sectores textil y bienes y raíces donde mantiene la mayoría de operaciones. En Honduras sus inversiones van desde Green Valley hasta Altia Bussiness Park fue el principal financista en la campaña del actual presidente Juan Orlando Hernandez y un colaborador muy cercano a este.

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La vida política del país en los últimos 30 años ha sido marcada por las decisiones de estos 5 hombres en representación de sus familias. Este articulo ha sido realizado con las siguientes fuentes de información:

http://www.mundoculturalhispano.com/spip.php?article5500

http://www.elmundo.es/america/2009/11/27/noticias/1259331572.html

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández

A new report suggests that corruption in Honduras is not simply the product of malfeasance by individual actors, but rather comprises an institutionalized system that serves to benefit a tight circle of elites, mirroring other corrupt systems that have been uncovered in Latin America.

The report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, titled “When Corruption is the Operating System: The Case of Honduras,” highlights how a combination of historical factors has paved the way for the current corrupt political economy in the country.

The report’s author, Sarah Chayes, argues that “Honduras offers a prime example of … intertwined, or ‘integrated,’ transnational kleptocratic networks.”

In other words, powerful international business interests as well as criminal organizations with transnational ties have corrupted government institutions at various levels, with little resistance from public officials, who have also benefitted from this graft.

As InSight Crime noted in its investigative series on elites and organized crime in Honduras, the country’s economic history differs from that of most of its neighbors in the sense that “the most powerful economic elites have emerged from the service, banking, media, and telecommunications sectors,” rather than land-based agricultural and industrial sectors.

These “transnational elites,” often descended from Eastern European and Middle Eastern immigrants, have used both their international business ties as well as graft to further their economic interests. Similarly, both the “traditional” land-based elite and the “bureaucratic elite” — consisting primarily of military families and regional politicians — have engaged in corruption in order to maintain their socioeconomic status.

Chayes stresses that the three “spheres” of the kleptocratic system in Honduras — the public sector, the private sector and criminal elements — “retain a degree of autonomy, and are often disrupted by internal rivalry.” But at times, their interests do overlap and there may be a degree of coordination between them.

Echoing the findings of InSight Crime’s investigation, the report states that over “the past decade or so, both the elite public- and private-sector circles have been establishing increasingly close connections with the out-and-out criminal networks that run the narcotics trade as well as other types of smuggling, such as trafficking in people.”

And while the private and public sectors of the kleptocratic network are not identical, they are bound together by what Chayes calls an “elite bargain” that perpetuates corruption.

Chayes says that this dynamic may be intensifying under the administration of President Juan Orlando Hernández, who took office in 2014 and is currently leading the field among contenders in the presidential election scheduled for November.

The report argues that Hernández has made a “strategic effort” to consolidate government power in the executive branch, thereby strenghtening a close-knit network of elites with ties to the public, private and criminal sectors that already wield disproportionate political and economic control.

As one person interviewed for the report put it, “The politicians are at the service of the economic elite.”

Prior to becoming president in 2014, Hernández served as the president of congress, which is in charge of all congressional proceedings. During this time, Chayes claims a “favorable legislative climate” was created by passing laws that benefitted “private sector network members.”

For example, in 2010, the creation of the Commission for the Promotion of Public Private Partnerships essentially funneled “public financing into private contracts via a nontransparent bidding process,” the report found.

Consequently, Chayes explains that this allows the president to “personally direct or approve” public-private projects, including terms and purchase guarantees. And when marginal improvements in oversight were proposed in 2014, officials resisted the measures.

As president of congress and eventually as head of state, Hernández also oversaw several other policy initiatives that bolstered the power of the executive branch while weakening congress, the judiciary and other institutions that could help put a brake on graft.

Hernández has strengthened the role of the military in internal security operations, packed the judiciary with top officials favorable to his pro-business agenda, and instituted a sweeping “secrecy law” that classifies as secret information “likely to produce ‘undesired institutional effects,’ or whose dissemination might be ‘counter to the effective development of state policy or normal functioning of public sector institutions,'” the report states.

According to the report, “The bulk of the actions or inactions of these agencies has served to facilitate or defend revenue maximization for the principal private-sector network members, or has provided siphoning opportunities for public officials.”

InSight Crime Analysis

Sophisticated corruption schemes are nothing new in Latin America, and Honduras is not the only country where widespread graft has had negative consequences for society in terms of political representation, economic opportunity and human rights. However, corruption networks in different countries function in different ways. And understanding these differences is key to formulating effective solutions for rooting out graft.

The picture painted by Chayes’ report suggests that the dynamics of corruption in Honduras are more similar to those observed in Brazil, for example, than those seen in Guatemala.

Former Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina and former Vice President Roxana Baldetti created a “mafia state” system, in which Pérez and Baldetti acted as the bosses, overseeing various corruption schemes and taking a cut of all the graft occurring under their supervision. In Brazil, on the other hand, corruption is not as centralized; rather, it has become a “rule of the game” in business and politics.

The case of Honduras is more similar to that of Brazil in that there is no unified leadership of a grand corruption scheme, but rather a sort of “elite bargain” to play by the rules of a system that encourages and ensures impunity for engaging in graft.

This is perhaps best exemplified by elite resistance to establishing an internationally-backed anti-corruption body in Honduras, which eventually came into being early last year as the Support Mission Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (Misión de Apoyo Contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad en Honduras – MACCIH). This parallels Brazilian elites’ ongoing attempts to derail sweeping anti-corruption investigations targeting dozens of politicians, including the current president.

The main similarity among all three cases — Honduras, Brazil and Guatemala — is that corruption was used to further concentrate power in the hands of an already powerful elite.

In Honduras, for instance, officials and contractors siphoned massive amounts of money from the national social security system and used some of the booty to fund political campaigns for members of Hernández’s National Party (Partido Nacional) — something the president himself has admitted.

Similarly, in Guatemala, Pérez Molina and Baldetti were elected in 2011 in part thanks to illicit campaign contributions from businesses and individuals that they then paid back once in power by awarding their donors state contracts.

And in Brazil, a portion of bribes and kickbacks related to public works contracts was funneled into political campaigns and vote-buying in Congress, serving to enrich both private business interests as well as government officials on the take, while simultaneously ensuring the perpetuation of corruption.

Chayes says that the model of corruption represented by Honduras — and in certain respects mirrored in Brazil and Guatemala — is not unique to Latin America.

“This corruption model, I would say, is something that applies to some 60 or 70 countries around the world,” Chayes told InSight Crime. “And it works in different ways in each of those countries. However, there are the same kinds of overlaps between the public and private sectors where government institutions are bent to serve network purposes.”

Chayes stresses that moving forward it is important to first recognize today’s corruption as the “intentional operating system of sophisticated and successful networks.”

Today’s corruption is not merely “cash in an envelope,” Chayes argues, but involves powerful, often international networks of corrupt actors “writing the rules governing political and economic activity to their own benefit.”

U.S. Funded Evangelicals and Coup Supporters Behind the New Commission to Purge the Honduran Police

Another scandal exposing police corruption and involvement of Honduran police commanders in assassinations and organized crime hit the press again in March 2016. Shortly after, on April 7, the Honduran Congress approved a decree legislating the purging of the National Police, declaring a clean up of the police a “national priority.” The decree called for the creation of a Special Reform Commission for the Purging and Transformation of the Police.

It is not the first time a scandal incited the approval of legislation to cleanup corrupt security forces. In January 2014, the Commission for Public Security Reform was also created, and today is widely admitted to have been a huge failure, even by those that applauded its effort. Some are not surprised that it never achieved what it was created to do.    

So the Honduran government is at it again. Days after the 2016 decree was approved, a three-member Special Reform Commission for the Purging and Transformation of the Police was formed. I thought it was worth taking a look at the organizational associations and backgrounds of the three appointed Commissioners – Omar Rivera, Alberto Solórzano, and Vilma Morales. 

From left to right: Ministry of Security, Julian Pacheco, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, ASJ's Omar Rivera, Vilma Morales, and Pastor Alberto Solórzano. Photo credit: el heraldo 

From left to right: Ministry of Security, Julian Pacheco, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, ASJ’s Omar Rivera, Vilma Morales, and Pastor Alberto Solórzano. Photo credit: el heraldo 

Omar Rivera, Advocacy Director, Association for a More Just Society (ASJ); Alliance for Peace and Justice (APJ)

Association for a More Just Society (ASJ) is a Honduran and U.S. faith-based organization that receives significant U.S. support from USAID to run Centros de Alcance that focus on “anti-gang and violence prevention” programs promoting extensively to address youth migration to the U.S; the Legal Advisory and Anti-Corruption Centers (ALAC); and a grant for an education program given under the Impulsing Citizen Participation, Transparency and Social Opportunities (Impactos), amongst others. ASJ receives support from the evangelical Christian Reformed Church in North America.

ASJ coordinates an initiative known as the Alliance for Peace and Justice (APJ), a broad group of “civil society organizations” that tends to dominate any spaces where “civil society” is consulted about important national issues including security, impunity, and corruption. Allies of APJ include the Civil Society Group, Transformemos Honduras, MOPAWI, and the Cofraternidad Evangelica de Honduras, amongst others. APJ is funded by the National Democratic Institute (who funds almost exclusively the same organizations allied with APJ) and the US Department of State, Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, created to “improve the effectiveness and coherence of the U.S. government in conflict situations.”

