Two-year land struggle brings death toll of massacred peasants to 45
By Giorgio Trucchi – Rel-UITA
The land conflict that has been plaguing the northeast Honduran region of Bajo Aguán for the last two years has taken a new innocent life. At 7 a.m., Friday, Jan. 20, two hooded men on motorcycles gunned down Matías Valle, former vice president of the United Peasants Movement of Aguán (MUCA) and accounting officer in the peasant company La Chile, at the La Confianza peasant settlement.
This new murder brings the death toll in Bajo Aguán to 45, in little over two years. These murders target organized peasants who are fighting for access to land and a decent life for their families.
“Sadly we’ve just been informed that our fellow worker Matías Valle died minutes ago, as a result of several gun wounds. Valle was attacked by strangers while waiting for the bus at Quebrada de Arena, where he lived,” MUCA General Secretary Yoni Rivas told Sirel.
According to several witnesses, the two gunmen rode by on a motorcycle with their faces covered by ski masks, and, without saying a word, they fired their guns repeatedly at Valle.
“There’s no doubt this new murder is connected with the current land conflict in Bajo Aguán and the large landowners. They want to pressure us into accepting the proposal from the government and the private banks to buy these lands.”
“We have rejected this agreement already, because what they’re really trying to do is strangle us financially. They want to put us into debt so they can then come and take away the land that has cost us so much sacrifice,” Rivas explained.
Matías Valle was vice president of MUCA until mid 2011 and he was also a member of the negotiating committee that in April 2010 signed the first agreement with the government. At the time of his death he was in charge of accounting at the peasant undertaking La Chile, which belongs to the settlement La Confianza.
In August 2010, Matías Valle and another peasant leader, María Gutiérrez, were invited to Tegucigalpa as representatives of MUCA to participate in the third meeting of the Executive Committee of the Latin American Federation of Coca-Cola Workers (FELATRAC), organized by the IUF, to give their testimony of the peasant struggle in Bajo Aguán.
At that meeting, they received the unconditional support of IUF Latin America (Rel-UITA) and its labor affiliates. “We are delighted to have you here with us. Know that you can count on our greatest support and solidarity. On behalf of all of our organization, please accept our flag. Take it back with you so you can look at it and remember that you are not alone,” IUF Regional Secretary Gerardo Iglesias told them then.
Following the militarization of Bajo Aguán and the launching of Operation Xatruch II in September 2011, nine men and one woman were killed, among them three of the main leaders of the Bajo Aguán peasant movements.
Valle “was a very valuable activist, fully committed to our struggle and essential in the process of negotiation with the government and the African palm landowners.
Sadly he met his death today, at the hand of these murderous gunmen. We’re going to demand a thorough investigation, so that this crime does not go unsolved like so many others,” the MUCA general secretary said.