Tuesday, April 20, 2010

WNU #1029: Honduras Government Settles With Campesinos

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1029, April 18, 2010

1. Honduras: Lobo Settles With Aguán Campesinos
2. Honduras: OAS Annual Report Cites Violations
3. Haiti: Government, UN Evict More Quake Victims
4. Haiti: Clinton Warns of Violence Like Mexico’s
5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico

ISSN#: 1084 922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com . It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com/

*1. Honduras: Lobo Settles With Aguán Campesinos
On Apr. 18 Honduran president Porfirio (“Pepe”) Lobo Sosa signed an agreement with the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA) granting some 2,600 campesino families about 11,000 hectares of land in the lower Aguán River Valley in northern Honduras. MUCA has fought since 2001 for 20,000 hectares which the group says were bought illegally by three wealthy business owners, Miguel Facussé Barjum, Reinaldo Canales and René Morales. The agreement came after several months of heightened tension in the area, with four murders of MUCA members in March and April; around Apr. 11 Lobo’s government launched an unprecedented mobilization of soldiers and police agents into the area, with troops surrounding some campesino communities [see Update #1028].

Under the agreement the government is to grant the campesino families 3,000 hectares of land for planting African oil palm trees and 3,000 hectares of uncultivated land; within a year the government will turn over another 1,000 hectares for African palms and 4,000 hectares of uncultivated land. In exchange, the families will leave the private estates they have been occupying. Despite early reports, the government apparently didn’t agree to a withdrawal of the troops and police agents.

Government and MUCA negotiators worked out a preliminary agreement on Apr. 14 after a 14-hour bargaining session. All but three of the 28 cooperatives that make up the MUCA ratified the agreement on Apr. 17. The remaining cooperatives will continue with pending court actions to regain land that they claim should be theirs.

Hundreds of campesinos and other activists used the Apr. 18 signing ceremony, which took place in the colonial city of Trujillo in Colón department, to protest President Lobo’s rightwing policies. “Golpistas [coup perpetrators] out of the Aguán,” they chanted, referring to a June 28, 2009 coup d’état that removed then-president José Manuel (“Mel”) Zelaya Rosales; current president Lobo backed the coup and was elected in a vote organized in November by the de facto government that replaced Zelaya. Protesters also repeated a demand of the grassroots resistance for a Constituent Assembly to write a new Constitution.

"This agreement isn’t a definitive solution to the conflict,” Rafael Alegría, who heads the local branch of the international campesino organization Vía Campesina, said on Apr. 14, “but it brings calm to the region.” The big landowners involved seemed less satisfied, although the government is apparently compensating them for any land taken from them. A few hours after the signing ceremony a report circulated that Miguel Facussé Barjum had filed a legal action against the president’s decision. (Honduras Culture and Politics blog 4/14/10; Prensa Latina 4/14/20; Nicaragua y Más blog 4/18/10 via Vos el Soberano (Honduras))

*2. Honduras: OAS Annual Report Cites Violations
On Apr. 15 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish), a Washington, DC-based agency of the Organization of American States (OAS), issued its 2009 report on human rights in the hemisphere. For the first time the IACHR included Honduras among the countries that it “believed warranted special attention.” The inclusion of Honduras is based on a report, “Honduras: Human Rights and the Coup d’État,” by an IACHR commission that visited Honduras in August 2009 to investigate the human rights situation following a June 28 military coup [see Update #1001].

According to an IACHR press release from Apr. 15, the commission “confirmed during its visit to Honduras that…there have been grave human rights violations, including deaths, arbitrary declaration of a state of siege, repression of public demonstrations using disproportionate force, criminalization of social protest, arbitrary arrests of thousands of people, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and poor conditions of detention, militarization of the territory, an increase in instances of racial discrimination, violations of the rights of women, serious and arbitrary restrictions on the right to freedom of expression, and grave violations of political rights.”

The four other countries cited in the 2009 report have been criticized in previous IACHR annual reports: Colombia for a “persistent pattern of violation of the rights to life and to humane treatment”; Cuba for “structural situations that seriously affect the full enjoyment of human rights”; Haiti for “structural situations that seriously affect the enjoyment of the fundamental rights of its inhabitants”; and Venezuela for problems including the absence of “conditions…for human rights defenders and journalists to freely perform their occupations.” The report also criticized the US for its 50-year-old trade embargo against Cuba. (Hoy Digital (Dominican Republic) 4/15/10 from EFE; IACHR press release 4/15/10, English and Spanish)

In remarks published on Apr. 16 the Honduran government’s national human rights commissioner Ramón Custodio [see Update #979] said the IACHR had the “bad faith to want to damage the interests of the Honduran state and people.” It has “stopped being an ethical organization,” he said. “It’s an organization that serves political interests. Its president is a Venezuelan professional of recognized political membership.” (La Tribuna (Honduras) 4/17/10) [Apparently Custodio was implying that IACHR president Luz Patricia Mejía Guerrero had acted in support of Venezuela's leftist president, Hugo Chávez, despite the report's criticisms of Venezuela.]