Its almost impossible to research one of ASJ’s programs without connecting it to U.S. funding and programs that promote U.S. policy and cosmetic solutions to major structural problems like corruption and impunity. Many in the Honduran social movement see ASJ and the U.S. Embassy as one in the same.

Pastor Alberto Solórzano. President, Confraternidad Evangelical (CE), board member, Alliance for Peace and Justice (APJ)

As mentioned previously, the Confraternidad Evangelica is one of the members of the ASJ-coordinated initiative APJ. It claims to represent 90% of all evangelical organizations in Honduras. A well-known pastor of the “Abundant Life” church and representative of the Confraternidad Evangelica, Evelio Reyes recently led public prayers in the Presidential Palace with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, the First Lady Ana de Hernandez, and attendees of many evangelical churches and organizations. Evelio Reyes, a close relative of the Minister of Defense, Samuel Reyes, and friend of President Hernandez, was the subject of a 2013 law suit filed by well-respected LBGTI Honduran activist, Erick Martinez. The pastor made discriminatory and degrading insults against the LBGTI community to his congregation telling them not to “vote for homosexuals or lesbians who corrupt the model of God.”

In Reyes defense, the Confraternidad Evangelica wrote a public letter, signed by Pastor Alberto Solórzano, one of the members of the Police Purging Commission, expressing their disagreement with the investigation against Pastor Reyes and justifying the homophobic statements as “moved by the interest to present a salvation plan for humanity in order to seek the preservation of the society.” These verbal attacks and hate speech against the LGBTI community are alarming considering the violence and assassinations reported by Honduran organizations. In the last seven years, 215 LBGTI people have been murdered in Honduras, 37 of which occurred in 2015 alone.

Upon nomination to the Police Purging Commission, individuals questioned the participation of Pastor Solórzano. According to a former Attorney General, Edmundo Orellana, “no religious minister can assume public functions,” claiming that the Pastor’s nomination was illegal. Orellana’s criticisms were ignored.

It is worth mentioning that the two alternates for the Police Purging Commission are Carlos Hernandez, the President of ASJ, and Jorge Machado, a Board member of the Confraternidad Evangelica.

Vilma Morales, former President of the Supreme Court; member, Intervention Commission of the Honduran Social Security Institute (IHSS); and member, Intervention Commission of National Welfare Institute for the Teaching Profession (IMPREMA).

Vilma Morales is best known for her participation in “intervention commissions” in at least two public Honduran institutions since 2009. She is also known as a major supporter of the 2009 military coup, denying in the weeks following that a coup taken place in Honduras. Morales represented the de-facto regime of Roberto Micheletti in negotiations after the coup, and insisted that the overthrown President Manuel Zelaya would face criminal charges upon returning to Honduras.

In Honduras, “intervention Commissions” have become understood as “privatization commissions”. In many occasions, as was the case with the IMPREMA, IHSS, and the telecommunications company, Hondutel, all public institutions were “intervened” or briefly handed over to a Commission for a structural review, that would later, propose structural reforms that set the institutions on the path to privatization. Vilma Morales was involved in two of the institutions mentioned and helped whitewash the corruption linked to high level officials in the Honduran government in both occasions, guaranteeing impunity, while ushering in major neoliberal reforms in both institutions. Morales will be known in Honduran history as a lapdog for the International Monetary Fund that ushered in the structural adjustments to the institutions.

In 2009, the de-facto government of Roberto Micheletti ransacked more than $40 million of pension funds from the Honduran teachers, one of the strongest bases of the post-coup social movement, the National Front of Popular Resistance (FNRP). The resulting financial crisis led to the intervention commission, which Morales headed, and later, recommended serious neoliberal reforms to the institution. With the intervention of their pension fund, teachers lost control of managing small loans, social benefits, and together with the approval of a new education law, Morales and the intervention commission assisted in ushering in some of the largest changes in public education in Honduras. The teachers’ movement, one of the strongest social movements in Honduras, fell apart as a result of the major structural changes to IMPREMA, which paved the way to a slow, incremental path to privatization of public education.

Years later in 2014, Vilma Morales was appointed as head of the IHSS Intervention Commission after Honduran journalist David Romero broke a $350 million dollar corruption scandal in the Honduran Social Security Institute.  The scandal involved the creation of a series of ghost companies that laundered money from the IHSS that managed social and medical benefits for public employees. The stolen money was linked to high-level officials in the current political party in power and multiple checks were deposited in the accounts of the National Party of Honduras. In the process, a financial crisis in the IHSS ensued. The IHSS was depleted of medicines, equipment, care and human resources and an estimated 3,000 people lost their lives as a result. As the crisis exploded and thousands of Honduras took to the street demanding justice, Morales was appointed to join the Intervention Commission set to review finances and restructure the IHSS. One of the Commission’s recommendations was the approval of the Law for Social Protection that was later passed in Congress and received heavy endorsement by Morales herself. Honduran unions and public workers heavily criticized the new law and mobilized to stop it with little success.

In December 2014, the Honduran government signed a $189 million dollars agreement with the IMF. In the stand-by agreement summary, the IMF applauds the structural changes made in IMPREMA, and the importance of modeling the restructuring of the IHSS off of the lessons learned in IMPREMA. Both institutional restructuring occurred after a “crisis” of corruption, the appointment and work of an Intervention Commission, and a new law that proposed radical neoliberal economic adjustments.

Vilma Morales, Omar Rivera, and Pastor Alberto Solórzano are individuals tied to strong interests in Honduras – U.S. embassy, evangelical and golpista interests. Their participation on the Special Reform Commission for the Purging and Transformation of the Police may provide a guiding light as to the U.S. position on decisions that the Commission will have to make given Rivera and Pastor Solórzano’s strong ties to U.S. funding. Examining Rivera and Solórzano’s associations also raises important questions about the strong U.S. support and funding for evangelical churches and organizations in Honduras. Vilma Morales’ role in the Commission may be reflective of some sort of economic restructuring, although to date, the Commission has not touched on the matter.

IFC investments through financial intermediaries linked to human rights abuses in Honduras, again

5 April 2016

 

Summary

  • New complaint lodged against IFC financial intermediary project in Honduras
  • Honduran activisits murdered
  • Global trend of killings of environmental activists on the rise

In October 2015 a Honduran indigenous Garifuna community, with support of local NGO the Black Fraternal Organisation of Honduras (OFRANEH), lodged a complaint with the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO), the accountability mechanism of the International Finance Corporation (IFC, the World Bank’s private sector arm). The complaint alleged a number of breaches stemming from the Tela Bay Tourism development project in Indura, including “land grabbing, community displacement, lack of economic benefits and environmental degradation”. The CAO found the complaint eligible for further assessment in December and is currently assessing the case further. One of the project’s financiers is Banco Ficohsa, Honduras’ third largest bank, in which the IFC has made several investments since 2008, including trade finance, housing and SME loans as well as an equity investment in May 2011. The IFC’s investments through financial intermediaries (FIs) have been repeatedly criticised by the CAO and NGOs claiming that the IFC is unable to determine the development impact of the investments and to ensure they do no harm (see Observer Spring 2015, Winter 2015, and  Spring 2014).

In the complaint OFRANEH sets out the deleterious impact of World Bank involvement in Honduras since the 90s in promoting the “restructuring of land registration systems and cadastre through [development] programmes that affect the rights of Garifuna communities”. OFRANEH concluded “that a set of World Bank projects promoted massive encroachment of Garifunas’ land on the north coast, facilitating illegal [land] titles to third parties of ancestral Garifunas’ land and the IFC financed investments in private sector projects built on this stolen land.” It requested that the CAO investigate the IFC investment in Ficohsa and undertake a “broader review of the World Bank policies and practices that have contributed to the dispossession of large-scale land in Honduras and in particular the Garifunas communities”.

Repeated human rights concerns, same suspects

This is not the first time that the IFC’s investments in Ficohsa have come under scrutiny by the CAO. In August 2013 the CAO initiated a compliance appraisal, triggered by Ficohsa’s significant exposure to Corporación Dinant, a controversial palm oil producer in Honduras, also subject to a CAO audit that was initiated in 2012 due to allegations of human rights violations (see Observer Winter 2014, Bulletin Aug 2014, Update 86).  In January 2016 the CAO released its monitoring report of the Ficohsa investigation, citing repeated concerns about IFC’s management of environmental and social risk in relation to Ficohsa’s lending to Dinant. The CAO concluded that “to date IFC has not assured itself that Ficohsa’s ongoing financing for Dinant is contingent on binding commitments to implement the performance standards, either through its loan agreements or the environmental and social action plan.” The CAO will continue to monitor the IFC’s supervision of Ficohsa and aims to release a follow up monitoring report no later than December 2016.

World Bank projects promoted massive encroachment of Garifunas’ land…, facilitating illegal [land] titles… and the IFC financed investments in private sector projects built on this stolen land.OFRANEH complaint letter to CAO

Honduran activists murdered

In early March Berta Cáceres, leader of Honduran NGO the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (COPINH), was murdered. Cáceres had led the peaceful opposition to the construction of the Agua Zarca dam, arguing it would destroy local indigenous Lenca communities’ farmland and limit their access to drinking water, and received continuous threats, harassment and persecution by the state and others. In October 2013 COPINH registered a complaint with the CAO concerning the Agua Zarca hydropower project, carried out by the company DESA, following the killing of an indigenous protestor, allegedly by the army and the building company, and intimidation of activists and local communities opposing the project (see Bulletin  Dec 2013, Observer Autumn 2013). However, the case did not come to conclusion, as CAMIF, IFC’s client, pulled out its investment in DESA and the Agua Zarca project. CAMIF’s withdrawal was followed by China’s Sinhydro, which cited publicly that its withdrawal was due to conflicts between the company and communities.

