Early this morning, Sunday August 14, campesinos from the Movimiento Campesino Colonia Nueva Vida de Rigores, occupied the Empresa Palmera Panama, ten minutes from the community Rigores in Trujillo, Colon. Shortly afterwards palm company security forces and the military launched an attack, opening fire on the campesinos, killing 17 year old Javier Melgar. Authorities in Colon have refused to recover the body and the palm company security forces refuse to allow Melgar’s family to recover the body.
On Saturday, August 13, palm security forces and military, believed to be the same forces responsible for today’s attack, opened fire in the Rigores community. The same day in the nearby community of Guadalupe Carney, home to the Campesino Movement of the Aguan, seventeen year old Lenikin Lemos Martinez and eighteen year old Denis Israel Castro were beaten by police, arrested and charged with murder in what their neighbors claim are false, politically motivated charges. On Tuesday, August 9 the MCA had visited Rigores with a women’s brigade from the Via Campesina.
The community of Rigores was violently evicted and over 100 homes burned on June 24 by police and irregular security forces that also work for palm plantations. On July 1 the same forces again attacked the community, burning homes that families were attempting to rebuild, but the presence of an international observation delegation deterred further violence. Again, on August 2, police and private security forces perpetrated an armed attack on the community wounding a man from a neighboring community, Ariel Lara. Since the year 2005 Rivera has requested eviction orders but all had been suspended by courts.
On May 15, 2011 Francisco Pascual Lopez, a farmer from the neighboring community of Rigores was tending his cattle when, according to an eye witness, security guards working for Miguel Facussé shot Pascual in his land, and then dragged him alive into the Finca Panama. The witness ran for help, and even though community members found a trail of blood police refused to enter the Finca Panama to locate the injured man. The Finca Panama belongs to Honduran palm oil businessman Miguel Facuse who over the past twenty years has acquired enormous extensions of land in the Aguan often through fraudulent, illegal and violent means. Campesino organizations in the region had been immersed for decades in legal and political processes for the recognition of their land rights. Following the June 28, 2009 military coup the political and legal processes hit the wall of impunity created as part of the coup, and communities began occupying lands.