Urgent Call for Solidarity from the Aguán region of Honduras

A link to the full message in Spanish is below from the FNRP (National Popular Resistance Front) in the department (state) of Colón, MUCA Margen Izquierda (The Unified Campesino Movement of the Left Bank of the Aguán Valley), and other campesino groups in the Aguán. Here is a quick translation of point number 6 from the message below, which details some of the most recent threats in the Aguán region, the increasingly precarious situation of the campesino settlements, and an urgent plea for national and international solidarity and that they have requested to be shared with the international community.

Excerpt of original message in Spanish (below) from the FNRP (National Popular Resistance Front) in the department of Colón, MUCA Margen Izquierda (The Unified Campesino Movement of the Left Bank of the Aguán Valley), and other campesino groups of the Aguán:

6. With the militarization of Xatruch II [the second joint police/military operation in the Aguán] they are attempting to convert our region into another Iraq, like where these same soldiers served. Our settlements are subject to a permanent state of seige, they don’t let us out to buy food or medicine because at the entrances and exits of the communities we are allowed the most minimal movements. They violate our rights daily, and despite the militarization, hired criminals are still killing campesinos in the settlements. In the midst of this militarization they killed our MUCA colleague Pedro Salgado along with his wife, the president of MARCA, Secundino Ruiz, and two other campesinos. These killings remain in impunity along with the rest of the murders committed against our brothers and sisters who have fallen in this struggle for land. We are not currently working our lands for fear of being assassinated by the hired criminals who permanently patrol them.

On September 2nd, 2011, campesino Olvin Gonzales was killed. He was a member of the Marañones campesino settlement. At 6:00 AM multiple armed men fired on him when he was returning to the settlement.

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011, more than 600 soldiers, along with private guards and paramilitaries, surrounded the Marañones settlement, which includes 14 campesino cooperatives and more than 700 families. They carried heavy military weapons, had tanks to disperse protestors, and helicopters with heavy artillery flew over the settlement, giving the impression of a rehearsal of a planned invasion. The commander of the military operation has assured that these groups will be intervened militarily, evicted, and disarmed, despite the fact that the Marañones campesino settlement is located on lands included in the recent agreement signed by large land and business owners and the government. It is therefore believed that the strategic objective of these interventions is strictly military in character, without care for the human loss that could result. In the second half of September we fear a possible massacre of the campesinos of Marañones as well as the campesino groups in Rigores. Every weekend new military contingents are arriving in the area and we estimate there are now more than 2,000 soldiers in the region.

Meanwhile in nearby cities, especially in Tocoa, Colón, there are reports of movements in vehicles of heavily armed men with Mexican and Colombian accents. There are numerous reports of people who have been seen getting into those vehicles and whose whereabouts are since then unknown. On September 6, 2011, it was reported that a campesino with his hands and feet tied, was transported in one of these vehicles towards the palm plantations owned by large landowners, and his whereabouts are since unknown. 

Campesino leader from the Right Bank [of the Aguán Valley] Vitalino Alvares, has denounced publicly that a hired criminal by the name of ECCEOHMAN NAZAR OSORTO has, since September 1st of this year, been asking for him by name in the communities. Vitalino has shown a fotograph of this man, who travels in the company of two armed men in a white double-cab pick up truck without license plates and who is apparently contracted to assassinate leaders in the Aguán.

On September 6, 2011 in the entrance of the Marañones settlement, campesino and member of the settlement Neptaly Mendes was attacked and beaten, requiring hospitalization. They left him there because they believed he was dead.

Another leader who has received serious death threats is Jeremías Martines from La Concepción campesino settlement which belongs to MUCA Right Bank. According to a public denunciation by the campesino group, along with his oldest son he has been threatened by the same landlords that are believed to have killed Pedro Salgado and his wife days earlier. Campesino leaders from La Lempira campesino settlement, also part of MUCA Right Bank have been receiving death threats by telephone since September 7th, 2011 and high-calibre weapons are being fired near their settlement.

Julian Lopez, a leader with MARCA, has been receiving death threats since September 5th, 2011 when armed men began surrounding his house in the community of Honduras Aguán, Trujillo. He was also victim of an attempt by private security guards employed by large landowners when he was riding in a bus towards Tocoa on September 11, 2011. The driver of the bus was killed in the attack.

Faced with this situation in which our lives our at risk, we are asking URGENTLY for the presence of human rights observers and international press to help us defend our lives, which are at HIGH RISK. We ask this for our children who live in a state of fear and terror in the face of military interventions and criminal activity. Waiting until more blood is shed in the Aguán in order to take action is like being complicit with actions of revenge carried out by the landowners. SOLIDARITY IS OUR ONLY HOPE FOR OUR LIVES. We offer our eternal gratitude for your attention to these matters.

"We are not fish who can live in the sea, we are not birds who can live in the sky, we are men and women who are struggling for a small piece of land so that our children can live better lives" in a country with justice for all, democracy, and liberty.

End of excerpt. Full text (in Spanish) is here.