Following Cáceres’ murder numerous CSOs, such as COPINH, and  Both ENDS, called on all investors to pull out of the Agua Zarca project and do everything in their power to stop the violence and intimidation against activists. The Netherlands Development Finance Company (FMO) and the Finnish Finnfund suspended their support for the project one day after Nelson García of COPINH was also shot and killed in late March. On the website ‘Justice for Berta’, her children and COPINH demand “immediate cancellation of the Agua Zarca project, justice for the Berta’s murder, an end to the persecution of the Lenca community and justice for projects that threaten the environment and the lives of indigenous communities in Honduras”.

Killings of environmental activists a global trend

In April 2015 Global Witness, a UK based NGO, argued in its report How many more? that 2014 saw an increase in the killings of environmental activists. At least 116 environmental activists worldwide were killed, 40 per cent of which were from indigenous communities, with most working against hydropower, mining and agribusiness projects. The report described Honduras as “the most dangerous country to be an environmental defender” and “emblematic of the systematic targeting of defenders”. Three-quarters took place in Latin America, with South Asia the second-deadliest region. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, urged governments to give protection to environmental defenders. In March she told Climate Home, a global news agency: “The pattern of killings in many countries is becoming an epidemic definitely.” Tauli-Corpuz called for recognition of land rights and a robust legal system to prosecute perpetrators.

In late March the UN Human Rights Council approved a new resolution on the protection of human rights defenders addressing economic, social and cultural rights. An earlier draft version included a paragraph highlighting the human rights obligations of international financial institutions. This paragraph was removed in the final version due to calls for removal from the EU, China and Canada.

Palm Oil and Extreme Violence in Honduras: The Inexorable Rise and Dubious Reform of Grupo Dinant

Monday, 08 December 2014 11:11 By Jeff Conant, Truthout | News Analysis

As one of the fastest growing global commodities, palm oil has recently earned a reputation as a major contributor to tropical deforestation and, therefore, to climate change as well.

About 50 million metric tons of palm oil is produced per year – more than double the amount produced a decade ago – and this growth appears likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Because oil palm trees, native to West Africa, require the same conditions as tropical rainforests, nearly every drop of palm oil that hits the global market comes at the expense of natural forests that have been, or will be, burned, bulldozed and replaced with plantations.

Owned by Miguel Facussé, one of the wealthiest men in Honduras, (Grupo) Dinant has been associated with the killings of over 100 peasant farmers,

With deforestation garnering headlines due to forests’ crucial role in regulating the climate, global commodity producers, from Nestle and Unilever in Europe, to Cargill in the United States to Wilmar International in Indonesia, are recognizing the need to provide products that are “deforestation-free.” Other corporate-led initiatives like the public-private Tropical Forest Alliance that promises to reduce the deforestation associated with palm oil, soy, beef, paper and pulp, and the recent New York Declaration on Forests signed at the UN Climate Summit in New York, suggest that saving the world’s forests is now squarely on the corporate sustainability agenda.

To see more stories like this, visit “Planet or Profit?”

But what is being left behind is the other significant impact of palm oil and other agro-industrial commodities – namely human rights. Commitments to protect forests and conservation areas can, if well implemented, address environmental concerns by delimiting the areas of land available for conversion to palm oil. But natural resource exploitation is inextricably linked to human exploitation, and such commitments do little to address this.

A case in point is Grupo Dinant, a Honduran palm oil company that declared last month that it has been awarded international environmental certifications for its achievements in environmental management and occupational health and safety. Dinant has also been making overtures toward joining the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), including hosting the RSPO’s 4th Latin American conference in Honduras in 2013. But, Dinant, which produces about 60 percent of the palm oil in Honduras, is at the center of what has been called “the most serious situation in terms of violence against peasants in Central America in the last 15 years.”

Owned by Miguel Facussé, one of the wealthiest men in Honduras, Dinant has been associated with the killings of over 100 peasant farmers, and appears to be involved in a virtual terror campaign to ensure control of a large swath of land in the Lower Aguan Valley near the Caribbean coast of Honduras.

While credible human rights groups like Human Rights Watch denounce the killings and note that “virtually none of the crimes are properly investigated, let alone solved,” Dinant continues to enjoy financing from the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, support from the United Nations Clean Development Mechanism, and brand relationships with multinational consumer goods companies such as Mazola Oils.

The Aguán Valley and the Introduction of Palm Oil

The Bajo Aguán Valley, one of the most fertile regions in Honduras, has long been a center of agrarian conflict. In her book Grabbing Power: The New Struggles for Land, Food and Democracy in Northern Honduras, researcher Tanya Kerssen reaches back to the 1950s to show how a struggle between farmers’ associations and multinationals Standard Fruit and United Fruit Company set the scene for the land concentration that reigns today. Decades of peasant struggle led to a brief period in the 1970s when the government distributed land to smallholder farmers from other parts of the country, who then formed cooperatives to bring crops to market. The embattled region became briefly known as the “capital of land reform” – but these reforms have long since been rolled back, in part due to the country’s need to pay back its foreign debt.

In a few years in the early ’90s, more than three quarters of the land in the Aguan Valley was re-concentrated into the hands of a few Honduran oligarchs.

In the 1980s, a combination of loans from the InterAmerican Development Bank (IDB) and bilateral aid allowed the Honduran government to construct a road network in the Aguan, as well as three palm oil processing plants and a modern port. Hoping to pay down its large debts to the IDB, the state-controlled mills bought palm from peasant cooperatives at rock-bottom prices, in return promising peasants eventual control over the processing plants. In the early ’90s, an “agrarian modernization law” was passed with support from the World Bank and the US Agency for International Development that again stimulated large land purchases and made the Aguan Valley the national poster child for re-concentration of land.

Land Re-concentration, Rise of Grupo Dinant

Over the next several decades, cooperatives and smallholders were coerced into selling their land to powerful landlords, often through intimidation and manipulation, from bribes of peasant leaders to threats and outright violence – tactics that continue to reign in the region to this day. Peasant farmers in the Aguan again found themselves as day laborers on large plantations, working hard for little pay. In a few years in the early ’90s, more than three-quarters of the land in the Aguan Valley was re-concentrated into the hands of a few Honduran oligarchs. One of these landlords was Miguel Facussé.

Human Rights Watch confirms that government security forces themselves have committed human rights violations including arbitrary detentions and torture.

Among the wealthiest men in Honduras – and now the richest – Facussé established a series of food commodity businesses, culminating in 2005 with Grupo Dinant. Dinant produces cooking oil, snacks, and other food products, as well as biofuels. To do this, the company took a $30 million loan from the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation and a $7 million loan from the InterAmerican Investment Corporation (IIC). Trade liberalization also enriched Facussé: Both Unilever and Proctor & Gamble gained important footholds in Central America by acquiring distribution networks and brands owned by Facussé. The profits and the status conferred on Dinant through such purchases enabled more land purchases in the Aguan Valley, furthering the concentration of land.

In 2001, farmers in the region organized as the Unified Peasants Movement of the Aguán Valley (MUCA), with the aim of reclaiming their land rights through the courts. With legal routes exhausted, in 2006 they began land occupations. In June 2009, they occupied one of the palm oil processing plants of Exportadora del Atlántico, part of Grupo Dinant, provoking then-President Manuel Zelaya to promise to investigate the land rights issue. However, Zelaya was removed in a coup later that month.

The Killing Years

While violence had long been present in the region, the months following the coup saw a dramatic increase in killings. As of October 2010, a year after the coup, 36 small-scale farmers had been killed. None of these cases were resolved or brought to court, but as a result of the escalating violence and murders, the government militarized the area. During this time, Dinant became implicated in the murder of dozens of peasants.

In 2011, FIAN, an international NGO working for food rights, produced a report on human rights violations in Bajo Aguán, documenting “evidence of the involvement of private security forces hired by Dinant and other companies owned by Miguel Facussé in human rights abuses and, in particular, in the murder of peasants in Bajo Aguán.”

The government was eventually forced to convene both MUCA and the company to negotiate a deal in June 2011. The government agreed to distribute some 30,000 acres to the farmers, including 12,000 acres where oil palm has been planted by Exportadora del Atlántico – not by giving the land back, but by selling it at market prices. The company agreed to the proposal, but later announced it wanted to renegotiate it. In protest, other peasant groups began land occupations, exposing themselves to violent evictions by state security forces.

A 2012 public hearing on the human rights situation in the peasant communities of the lower Aguán concluded that the agrarian conflict there is the “most serious situation in terms of violence against peasants in Central America in the last 15 years.” By April 2013, at least 89 peasant farmers had been killed in the Aguan Valley.

Killings have continued with complete impunity, the region around the plantations has been heavily militarized, and long-standing peasant communities have been violently evicted.

