Bajo Aguán: a “special administrative region” for human rights violations

Peasant and popular organizations denounce a new wave of repression

Giorgio Trucchi – Lista Informativa "Nicaragua y más"
Militarization of the Lower Aguán  © (Foto G. Trucchi)

Militarization of the Lower Aguán  © (Foto G. Trucchi)

The Aguán Valley, in north-eastern Honduras, continues on red alert. While the government and members of Congress are determined to accelerate the creation of “paradisiacal” special administrative regions, offering a “quality standard of living, first class jobs, services and zero insecurity,” forced evictions, persecution and arbitrary detentions continue in the Aguán region.
On January 27, 2011 over 120 families of the Peasant Movement of Elixir in the Sabá zone were forcibly evicted. Police and army began hunting down 18 members of the movement and its President, Blanca Espinoza, who had to abandon her nine children in order to avoid arrest. All are accused of damaging private property and usurpation of land.
Two people were jailed and the community of Elixir was militarized.
“At the same time, repressive State forces and the private guards of businessman César Velásquez escalated repression. On February 2, they detained and jailed 21 members of the organization including five women and five minors” stated a leader of the teachers union and member of the Executive Committee of the National Resistance Front (FNRP), Wilfredo Paz.

Legal and human rights defenders intervened immediately, obtaining their release. “The intention was to wait for 24 hours, invent a series of charges and then issue arrest warrants to keep them in jail. But they could not get away with it” explained the FNRP leader.  

The situation is difficult in the midst of a climate of intimidation and insecurity for thousands of peasant families in the Bajo Aguán.

“The repressive forces have created a monitoring and control system in the entire zone.  It is almost impossible to approach the peasant groups in the settlements without being detected and pursued by the guards of the private landowners.  They have even gone after international representatives who come to the zone to understand what is happening,” stated Paz.

Harassment and threats against peasant leaders continues as well.  Juan Chinchilla, a young leader with the Unified Peasant Movement of the Aguán (MUCA) and the FNRP, was kidnapped on January 7th.   After being interrogated, threatened and tortured, he was able to escape his captors.

One month after his escape and without having committed any offense, Chinchilla continues in hiding in Honduras for fear of being assassinated.

“Compañero Juan Chinchilla remains in hiding because there are enough indications that they continue looking for him. On several occasions, unknown, armed actors have looked for him in the peasant settlement of La Concepción, where his family lives.

In addition – continued Wilfredo Paz – last week, two vehicles were parked for a long time in front of the house where the parents of Juan Chinchilla live. These are clear indications that his life is still at risk” he said.  

Despite this situation, the peasant and popular organizations in the zone and the FNRP at the department level, do not renounce their objectives.  
“We continue to demand access to land; integral agrarian reform and we denounce the decision to declare Decree 18-2008 unconstitutional.  Mobilizations will not cease and we insist on the urgency of installing a permanent observatory for human rights that is national and international in character,” concluded Paz.
Meanwhile, the FRNP in Colón announced that it will soon present the formation of a departmental structure for human rights to safeguard and defend the lives of thousands of families and people who continue to resist.