CODEH: Campesinos in Aguán are open to dialogue

Posted on April 11, 2010

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The Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras (CODEH), in the face of the current conflict in the Colon Department derived from the land ownership struggle and high levels of violence, declares with a particular focus on the Aguan Valley that:

1 .- That on Friday, April 09 and Saturday April 10, 2010, a commission with our organization headed by the Chairman of the Committee, Andrés Pavón Murillo, visited the agrarian conflict area in the Aguan Valley and met with leading members of the Unified Peasant Movement of Aguan (MUCA) and with officials of the National Agrarian Institute (INA) in a fraternal dialogue.

2 .- We confirmed that there is an asserted interest and willingness from the peasant leadership to reach an agreement that could restore their rights as beneficiaries of the Agrarian Reform Law; that they have not renounced to the continuation of a dialogue to reach an agreement that could restore rights that have been historically neglected to them. We bore witness that they have not abandoned their work for a way out the conflict, as in scheduled talks this coming Tuesday 13 with members of the highest levels of the government.

3 .- CODEH talked to government officials about the mobilization of police and military forces in the area and obtained a response that the fundamental purpose of the movement of troops is meant to start a general disarmament scheduled as a result of the high rate of violent deaths in the country. The four years of the last administration left an indicator of 63 violent deaths per 100 thousand inhabitants, and as a result of the political crisis arising from the coup last year (2009), more than 66 deaths per 100 thousand inhabitants were registered. The highest index of violence in Latin America was held by Colombia with 81 violent deaths per 100 thousand inhabitants, but is currently logged as an average of 33 violent deaths per 100 thousand inhabitants. The security situation in Honduras is currently critical.

4 .- We were told that there are no plans for evicting farmers who are presently claiming their right to land. The department of Colon is currently one of the most violent departments of Honduras, violence that instilled fear on the people and even journalists who are being killed or threatened. CODEH could verify the mobilization of police and military troops in the area. This action took the general population by surprise but perhaps not the peasant population in the struggle for their land rights, who look with fear at this security operation since they have been warned that this action is oriented towards them.

WHAT WE HOPE FOR:

a. – To not lose sight of the struggle in claiming rights in favor of the families who are currently making such demands under the Agrarian Reform Law, and to reach an agreement that could prevent a conflict in the near future,

b. – That these actions do not disengage the continuation of a dialogue and debate strategy between the farmers and the government. We should focus on achievements that can provide for a continuity in the struggle for other denied rights.

c. – Let us not fall into a trap of deterrence generated by the incorporation of another element of tension into the Aguan crisis. Let us not lose sight of the struggle towards a compliance with the Agrarian Reform Law. If the area´s militarization is not mean to reduce the potential of crime in the area but to attack the peasants who are not guerrilla members, it will mark forever any attempt from this government to implement a human rights policy.

WE VOW TO:

1 .- Make efforts oriented towards opening a regional office of the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras (CODEH) in the city of Tocoa, from which we will constantly monitor the compliance of agreements to be reached by the negotiating commission.

2 .- Follow up on the militarization of the area and report on practices contrary to human rights and whether such provisions respond to a state policy aimed at criminalizing poverty, organizing efforts, opinion, and the mobility of a selective population such as the MUCA.

3 .- Support MUCA members in their potential for ownership and particularly in their ability to affect their current political situation which sets them as protagonists of their own history.

4 .- Determine the legitimacy and possible implications of the militarization of the Colon department.

SOURCE: CODEH

RELATED: Military troops are mobilized in Aguán (FIAN), Honduran government makes statement on the “possession of weapons” (COFADEH), Statement of the National Front of Popular Resistance on the militarization of Aguán (PDF)