Precise numbers are difficult to verify however; to quote Human Rights Watch, “Honduras is notorious for ineffective investigations.” Former Attorney General Luis Alberto Rubi told the Honduran congress in 2013 that 80 percent of homicides go unpunished; of 73 killings recognized by the government to be linked to land conflicts, seven have been brought to trial, and none has resulted in conviction. Human Rights Watch affirms that government security forces themselves have committed human rights violations including arbitrary detentions and torture.

The Role of International Financiers

In 2008, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank approved a $30 million loan to Dinant, to be delivered in two tranches of $15 million each. When the June 2009 military coup ousted the democratically elected president and violence in the Aguán Valley escalated, the IFC put disbursement on hold, but the first tranche was eventually distributed.

In its assessment of the potential concerns under IFC’s Policy on Social and Environmental Sustainability, the IFC noted that “a limited number of specific environmental and social impacts may result which can be avoided or mitigated by adhering to generally recognized performance standards, guidelines, design criteria, local regulations and industry certification schemes. Land acquisition is on a willing buyer-willing seller basis, and there is no involuntary displacement of any people.”

This proved to be far from the case, as the IFC could have easily foreseen.

The Inter-American Development Bank approved a loan for $7 million in June 2009, but never signed the agreement with the company and never paid anything out. A spokesman for the IADB said at that time, “In the case of Dinant, there was a significant shift in a number of matters surrounding the project that led us to reconsider. The political turmoil Honduras experienced in 2009 was one of the aspects affecting this decision. Other considerations included . . . a controversy over real estate ownership.”

Following the coup, Dinant became implicated in the murder of dozens of peasants. Killings have continued with complete impunity, the region around the plantations has been heavily militarized, and long-standing peasant communities have been violently evicted.

When FIAN’s 2011 report was brought to the German development bank DEG, the bank confirmed FIAN’s findings and canceled a $20 million loan to Dinant, “with a view to the evolving agrarian conflict in the Bajo Aguán region.” French company EDF Trading also cancelled a contract to buy carbon credits from Dinant, indicating that it was “taking the situation in Honduras very seriously.”

Private security guards outnumber police in Honduras by a ratio of 5 to 1.

By contrast, the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation has been stubbornly defensive about its $30 million relationship with Dinant. IFC claimed in 2008 that: “Dinant understands the importance of having good relationships with their neighboring communities and are quite proactive in this regard.”

In April, 2010, the IFC requested that Dinant hire an international security consultant to assess its security program and to provide training for the company’s security forces. The IFC said that the consultant would “work with Dinant to develop a Corporate Security Policy and Code of Ethics based on the UN Voluntary Principles for Business and Human Rights.”

Given the impunity that reigns in the region, reform of Dinant’s security force would prove to be a challenge. Human Rights Watch investigated 29 killings in the Aguan Valley and reports that 13 of the 29 killings, and one disappearance, suggest the possible involvement of private guards. The same report notes that Honduras has more than 700 registered private security firms, and numerous unregistered firms; the UN working group on the use of mercenaries reports that private security guards outnumber police in Honduras by a ratio of 5 to 1.

In December of 2013, an independent audit by the CAO Ombudsman of the IFC, a semi-independent body charged with overseeing the environmental and social safeguards applied to IFC loans, issued a stinging critique of the IFC for having failed to follow its own requirements.

“According to civil society source,” the CAO investigation states, “there were at least 102 killings of people affiliated with the peasant movement in the Bajo Aguán between January 2010 and May 2013, with specific allegations being made linking 40 of these to Dinant properties, Dinant security guards or its third-party security contractor. Allegations in relation to the killing of at least nine Dinant security personnel by affiliates of the peasant movement have also been made.”

A lucrative agro-industrial crop like palm oil, in a context of entrenched corruption and an authoritarian regime, lends itself to land grabbing and agrarian violence.

Still, the IFC rejected several of the CAO findings. Despite a list of demands sent to the World Bank by 70  civil society groups, the World Bank has yet to withdraw funding from the project. Instead, the IFC put in place an “enhanced action plan,” which requires Dinant to adopt voluntary security protocols and to “engage stakeholders” in order “to better understand the issues currently impacting communities and to bring strategic focus and overall coordination to Dinant’s existing corporate social responsibility programs, such as funding for school teachers, clinics, and conservation programs.” Nothing in the plan considers turning over land to local communities, and there is no mention of sanctions, or loan withdrawal for failure to comply.

The problem is not the crop, but the agro-industrial model; decades ago with Standard Fruit, Honduras was the archetype of the banana republic; today with Dinant it’s an oil palm republic.

The IFC’s refusal to disengage is especially troubling in light of the World Bank’s recent safeguards review, which seeks to weaken the bank’s environmental and social safeguards and to shift responsibility toward borrowing governments themselves. In October, 2014, over 100 civil society groups denounced the World Bank’s efforts, but no concrete response has been forthcoming.

Flex Crops and Consumer Campaigns

The rise of Corporacion Dinant as a leading palm oil producer in Central America is inseparable from its history as part of a long, violent and ongoing backlash against agrarian reform in Honduras. But it is also indicative of the ways in which a lucrative agro-industrial crop like palm oil, in a context of entrenched corruption and an authoritarian regime, lends itself to land grabbing and agrarian violence.

Anecdotal sources suggest that most of Dinant’s palm oil is exported to Mexico, where it is bought by Grupo Bimbo . . . largely responsible for a vast increase in Mexican consumption of palm oil in junk foods.

Palm oil production relies on cheap labor and large expanses of land to turn a profit. In order to be economically viable, nearly 10,000 acres of land are required to feed a single palm oil mill. But the economy of scale that palm oil demands to reap a profit is generally true across commodities – while palm oil is the particular villain in the case of Grupo Dinant, the problem is not the crop, but the agro-industrial model; decades ago with Standard Fruit, Honduras was the archetype of the banana republic; today with Dinant it’s an oil palm republic. Researchers have recently introduced the term “flex-crops” for crops that can be used for food, feed, fuel or industrial materia, and which lend themselves to land grabbing due to growing demand and the land area required to grow them.

Thanks to years of campaigning by environmental and human rights groups, the palm oil sector is undergoing what may be a sea-change: Palm oil producers and traders like Wilmar International, Golden Agri-Resources, and Unilever are adopting voluntary policies to improve their practices; consumer-facing companies including Colgate-Palmolive, General Mills, Kellogg’s and Procter & Gamble have strengthened their palm oil sourcing policies.

But the pressure to make these companies change comes from consumer companies who fear the brand damage that comes from sourcing palm oil that threatens orangutans and Sumatran tigers, and from financiers who have certain, albeit minimal, standards to uphold.

Anecdotal sources suggest that most of Dinant’s palm oil is exported to Mexico where it is bought by Grupo Bimbo – the commodity food conglomerate largely responsible for a vast increase in Mexican consumption of palm oil in junk foods. A campaign targeting Grupo Bimbo could gain some ground, but given the massive crisis of instability and conflict in Mexico, it seems unlikely. Dinant holds the license to use the Mazola trademark in Central America, but it is unclear whether the North American Mazola brand has any legal ties to Dinant that make it susceptible to consumer pressure.

Dinant is financed largely by a Honduran bank also backed by the IFC, and no US and EU financiers appear to hold shares in the company. As long as the IFC refuses to withdraw its financing and to push the company toward reforms that are unlikely to address the root problem, Dinant will maintain some credibility and will continue to produce some of the world’s bloodiest palm oil.

Copyright, Truthout

Palm Oil and Extreme Violence in Honduras: The Inexorable Rise and Dubious Reform of Grupo Dinant

Monday, 08 December 2014 11:11 By Jeff Conant, Truthout |

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/27864-palm-oil-and-extreme-violence-in-honduras-the-inexorable-rise-and-dubious-reform-of-grupo-dinant

2014.12.8.PalmOil.main

A Corporation Dinant worker repairs an irrigation system for oil palms in the Bajo Aguan region of Honduras’ northern coast, August 26, 2011. The violence over land titles in Bajo Aguan is the most volatile example of the social divide that burst into view a few years ago. (Photo: Edgard Garrido Carrera / The New York Times)As one of the fastest growing global commodities, palm oil has recently earned a reputation as a major contributor to tropical deforestation and, therefore, to climate change as well.

About 50 million metric tons of palm oil is produced per year – more than double the amount produced a decade ago – and this growth appears likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Because oil palm trees, native to West Africa, require the same conditions as tropical rainforests, nearly every drop of palm oil that hits the global market comes at the expense of natural forests that have been, or will be, burned, bulldozed and replaced with plantations.

Owned by Miguel Facussé, one of the wealthiest men in Honduras, (Grupo) Dinant has been associated with the killings of over 100 peasant farmers,

With deforestation garnering headlines due to forests’ crucial role in regulating the climate, global commodity producers, from Nestle and Unilever in Europe, to Cargill in the United States to Wilmar International in Indonesia, are recognizing the need to provide products that are “deforestation-free.” Other corporate-led initiatives like the public-private Tropical Forest Alliance that promises to reduce the deforestation associated with palm oil, soy, beef, paper and pulp, and the recent New York Declaration on Forests signed at the UN Climate Summit in New York, suggest that saving the world’s forests is now squarely on the corporate sustainability agenda.

To see more stories like this, visit “Planet or Profit?”

But what is being left behind is the other significant impact of palm oil and other agro-industrial commodities – namely human rights. Commitments to protect forests and conservation areas can, if well implemented, address environmental concerns by delimiting the areas of land available for conversion to palm oil. But natural resource exploitation is inextricably linked to human exploitation, and such commitments do little to address this.

