Declaration of the Permanent International Observatory of the Aguán

We, members of the Honduran Social Movement, the Campesino Organizations of the Aguán, the National Front of Popular Resistance of the Department of Colón and international Human Rights organizations who attended the opening of this Observatory of Human Rights, before the National and International Community declare:

 That protected by the fundamental charter of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in international treaties that uphold the fundamental rights of peoples, especially indigenous populations under threat, in the introduction of the Constitution of the Republic and in the Articles 59, 60 and 61 which literally state: that the Constitution guarantees to Hondurans and foreigners residing in the country the right to the inviolability of life, personal security, liberty, equality before the law, and property; the Article 64 also states that the right to life is inviolable; the Article 66 which prohibits the death penalty, and all the other articles relating to claims, rights and individual rights protected by the principle of self-determination and the exercise of popular sovereignty, in the context of permanent violation of human rights of the people of the Department of Colón and the Atlantic Coast of Honduras, especially the climate of terror, murder, persecution of peasant groups in the region and the constant danger that face human rights defenders in front of Court officials, businesspeople and landowners such as Miguel Facussé, Reynaldo Canales and Rene Morales, who are using an army of security guards and murderers to do the work of hired killers. That these landowners, acting under the politic approval of the National Agrarian Institute headed by the Minister Cesar Ham, of the President of the Republic Porfirio Lobo Sosa and his Minister of Security and Defence, are articulating this third militarization of the Lower Aguán, called "Xatruch II ", using conventional war weapons on land as well as helicopters and aircraft armed with destructive weapons that are ready to be used.
The scenario that has prevailed since December 9, 2009, when the agrarian conflict deepened in the Aguán, has the following characteristics:
a.       Criminalization of the fight for our rights and especially the struggle for land driven by peasant organizations, a political strategy implemented since the Honduras coup of June 28, 2009 which deepened in the subsequent months as the Supreme Court of Justice of the country, repealed Decree 18-2008, intended at facilitating mediation processes between the state and landowners to resolve land disputes, following an appeal of the Federation of Ranchers and Farmers of Honduras. This decision made possible the eviction of thousands of peasant families that have many years of being in possession of their land but had not been able to get a title, the eviction of indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands to build "model cities" with citizens and foreign capital, in clear violation of national sovereignty, constituting a state within a state. Smear campaigns to criminalize the struggle were led against the Peasant Movement of Aguán and leaders of the National Front of Popular Resistance of the area. The Security Secretariat invented the threat of strong armament among the peasants, who were branded as rebels, criminals and thieves by the Honduran oligarchy-owned mass medias, to this day maintaining on the international level a media blackout so that the world does not find out about the extermination of the rural population in the Aguán.
b.      Murder of farmers from different organizations, reaching a record number of 46 farm workers who have died during the agrarian conflict without any action on the part of those responsible for enforcing justice, with the result that impunity still reigns in these case as in many others.
c.       Unlawful entry and the imposition of curfew or state of siege on the settlement of Guadalupe Carney in December 2010, at least three massive raids of the Rigores peasant movement and the Rigores National Recuperation Movement from June to November 2011. In this community with the raids came a reign of terror as all the houses were burned and destroyed as well as crops, schools and churches. Peasants, adults, children and youth were arrested and kidnapped and were inflicted violent methods of physical and psychological torture.
In recent months, police, Honduran national army troops, security guards and hired assassins which usually cover their faces with ski masks, carried out drills of massive raids twice on the settlement of the Unified Peasant Movement of Aguán (MUCA), established with the approval of the State and the actual Government in the settlement of Los Marañones, and twice in the settlements of the MUCA of the right bank of the river Aguán, La Confianza, La Aurora and La Lempira; Colonel Espinal, who serves as Commander of Operation "Xatruch II" declared that all the settlements would be intervened to succeed general disarmament.
d.       Armed attacks against the campesino settlements causing deaths and leaving many injured. Private guards, police and army personnel are strategically located near the palm tree plantations recuperated by farmers, launching attacks on men and women using live ammunition, as is the case of peasants Ceferino Zelaya who was killed in the La Aurora settlement, as well as Catarino Ephraim López and Jose Luís Lemus of the MARCA Peasant Movement. Peasant populations of several settlements are practically under house arrest for fear and the constant threat of being killed.
e.       The kidnapping of peasants, some of them remain missing, as is the case of Francisco Pascual López, in which the Rigores settlement inhabitants confirmed that security guards opened fire and hid his injured body inside the palm tree plantations of Miguel Facussé. Young Olvin Gallegos of 18 years and Secundino Gomez, kidnapped on Sunday May 29, 2011, are still missing.
Segundo Mendoza of the National Recuperation Movement of Rigores, kidnapped on October 14, was found dead in the morgue of the city of La Ceiba in the Department of Atlántida, his body missing a hand.
This same October 14, 2011, campesino Carlos Alberto Hernandez Ramos of the National Recuperation Movement of Rigores was kidnapped by a patrol car of the National Preventive Police in the early hours of the night. The latter led him from the entrance of the community of Rigores to the Sonaguera police station, were he was beaten and tortured for 24 hours, and released under the threat that if he told about this they would get him back.
f.       Death threats, the following of campesinos by unmarked vehicles with armed people inside in the case of at least 30 campesino leaders, leaders of the National Popular Resistance Front and Human Rights defenders.
g.      Military operations in the vicinity of settlements, in which the military carry a list of wanted individuals, more than 300 arrest warrants in the Courts of the Department of Colón.
In these operations, people are detained up to two hours under the excuse of looking for weapons and strangers, they are being charged money and are not freed until they give it.
h.      The government violates the agreements and conventions signed to this day, so that no immediate solution to the land conflict is forseable and the more than two thousand armed men protecting the landowners are to stay permanently until the “pacification of the region” is accomplished.
Against this background which places the human rights of the Aguán population and especially the rural population in a precarious and extremely risky situation, we have decided:
1.      To defend the right to life as a fundamental right, to defend human rights of men, women and children living in constant harassment, repression and insecurity.
2.      To be present during evictions, raids and military interventions within the framework of the defense of  peoples’ human  rights and of the agrarian conflict.
3.      To provide protection of populations and individuals facing threats, suffering persecution and who are permanently the targets of repression.
4.       Accompaniment in legal advocacy, medical and legal proceedings related to land conflict.
5.      To denounce nationally and internationally the violation of human rights in the region, creating forums and urgent response mechanisms.
6.      To bring to trail before national and international legal bodies, those who violate human rights in this region of Honduras.
7.      We call upon human rights organizations, the national social movements in Latin America and the world, leading personalities in the defense of human rights and in promoting peace through social and human development, to attend the international gathering of human rights defenders, an event that will take place in this region of Aguán from February 17th to 21st, 2012.
For the right to life, stop the killings of campesinos in Honduras and the Aguán!
Stop human rights violation in the Aguán!
Tocoa, Colón, 11/11/2011.