A La Voz de los de Abajo delegation of 8 people is in Honduras (February 14-22) to accompany the campesino movement and to support the Internacional Encuentro por los Derecho Humanos en Aguan February 17-19. We are traveling with compañeros and compañeras from the National Center for Rural Workers (CNTC) and will be sharing ourexperiences and the stories of the campesinos.
It is beautiful; green fields of beans, peas, tomatoes, corn, papaya trees, coconut palms and African palm with wooden and palm houses scattered throughout the scene it could be an advertisement for themodel small farming community in Central America –but bulldozer tracks run across many of the fields of vegetable and almost all the houses are smashed flat, or reduced to piles of sticks with household items,
shoes, even toys scattered in the debris. We walk with the campesinos and campesinas around the settlement, stopping at the piles of rubble that were their houses and they tell us what happened.
On February 8th at 6 am more than 200 armed troops (in National Police and the Army’s 15th Battalion uniforms, with bulldozers from a private company arrived at the community. Many of the troops were
wearing shirts that said “DOLE” under bullet proof vests with markings of the National Police or military. The judge who accompanied thesecurity forces (juez ejecutor) to execute the eviction order was wearing a Standard Fruit (more well known as Dole ) vest. It is not unusual for a big land owner to pay for an eviction but thecampesinos told us it is unusual and probably illegal for judges and “official troops” to wear uniforms of the big agribusiness landowners.
The community also was sure that the “Dole” shirted troops were really private security from Standard Fruit Honduras who had been given government security uniforms for the eviction, something which the campesinos and their representative from the CNTC say is illegal.
The entire community was given only 30 minutes to gather their familymembers and belongings and leave their land and homes. The men, women and children had to run and evacuate their lands finally heading
towards the border with the adjacent department of Colon where the eviction order would not have power. It began to pour rain and the community was gathered on the Colon side of the border with no water, food, or shelter until they were able to move again to safer places.
Meanwhile the armed troops used bulldozers to destroy more than 80 of the homes and to destroy fields, cut down plants and trees, and pulled up yucca. But the campesinos are determined to continue on the land and to win title to it. On February 13 a group of the families from the campesino movement moved back onto their land, knowing that their claim to the land should be recognized under the agrarian laws. Their situation is precarious. They are living in makeshift shelters and some abandoned buildings. Their school for more than 60 children from the community is closed. Their teachers were from an NGO project and the community doesn’t know if they will come back. Yet the situation is even more precarious because they know that there is a high risk of another eviction at any time.
The campesinos asked us to let the world know about their struggle and look for ways to help them pressure for a peaceful resolution of the land ownership for them. They also have emergent need for food, water and for accompaniment.
One way we can help in the U.S. is to pressure Standard Fruit (Dole) Corporation to give up their illegal claim to the land and to immediately stop all threats of violence and violent actions against the community. The Honduran government and security forces also need to be held accountable for their collaboration with the agri-corporation and for the ongoing threats and violence in the countryside.
Background and History- Standard Fruit and Salado Lislis
In June 2010, 100 families recuperated land in Salado Lislis that is
eligible for agrarian reform expropriation. The land was claimed by
Standard Fruit Honduras (part of the Dole brand in the US). Standard
Fruit Company is a U.S. Corporation, which along with United Fruit
Company, notoriously dominated the Honduran economy and politics for
years. Standard Fruit (Dole) had a 100 year concession for land along
the coast in this area of Atlantida. When the concession expired, the
land was returned to the Honduran government which then immediately
sold the land to a questionable, newly-formed company called Standard
Fruit Honduras. The new “Honduran-owned” company was formed to side
step a Honduran law which prohibits foreigners from owning land within
a certain distance from the coast line. The Honduran name used to
register Standard Fruit Honduras is actually that of the Chief of
Security for Standard Fruit (Dole) operations in Honduras, thus being,
what Hondurans call a “presta-nombre”, someone who sells the use of
their name for property transaction that require a Honduran citizen.
Despite two years of legal processing and negotiations with the
National Agrarian Institute (INA), the obvious irregularities with
Standard Fruit’s claim, and the eligibility of the land for
expropriation, the land title has not been resolved. Decree 18-2008
issued by former President Zelaya, ousted by the coup d’e’tat of 2009,
would have resolved the conflict in favor of the campesinos. The
decree was yet to be enforced when the coup d’e’tat took place and
then never enforced prior to being annulled in early 2011 by the coup
government of Pepe Lobo. Adding to the insecure situation for the
campesino families in Salado Lislis is the fact that their land also
borders palm plantations owned by the infamous large land owner Rene
Morales, a major palm grower and processor, who is involved in much of
the extreme violence against campesinos in the nearby Aguan Valley,
where more 46 campesinos have been assasinated in the last year and a