A case in point is Grupo Dinant, a Honduran palm oil company that declared last month that it has been awarded international environmental certifications for its achievements in environmental management and occupational health and safety. Dinant has also been making overtures toward joining the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), including hosting the RSPO’s 4th Latin American conference in Honduras in 2013. But, Dinant, which produces about 60 percent of the palm oil in Honduras, is at the center of what has been called “the most serious situation in terms of violence against peasants in Central America in the last 15 years.”

Owned by Miguel Facussé, one of the wealthiest men in Honduras, Dinant has been associated with the killings of over 100 peasant farmers, and appears to be involved in a virtual terror campaign to ensure control of a large swath of land in the Lower Aguan Valley near the Caribbean coast of Honduras.

While credible human rights groups like Human Rights Watch denounce the killings and note that “virtually none of the crimes are properly investigated, let alone solved,” Dinant continues to enjoy financing from the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, support from the United Nations Clean Development Mechanism, and brand relationships with multinational consumer goods companies such as Mazola Oils.

The Aguán Valley and the Introduction of Palm Oil

The Bajo Aguán Valley, one of the most fertile regions in Honduras, has long been a center of agrarian conflict. In her book Grabbing Power: The New Struggles for Land, Food and Democracy in Northern Honduras, researcher Tanya Kerssen reaches back to the 1950s to show how a struggle between farmers’ associations and multinationals Standard Fruit and United Fruit Company set the scene for the land concentration that reigns today. Decades of peasant struggle led to a brief period in the 1970s when the government distributed land to smallholder farmers from other parts of the country, who then formed cooperatives to bring crops to market. The embattled region became briefly known as the “capital of land reform” – but these reforms have long since been rolled back, in part due to the country’s need to pay back its foreign debt.

In a few years in the early ’90s, more than three quarters of the land in the Aguan Valley was re-concentrated into the hands of a few Honduran oligarchs.

In the 1980s, a combination of loans from the InterAmerican Development Bank (IDB) and bilateral aid allowed the Honduran government to construct a road network in the Aguan, as well as three palm oil processing plants and a modern port. Hoping to pay down its large debts to the IDB, the state-controlled mills bought palm from peasant cooperatives at rock-bottom prices, in return promising peasants eventual control over the processing plants. In the early ’90s, an “agrarian modernization law” was passed with support from the World Bank and the US Agency for International Development that again stimulated large land purchases and made the Aguan Valley the national poster child for re-concentration of land.

Land Re-concentration, Rise of Grupo Dinant

Over the next several decades, cooperatives and smallholders were coerced into selling their land to powerful landlords, often through intimidation and manipulation, from bribes of peasant leaders to threats and outright violence – tactics that continue to reign in the region to this day. Peasant farmers in the Aguan again found themselves as day laborers on large plantations, working hard for little pay. In a few years in the early ’90s, more than three-quarters of the land in the Aguan Valley was re-concentrated into the hands of a few Honduran oligarchs. One of these landlords was Miguel Facussé.

Human Rights Watch confirms that government security forces themselves have committed human rights violations including arbitrary detentions and torture.

Among the wealthiest men in Honduras – and now the richest – Facussé established a series of food commodity businesses, culminating in 2005 with Grupo Dinant. Dinant produces cooking oil, snacks, and other food products, as well as biofuels. To do this, the company took a $30 million loan from the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation and a $7 million loan from the InterAmerican Investment Corporation (IIC). Trade liberalization also enriched Facussé: Both Unilever and Proctor & Gamble gained important footholds in Central America by acquiring distribution networks and brands owned by Facussé. The profits and the status conferred on Dinant through such purchases enabled more land purchases in the Aguan Valley, furthering the concentration of land.

In 2001, farmers in the region organized as the Unified Peasants Movement of the Aguán Valley (MUCA), with the aim of reclaiming their land rights through the courts. With legal routes exhausted, in 2006 they began land occupations. In June 2009, they occupied one of the palm oil processing plants of Exportadora del Atlántico, part of Grupo Dinant, provoking then-President Manuel Zelaya to promise to investigate the land rights issue. However, Zelaya was removed in a coup later that month.

The Killing Years

While violence had long been present in the region, the months following the coup saw a dramatic increase in killings. As of October 2010, a year after the coup, 36 small-scale farmers had been killed. None of these cases were resolved or brought to court, but as a result of the escalating violence and murders, the government militarized the area. During this time, Dinant became implicated in the murder of dozens of peasants.

In 2011, FIAN, an international NGO working for food rights, produced a report on human rights violations in Bajo Aguán, documenting “evidence of the involvement of private security forces hired by Dinant and other companies owned by Miguel Facussé in human rights abuses and, in particular, in the murder of peasants in Bajo Aguán.”

The government was eventually forced to convene both MUCA and the company to negotiate a deal in June 2011. The government agreed to distribute some 30,000 acres to the farmers, including 12,000 acres where oil palm has been planted by Exportadora del Atlántico – not by giving the land back, but by selling it at market prices. The company agreed to the proposal, but later announced it wanted to renegotiate it. In protest, other peasant groups began land occupations, exposing themselves to violent evictions by state security forces.

A 2012 public hearing on the human rights situation in the peasant communities of the lower Aguán concluded that the agrarian conflict there is the “most serious situation in terms of violence against peasants in Central America in the last 15 years.” By April 2013, at least 89 peasant farmers had been killed in the Aguan Valley.

Killings have continued with complete impunity, the region around the plantations has been heavily militarized, and long-standing peasant communities have been violently evicted.

Precise numbers are difficult to verify however; to quote Human Rights Watch, “Honduras is notorious for ineffective investigations.” Former Attorney General Luis Alberto Rubi told the Honduran congress in 2013 that 80 percent of homicides go unpunished; of 73 killings recognized by the government to be linked to land conflicts, seven have been brought to trial, and none has resulted in conviction. Human Rights Watch affirms that government security forces themselves have committed human rights violations including arbitrary detentions and torture.

The Role of International Financiers

In 2008, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank approved a $30 million loan to Dinant, to be delivered in two tranches of $15 million each. When the June 2009 military coup ousted the democratically elected president and violence in the Aguán Valley escalated, the IFC put disbursement on hold, but the first tranche was eventually distributed.

In its assessment of the potential concerns under IFC’s Policy on Social and Environmental Sustainability, the IFC noted that “a limited number of specific environmental and social impacts may result which can be avoided or mitigated by adhering to generally recognized performance standards, guidelines, design criteria, local regulations and industry certification schemes. Land acquisition is on a willing buyer-willing seller basis, and there is no involuntary displacement of any people.”

This proved to be far from the case, as the IFC could have easily foreseen.

The Inter-American Development Bank approved a loan for $7 million in June 2009, but never signed the agreement with the company and never paid anything out. A spokesman for the IADB said at that time, “In the case of Dinant, there was a significant shift in a number of matters surrounding the project that led us to reconsider. The political turmoil Honduras experienced in 2009 was one of the aspects affecting this decision. Other considerations included . . . a controversy over real estate ownership.”

Following the coup, Dinant became implicated in the murder of dozens of peasants. Killings have continued with complete impunity, the region around the plantations has been heavily militarized, and long-standing peasant communities have been violently evicted.

When FIAN’s 2011 report was brought to the German development bank DEG, the bank confirmed FIAN’s findings and canceled a $20 million loan to Dinant, “with a view to the evolving agrarian conflict in the Bajo Aguán region.” French company EDF Trading also cancelled a contract to buy carbon credits from Dinant, indicating that it was “taking the situation in Honduras very seriously.”

Private security guards outnumber police in Honduras by a ratio of 5 to 1.

By contrast, the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation has been stubbornly defensive about its $30 million relationship with Dinant. IFC claimed in 2008 that: “Dinant understands the importance of having good relationships with their neighboring communities and are quite proactive in this regard.”

In April, 2010, the IFC requested that Dinant hire an international security consultant to assess its security program and to provide training for the company’s security forces. The IFC said that the consultant would “work with Dinant to develop a Corporate Security Policy and Code of Ethics based on the UN Voluntary Principles for Business and Human Rights.”

Given the impunity that reigns in the region, reform of Dinant’s security force would prove to be a challenge. Human Rights Watch investigated 29 killings in the Aguan Valley and reports that 13 of the 29 killings, and one disappearance, suggest the possible involvement of private guards. The same report notes that Honduras has more than 700 registered private security firms, and numerous unregistered firms; the UN working group on the use of mercenaries reports that private security guards outnumber police in Honduras by a ratio of 5 to 1.

In December of 2013, an independent audit by the CAO Ombudsman of the IFC, a semi-independent body charged with overseeing the environmental and social safeguards applied to IFC loans, issued a stinging critique of the IFC for having failed to follow its own requirements.

“According to civil society source,” the CAO investigation states, “there were at least 102 killings of people affiliated with the peasant movement in the Bajo Aguán between January 2010 and May 2013, with specific allegations being made linking 40 of these to Dinant properties, Dinant security guards or its third-party security contractor. Allegations in relation to the killing of at least nine Dinant security personnel by affiliates of the peasant movement have also been made.”

A lucrative agro-industrial crop like palm oil, in a context of entrenched corruption and an authoritarian regime, lends itself to land grabbing and agrarian violence.