*3. Haiti: Government, UN Evict More Quake Victims
The Haitian government, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and the intergovernmental International Organization for Migration (OIM) have been intensifying efforts to relocate Port-au-Prince area residents left homeless by a Jan. 12 earthquake and now living in as many as 900 improvised encampments in the capital and its suburbs. After having forcibly removed some 7,335 people from the Sylvio Cator soccer stadium the weekend of Apr. 9 [see Update #1028], on Apr. 12 the government said it was starting to relocate another 10,000 people.

The government opened a site it had prepared at Corail–Cesselesse, 20 km north of the city, on Apr. 12, and as of Apr. 16 it had moved 248 families, 896 individuals, there from a golf course in the upscale suburb of Pétionville. The OIM said it was expecting to move 2,500 people from an encampment in the Bourdon Valley in Port-au-Prince to a site in Tabarre Issa (apparently in the northwestern suburb of Tabarre).

According to the government, earthquake survivors needed to be moved to safer locations as the rainy season begins; it said the relocations were voluntary. But observers found that many of the homeless were unwilling to relocate and that the removals seemed to target improvised camps on private property that the owners wanted to put back into service. “We were told we had a week to leave, and we could go in Tabarre Issa,” Mathieu Thomson, who had been living in a tent near the Saint-Louis de Gonzague prep school, told the Agence France Presse (AFP) wire service. “But there's nothing there. No toilets, no showers.” According to the OIM, the Tabarre Issa site has sanitation services, schools, a community garden and a soccer field.

The site in Corail–Cesselesse is “isolated,” residents told the Support Group for the Repatriated and Refugees (GAAR), a Haitian nonprofit group, on Apr. 14 at “Camp KID,” where about 2,000 people were living at the entrance to Christ-Roi Street. People who were to be moved to Corail from the Pétionville golf course told GARR on Apr. 10 that they didn’t know how they would get to their schools and their jobs. “We’ll be far away from downtown Port-au-Prince, where, for better or worse, you could find little jobs,” one said, “but what will there be for us up there? Nothing.” “Sending us to Corail, isn’t that another way of leaving us to our fate, of exiling us?” asked a group of young girls. (AFP (English) 4/13/10 via France 24); Radio Métropole, Haiti, 4/16/10, 4/17/10, __)

On Apr. 17 members of Haiti Response Coalition (HRC), a coalition of nonprofits and international solidarity groups, reported on plans to remove 213 families, about 1,000 individuals, that morning from the grounds of a church and a private school, the Centre Pédagogique Rural Protestant, Ecole Normale de Frères, at Delmas 95. There seemed to be no effort to provide a new location for the temporary residents, who said the Methodist pastors who ran the school hadn’t spoken to them for two weeks and that they had been denied use of the facility’s water and the restrooms. The residents, many of them camped out on a basketball court, thought private security guards would be carrying out the eviction. A sign at the camp’s gate read, in French: “NOTICE TO CAMP, the Methodist yard must be cleared out on Saturday, Apr. 17, 2010.” (Email report from HRC 4/17/2010)

*4. Haiti: Clinton Warns of Violence Like Mexico’s
Former US president Bill Clinton (1993-2001), now United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon’s special envoy for Haiti, said on Apr. 17 that the international community needs to stay involved in Haiti if it wants to prevent violence from breaking out there. "We know one thing for sure: If you like the gunfight that's going on in northwest Mexico, you will love Haiti 10 years from now," he told reporters during a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. "If that's what thrills you--this horrible chaos from Monterrey to the border--you will just love Haiti if you walk away from it."

Clinton--who apologized on Mar. 10 for his role in the virtual destruction of Haitian rice production [see Update #1026]--said he loved Haiti and its people and was optimistic about plans to rebuild the country. Along with former president George W. Bush (2001-2009), Clinton sent a letter to the US Congress earlier in the week asking it to extend the 2008 Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity Through Partnership Encouragement Act (HOPE II) to 2025. The act gives preferential treatment to Haitian apparel exports to encourage the development of garment assembly plants in Haiti. (Radio Kiskeya (Haiti) 4/17/10, some from AP; Examiner.com 4/17/10 from AP)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico

Locals and Indigenous Groups Combat Big Real Estate in Greater Buenos Aires

A Short Talk With Fernando Henrique Cardoso

Indians and Activists March Against Amazon Mega-dam

Bolivia: remains of "disappeared" guerilla exhumed

Masonic connection seen in Bolivian separatist plot

Campesino, squatter actions rock Bolivia

Bolivia’s Lithium Challenge

World War 4 Report to blog Bolivia climate confab

Peru: campesinos block roads to protest mining operation

Colombia: indigenous journalist assassinated

Indigenous Justice Threatened in Colombia

Fighting Corruption or Persecuting Political Opponents in Venezuela?

Honduran campesinos under the gun

WOLA Statement on Honduras

Disappearing Truth in Honduras: Commissions Cover Up Demands for New Constitution

The Second Killing of Pablo Bac: Deafened by Canadian Silence and Impunity in Guatemala

Mexico: US consulate in Nuevo Laredo closed following attack

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