Still, the IFC rejected several of the CAO findings. Despite a list of demands sent to the World Bank by 70  civil society groups, the World Bank has yet to withdraw funding from the project. Instead, the IFC put in place an “enhanced action plan,” which requires Dinant to adopt voluntary security protocols and to “engage stakeholders” in order “to better understand the issues currently impacting communities and to bring strategic focus and overall coordination to Dinant’s existing corporate social responsibility programs, such as funding for school teachers, clinics, and conservation programs.” Nothing in the plan considers turning over land to local communities, and there is no mention of sanctions, or loan withdrawal for failure to comply.

The problem is not the crop, but the agro-industrial model; decades ago with Standard Fruit, Honduras was the archetype of the banana republic; today with Dinant it’s an oil palm republic.

The IFC’s refusal to disengage is especially troubling in light of the World Bank’s recent safeguards review, which seeks to weaken the bank’s environmental and social safeguards and to shift responsibility toward borrowing governments themselves. In October, 2014, over 100 civil society groups denounced the World Bank’s efforts, but no concrete response has been forthcoming.

Flex Crops and Consumer Campaigns

The rise of Corporacion Dinant as a leading palm oil producer in Central America is inseparable from its history as part of a long, violent and ongoing backlash against agrarian reform in Honduras. But it is also indicative of the ways in which a lucrative agro-industrial crop like palm oil, in a context of entrenched corruption and an authoritarian regime, lends itself to land grabbing and agrarian violence.

Anecdotal sources suggest that most of Dinant’s palm oil is exported to Mexico, where it is bought by Grupo Bimbo . . . largely responsible for a vast increase in Mexican consumption of palm oil in junk foods.

Palm oil production relies on cheap labor and large expanses of land to turn a profit. In order to be economically viable, nearly 10,000 acres of land are required to feed a single palm oil mill. But the economy of scale that palm oil demands to reap a profit is generally true across commodities – while palm oil is the particular villain in the case of Grupo Dinant, the problem is not the crop, but the agro-industrial model; decades ago with Standard Fruit, Honduras was the archetype of the banana republic; today with Dinant it’s an oil palm republic. Researchers have recently introduced the term “flex-crops” for crops that can be used for food, feed, fuel or industrial materia, and which lend themselves to land grabbing due to growing demand and the land area required to grow them.

Thanks to years of campaigning by environmental and human rights groups, the palm oil sector is undergoing what may be a sea-change: Palm oil producers and traders like Wilmar International, Golden Agri-Resources, and Unilever are adopting voluntary policies to improve their practices; consumer-facing companies including Colgate-Palmolive, General Mills, Kellogg’s and Procter & Gamble have strengthened their palm oil sourcing policies.

But the pressure to make these companies change comes from consumer companies who fear the brand damage that comes from sourcing palm oil that threatens orangutans and Sumatran tigers, and from financiers who have certain, albeit minimal, standards to uphold.

Anecdotal sources suggest that most of Dinant’s palm oil is exported to Mexico where it is bought by Grupo Bimbo – the commodity food conglomerate largely responsible for a vast increase in Mexican consumption of palm oil in junk foods. A campaign targeting Grupo Bimbo could gain some ground, but given the massive crisis of instability and conflict in Mexico, it seems unlikely. Dinant holds the license to use the Mazola trademark in Central America, but it is unclear whether the North American Mazola brand has any legal ties to Dinant that make it susceptible to consumer pressure.

Dinant is financed largely by a Honduran bank also backed by the IFC, and no US and EU financiers appear to hold shares in the company. As long as the IFC refuses to withdraw its financing and to push the company toward reforms that are unlikely to address the root problem, Dinant will maintain some credibility and will continue to produce some of the world’s bloodiest palm oil.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Jeff Conant

Jeff Conant directs Friends of the Earth’s international forests campaign; he is co-author of A Community Guide to Environmental Health (Hesperian Health Guides, 2008) and author of A Poetics of Resistance: The Revolutionary Public Relations of the Zapatista Insurgency (AK Press 2010).

El Secuestro de Vallecito, Honduras: Palma africana y petróleo.

El rapto de integrantes de la OFRANEH el pasado jueves 17 de julio, no fue más que una notificación de desalojo girada en contra de los Garinagu de Vallecito, por la elite que controla la costa norte de Honduras, en especial el corredor comprendido entre la bahía de Trujillo y la Moskitia.

Hasta el año de 1993, nuestro pueblo ejerció la propiedad comunitaria en la franja desde la desembocadura del río Aguan hasta la Laguna de Bacalar. En ese año, Miguel Facusse se apoderó en forma dolosa de la estratégica Punta Farallones. Casi simultáneamente una invasión de supuestos campesinos inducida por el General Castro Cabus se apoderó de río Miel, parte del hábitat funcional de la comunidad de Punta Piedra.

La expansión de la frontera de los agrocombustibles abarcó la franja costera, apareciendo en ese entonces las comunidades mestizas de Icoteas y Plan de Flores, las que se fueron poblando con trabajadores de las plantaciones de la palma, en su mayoría provenientes del interior del país.

Para 1994 la restante continuidad territorial dejó de existir, al ir Facusse  apoderándose de los terrenos  entre Vallecito y Punta Piedra, los cuales los Garifunas usábamos para la siembra de cocos y yucales a la orilla del mar. Por otro lado comenzó un frente de colonización en el río Sico, promovido por el Instituto Nacional Agrario (INA) para servir de amortiguamiento social al descalabro causado por la contra reforma agraria iniciada en el año de 1992.

El “modelo de desarrollo” a través de las plantaciones de agrocombustibles por el cual viene apostando Honduras, implica una acumulación de tierras en manos de una reducida elite empresarial cuya visión no difiere de la aplicada en el Congo belga a inicios del siglo pasado. Desde la plantaciones del grupo Numar (departamento de Atlántida) hasta  las de Facusse, Reinaldo Canales y René  Morales Carazo (departamento de Colón), impera una explotación inmisericorde de la mano obra y un uso extensivo de agrotóxicos, además de desecar buena  parte de los humedales costeros del país y de contaminar los mantos freáticos.

 

Narcotráfico y emporios palmeros

En la costa norte existe desde hace décadas circula el incesante rumor de la utilización  de las carreteras existentes entre las plantaciones de palma africana como pistas de aterrizaje. Los medios de comunicación hondureños han registrado en múltiples ocasiones durante los últimos 20 años, desde accidentes hasta decomisos en las plantaciones.

A partir de junio de 2009, se incrementó el arribo de aeronaves provenientes de Sudamérica, al mismo tiempo que los niveles de violencia se dispararon en el país. Honduras se convirtió en el epicentro del  trampolín del narcotráfico, sustituyendo a Guatemala como el eje ma´s importante para los diversos carteles vinculados al  trasiego de estupefacientes.

Al mismo tiempo que se incrementó el narcotráfico, las plantaciones de palma fueron multiplicándose a lo largo de la costa, especialmente en lugares reconocidos por su biodiversidad. Los humedales circunvecinos a las lagunas de Tocamacho y Bacalar fueron descombrados y posteriormente inundados  de palma africana.

Petróleo en el mar  caribe  y humedales costeros.

A partir de 1920 se dio inicio a la exploración de petróleo en Honduras, cuando se perforó el primer pozo en Omoa, Cortes. Pero es hasta la década de los años 90 que se produce entre  200 a 300 barriles diarios en el pozo Main Cape, localizado en la plataforma continental de la Moskitia.

El año pasado el Estado de Honduras firmó un contrato con el grupo British Gas (BG), concediéndole una superficie de 35mil kilómetros cuadrados de la plataforma marítima. El contrato fue realizado sin haber efectuado una consulta, previa, libre e informada con los pueblos indígenas que habitamos en la Moskitia.

Existen bastos yacimientos de petróleo a lo largo de la costa Caribe Mesoamericana. En la actualidad la compañía US Capital, se encuentra perforando en el Parque nacional Sarstum Temash, al mismo tiempo que del lado de la frontera de Guatemala la compañía Compañía Petrolera del Atlántico (CPA) ha perforando un pozo. Mientras, en Honduras y Nicaragua se efectúan exploraciones en la plataforma marítima del mar Caribe.

En Honduras se conoce la existencia de una serie de filtraciones de petróleo en la superficie de los humedales, entre ellos los del río Miel, colindantes con Vallecito. Desde la década años 90, existen rumores sobre la existencia de hidrocarburos en la franja entre la laguna de Guaimoreto y la de Bacalar, situación que ha generado fuertes presiones territoriales sobre las tierras de las comunidades Garífunas.

Palma, petróleo y narcotráfico se han convertido en la razón primordial para impulsar la expulsión del pueblo Garífuna de nuestro territorio ancestral, de las comunidades de los Departamentos de Colón y Gracias a Dios. Mientras la empresas turísticas se disputan las playas de la Bahías de Tela y Trujillo.

En nombre de un supuesto desarrollo, Honduras viene siendo subastada y entregada a supuestos “inversionistas extranjeros”, encontrándonos los  Garifunas y el resto de los hondureños secuestrados por una minoría parasitaria que ha venido saqueando el país desde hace décadas; y son los mismos que se encargaron de defenestrar el poder ejecutivo en el 2009, se apoderaron de la Corte Suprema en el 2012, y tomaron por asalto el Ministerio Publico en el 2013.

La lucha por el territorio de Vallecito es la lucha por la vida, ya que esta zona se ha convertido para el pueblo Garífuna en uno de sus pilares territoriales, ante el sistemático despojo territorial que se viene dando a lo largo y ancho de la costa Garifuna. Además ante el inexorable avance de la erosión costera, la zona se convierte en uno de los posibles lugares de relocalización para comunidades afectadas, especialmente aquellas que se encuentran ubicadas en cordones litorales.

Es por esta razón que la OFRANEH exige al Estado hondureño, asegurar la libre movilización y transito del pueblo Garifuna en nuestro territorio, sin que nosotros nos sentamos asediados, que se asegure el respeto a las tierras y territorios del pueblo Garifuna,  ademas asegure la integridad física de los miembros de la OFRANEH pero sobre todo que se inicie un verdadero proceso de restitución del Estado de Derecho en este país devastado por la pobreza, afectado por el mayor índice de criminalidad en el planeta, donde se están entregando para explotación y saqueo los bienes comunes de nuestro país al mejor postor, se pone en riesgo la seguridad alimentaria al privilegiar la producción de monocultivos en vez de la producción de granos básicos, donde enfrentamos el mayor índice de asesinatos de comunicadores sociales, la alta impunidad, y la indefensión de los defensores y defensoras de derechos humanos.

Hacemos un llamado para sumarse a la solicitud de Alerta, emitida por Amnistía Internacional, la cual se puede contactar en el siguiente url

http://www.amnestyusa.org/sites/default/files/uaa18514.pdf

Dado en la Comunidad de Sambo Creek a los 23 días del mes de Julio del 2014

Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña, OFRANEH

A 39 años prevalece impunidad en masacre de Los Horcones

http://radioprogresohn.net/index.php/comunicaciones/noticias/item/1128-a-39-a%C3%B1os-prevalece-impunidad-en-masacre-de-los-horcones

Fue una noche del 25 de junio de 1975, cuando producto de la lucha campesina, 14 personas fueron asesinadas en la hacienda Los Horcones, Olancho, hecho que hasta le fecha continúa en la impunidad como la mayoría de sucesos en nuestro país.

Esa noche hace 39 años, el terrateniente Manuel Zelaya, padre del expresidente del mismo nombre, autorizó al Sub teniente Benjamín Plata para que se instalara en la hacienda Los Horcones con un grupo de militares. El Mayor Enrique Chinchilla, fue contratado para eliminar a los dirigentes campesinos organizados, que realizaban una movilización desde Santa Clara a Tegucigalpa para demandar el acceso a la tierra.

Esta es una de las matanzas más crueles que registra la historia del agro hondureño. La masacre tuvo como principales protagonistas a las Fuerzas Armadas, al gobierno de Juan Alberto Melgar Castro y terratenientes de la zona, entre ellos Zelaya.

Previo al múltiple crimen, los campesinos organizaron varias movilizaciones, entre ellas: la toma de los juzgados de varias ciudades, el desarrollo de concentraciones masivas con interrupción de tráfico en carreteras y se había anunciado una protesta nacional para el 25 de junio de 1975.

El 25 de junio, catorce personas se dirigían a Tegucigalpa, para participar en la movilización contra el hambre, que consistía en la exigencia dirigida al gobierno para que hiciera el reparto de tierras improductivas entre jornaleros.

Pero una noche antes, los campesinos de Olancho pernoctaron en Juticalpa y pasaron la noche en el Centro de Capacitación Santa Clara, en donde agentes del Departamento de Investigación Nacional (DIN), sacaron violentamente a los que se encontraban adentro y los llevaron a la hacienda Los Horcones donde los torturaron y luego asesinaron.

Como parte final de la tortura, les quitaron la vida y arrojaron sus cuerpos a un pozo de 40 metros, que después se cerró con la explosión de dinamita, esto, para eliminar las pruebas.

Responsables

Al pasar el tiempo, la exigencia de justicia tomó fuerza en las organizaciones populares, por esta razón se presionó para que se iniciarán las investigaciones.

Sobre el crimen, los tribunales de justicia encontraron culpables al Mayor José Enrique Chinchilla, Subteniente Benjamín Plata y a los terratenientes José Manuel Zelaya Ordóñez y Carlos Bahr, quienes fueron remitidos a la penitenciaría Central. A pesar de eso salieron libres en 1980 favorecidos por un indulto otorgado por el gobierno.

“Exigimos que se haga justicia, pero lamentablemente la impunidad continúa, el poco tiempo que los responsables estuvieron presos, no es suficiente para lo que hicieron y para el dolor que nos causaron al quitarnos a nuestros familiares”, dijo con tono de decepción Glenys Estrada hermana de Ruth García Mayorquín, quien fue asesinada en esta masacre.

“Hasta le fecha en Juticalpa, siempre hacemos una movilización conmemorativa, en donde llevamos las fotografías de las 14 personas asesinadas y exigimos justicia, pero todo quedó en un simple recuerdo,” siguió argumentando Estrada.

Paradójicamente el gobierno creó un decreto para que el 25 de junio se registre la fecha bajo el acuerdo legislativo 47-2004 y se establezca como el “Día de los Héroes por la Justicia Social en Honduras”. Pero por otro lado no se retoma el caso y no se busca aplicar la ley a los responsables de esa brutal matanza.

Las víctimas de la masacre responden a los nombres de: Casimiro Cypher, padre Iván Betancourt, Máximo Aguilera (padre del dirigente de la Democracia Cristiana, Lucas Aguilera), Lincoln Coleman, Bernardo Rivera, Francisco Colindres, Fausto Cruz, Roque Ramón Andrade, Arnulfo Gómez, Ruth Mayorquín, María Elena Bolívar, Alejandro Figueroa, Juan Benito Montoya y Oscar Ovidio Ortiz.

A 39 años, parece que el suceso quedará en la impunidad y como un simple recuerdo para la clase política gobernante, que lejos de buscar retomar el caso y aplicar la justicia, siguen colaborando para dejar libres a las personas que criminalizan la lucha campesina en el país.

Will the bipartite system get the opposition back under control?

Did last November’s election results break the traditional bipartite system? Has the Liberal Party crumbled due to its internal splits and its third-place showing in those elections? Who’s playing the role of opposition these days? While crucial, these questions have no firm answers in this first post-electoral moment.

Ismael Moreno

In the National Congress’ inaugural session on January 22, Liberty and Refoundation (LIBRE) Party representatives went so far as to break the microphone on the legislative board’s table in response to the National and Liberal parties’ manipulation to ensure that Mauricio Oliva, a National Party representative and military adviser, would be elected to chair the new board. After that stormy expression of repudiation, the LIBRE bench went unnoticed for weeks. Finally, on March 18, it showed signs of life again, but this time not in opposition to decisions by the Liberal and National benches. It was rather a confrontation that almost ended in blows between two of its own legislators over differing ideas on how to elect the national human rights commissioner, or ombudsperson.

The Right takes advantage of an opposition that gives such signals by contrasting it with the traditional opposition, one that accepts all the rules of the game and shares public administration under those same rules in exchange for political favors.

A new political map

The results of last November’s general elections redrew the age-old political map, with the National Party winning the presidency with under 37% of the vote, the new LIBRE ousting the Liberal Party from second place with nearly 28%, the Liberal Party moving down to third place with just over 20%, and the also new Anti-Corruption Party placing fourth with over 13%. These novel results highlight LIBRE as the opposition party with real grassroots representation. The central challenge for the traditional political leaders over the three and a half years before the next elections will thus be to assure an “opposition” that again works in their interests. To a great extent the future of the bipartite system depends on playing this right.

Already working for these stakes are the gurus of the two traditional parties: former Presidents Carlos Flores Facussé (Liberal), Rafael Leonardo Callejas (National) and Ricardo Maduro (National). Together with current President Juan Orlando Hernández (National) and other political strategists such as Hernández’s security minister Arturo Corrales Álvarez, the three are determined to redefine the opposition.

These gurus know full well that society’s growing instability and the enormous weakness of the State’s institutionality
are a fertile brew in which an opposition might develop that’s not only outside their bipartite control but effective, and could even turn into an authentic alternative to the traditional parties’ proposals. In their mind this real possibility, already visible in the election results, is an imminent danger.

LIBRE doesn’t fit the mold

It’s true that LIBRE counts a majority breakaway faction of the Liberal Party (PLH) among its ranks and that its indisputable top leader, formerly deposed President Mel Zelaya, who comes from the crudest Liberal traditions, is now a bridge between the minority that remains in his old party and those who left it. In spite of everything, LIBRE as opposition still enjoys the trust of the two-party structures. It doesn’t fit the mold designed over three decades, a mold for shaping an opposition that will complement the governing party, co-govern with it, share posts and make shady deals for managing public affairs.

The opposition has been understood in Honduras as “the same monkey on a different branch,” only absent from the presidential offices and sometimes the legislative leadership body, but always holding shares in the judicial branch and the State’s various watchdog bodies. It has functioned very well like this for those 30 years , so integrated into the bipartite machinery that its workings have become almost mechanical. This “opposition” gave full legitimacy to the “democratic” model, but after the 2009 coup and especially after the barrage of new party proposals headed up by LIBRE, these mechanics have been drastically upset. An opposition disengaged from that bipartite machinery is viewed as a serious problem to be resolved by those devoted to keeping the machine’s gears oiled.

How to resolve this?

How are they planning to resolve this political novelty that’s eroding the very foundations of their model? Firstly, the extreme Right represented by President Juan Orlando Hernández must try to grab away the banners and goals of struggle of the two new parties that won 52 of the Congress’ 128 seats and 30 of the country’s municipal governments. To do so, the government is expanding programs such as the one called the “Ten Thousand Voucher,” a handout program that each government in turn has given in dribs and drabs to the poorest to win over or maintain their party loyalties. Now this paternalistic program is looking to reach beyond the marginal sectors already obedient to the National Party. The government is also bringing on line other paternalistic programs such as “A Better Life,” aimed at marginal sectors susceptible to discontent and thus capable of mobilizing behind LIBRE’s leftist banners.

Another step the defenders of the old status quo have taken is in the field of foreign policy. President Hernández is initiating a rapprochement with left-leaning governments. His first foreign policy act was to attend the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) Summit in Havana. CELAC, of which Honduras is a member, is made up of 33 independent States of the region and is conceived as an alternative integration mechanism to the Organization of American States, which is so dominated by the United States. A few weeks later Hernández revived diplomatic relations with the government of Ecuador and has taken steps to remain in Venezuela’s Petrocaribe initiative. There’s even talk of Honduras re-joining ALBA, if circumstances permit, which is ironic given that membership in it was not only interrupted by the coup that ousted Zelaya but used as an excuse for it.

The case of the ombudsman

The authoritarian political and economic model headed up by President Hernández has a long-term projection, with talk of consolidating it over the next 50 years. Achieving this requires an opposition that’s under control and incorporated into the model. The election of the ombudsperson in March was an example of some tactical maneuvering in that direction.

Obviously the goal was to assure that the new head of the constitutionally autonomous National Human Rights Commission (CONADEH) would be under the direct control of the executive branch. But they didn’t expect the barrage of diverse human rights organizations that became an authentic opposition in place of LIBRE’s weakened opposition in the National Congress. Not only challenging the intention of imposing the candidate for this post, these organizations proposed names and selection procedures. Twenty-one candidates turned up at the National Congress.

A legislative commission consisting of representatives from all parties including LIBRE was named to select candidates. Following hearings, the commission narrowed the choice down to seven for submission to the plenary. But in a lightning session on March 25, a National Party representative moved to elect Héctor Roberto Herrera, a candidate from his party’s crème de la crème who has the profile this authoritarian democracy needs; his election was pushed through with the votes of the National, Liberal and Anti-Corruption parties. At his swearing in to this post for the next six years, the LIBRE legislators shouted “Dictatorship! Dictatorship!” But nothing more…

The legislative siege

In Honduras’ bipartite system the the earth starts to move if any opposition escapes from machinery controlled by the party that didn’t win the presidency and istead identifies with an authentic Left. In the few cases in which such an opposition has threatened the breakdown of the traditional opposition’s machinery, it has always met with repression, physical extermination, ideological disqualification and an information barrier.

This year such an opposition has acquired an official citizenship card and sits with equal rights in seats intended only for an opposition that defends the bipartite democracy. LIBRE is a danger, not only for being opposition but also for defeating the traditional parties. This requires that the Right redouble its efforts to both isolate and discredit LIBRE and bolster the Liberal Party.

That means first of all obstructing LIBRE’s opposition in Congress, obliging it to move its pressure outside ordinary parliamentary rules. Thus, in the final sessions of the previous legislature, the outgoing rightwing legislators reformed the Constitution so that major issues for the State and even constitutional changes previously requiring a qualified majority can now be passed with no more than a simple majority. That means that the 52 National votes plus the 26 Liberal ones will suffice for any decision the bipartite system wants taken in Congress.

This ploy was decided in negotiations between the National and Liberal leaders upon hearing the electoral results, to prevent the 36-member LIBRE bench from blocking or otherwise influencing decisions taken by Congress. Even in the remote event that they join the 13-member Anti-Corruption Party bench, their combined votes still wouldn’t be enough to break the legislative barrier jointly erected by the traditional party representatives.

But blocking any move by the thus-far independent opposition isn’t the only goal. The negotiations between the shaken political elites of the far Right have deep-rooted and far-reaching objectives that will be expressed in specific votes.

Raise the President’s profile

The agreement among the corporate media owners is to raise the profile of President Hernández and keep it raised. This strategy was kicked off by fanning the flames of the conflict with El Salvador induced by a dispute over Conejo Island in the Gulf of Fonseca.

They want to ensure that the President’s profile stays in the headlines and penetrates grassroots consciousness of him as a leader for the long term, not just four years. Congress’ president already sent out a first feeler by stating that people shouldn’t be afraid of the word reelection because Congress always has recourse to legal devices such as plebiscites and referenda should the need arise, but meanwhile we have a President with such solid leadership that it’s worth extending his mandate for more than the established single term.

A priority of the far Right’s strategy is eliminating the constitutional “articles set in stone” that prevent reelection. In the event of securing reelection, Juan Orlando Hernández would have the first option. The door is already being pried open for a Constituent Assembly or at least striking down these ironclad constitutional changes to allow reelection. Whether or not this Constituent Assembly is formed is now in the hands of the far Right.

At the same time they’re trying to turn the Liberal Party back into a force capable of winning the elections in November 2017. This option is based on the possible attrition of President Juan Orlando Hernández as well as the entire National Party due to their hardline policies on economic issues and their repressive and militaristic response to social demands, which could possibly lead to LIBRE coming out of those elections the victor. That unacceptable scenario makes regaining control of the badly split and weakened Liberal Party an imperative for the leaders of both traditional parties.

The gurus of the bipartite system don’t tolerate factors and actors that escape the mold of their political and economic model. With an oligarchic and kleptocratic identity, they’ve given clear signs of unwillingness to cede even a millimeter. And the term kleptocratic isn’t a gratuitous insult; they’ve earned their vocation as thieves over many decades of squandering state assets and diverting public funds into private accounts. A debate in search of an alternative model to the bipartite system based on a minimum consensus that might respond to the country’s chronic instability continues to be an extremely remote possibility.

What about the Left?

Pulling together the opposition needed if it’s to continue governing is a major headache for the elites of the bipartite system and they are investing energy and resources in that quest. Shouldn’t grassroots and leftwing sectors be devoting their efforts to consolidating a political opposition that will respond to the challenges they’re facing?

In the last four years the Reflection, Investigation and Communication Team (ERIC), created as a social work of the Jesuits in the city of El Progreso, Honduras, in 1980, has conducted four public opinion polls to find out what society thinks about the country’s situation and the behavior of the different social, political and religious actors. All four surveys show that the population distrusts the political proposals of all parties, but particularly the two traditional ones. Over 80% of those polled perceive politicians, including party leaders and legislators, as deceitful and believe all judges, public prosecutors, police and executive branch officials lie. Nonetheless, asked who they think is most responsible for trying to find solutions to the precarious situation they’re living in, people either don’t mention actors associated with the grassroots movement, the National Popular Resistance Front and left leaders in general, or include them way down the list.

The Honduran Left is significantly distanced from the population’s daily reality. It’s true that the Left, represented by LIBRE, pulled almost a million votes in last year’s elections, but they aren’t hard votes or votes of affinity. They’re largely a no-confidence vote against the traditional parties and a vote of desperation in the face of a crisis with no seeming solution. In other words, they are cast to punish the bipartite system more than ideological or militant votes for the Left. According to the surveys of the last four years, people feel no more distrusting of the traditional political parties than distant from grassroots and leftwing leaders.

To escape from this bubble

The organized Left and grassroots sectors are oblivious to this distance. With resources aimed at bringing about transformations that will help the people most hurt by neoliberal policies, every organization, every union, perhaps without realizing it, ends up offering recipes for resolving the crisis as if they were the only possible solutions when in fact they’re nothing more than proposals that guarantee the survival of the organizations’ own members.

While they all strive to comply with their particular agenda for struggle, the surveys from these past four years all found that people’s daily lives continue to be shaped by television and by the churches that know how to reach down into their hearts. Political grassroots and civil society leaders often live in a bubble, believing that what they think is what all impoverished people in Honduras think. This bubble offers a lot of security, including economic, and above all “saves” them from discovering their mistake of being politically, ideologically, humanly and even spiritually distant from the daily reality of people living in poor urban neighborhoods and rural villages.

Our population’s level of social and political awareness is so fragile that most people don’t care who’s in government and who’s in the opposition; it doesn’t matter who they are or where they come from. These people have serious food, security and employment problems to deal with every day, and the only thing that matters to them is that somebody solve these problems. The least of their worries is whether those who guarantee them food and security are an authoritarian dictatorial government or populist or leftwing leaders. It’s all the same to them.

We live in a country where the current circumstances, both objective and subjective, provide fertile ground for personalities with dictatorial features, strong men and arbitrary populists to flourish. Most of the Honduran population continues to be grounded in a profoundly conservative mentality. A Left that wants to put itself forward as the people’s opposition but is distant from those very people will continue to live comfortably in its bubble, churning out anti-neoliberal speeches. Breaking out of that bubble and eliminating its distance from what people feel, think, dream and suffer is a prerequisite to the Left achieving the status of an opposition that finally breaks the bipartite system.

Ismael Moreno, sj, is the envío correspondent in Honduras.