Tuesday, April 6, 2010

WNU #1027: New Violence in Honduran Land Dispute

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1027, April 4, 2010

1. Honduras: New Violence in Aguán Land Dispute
2. Dominican Republic: Thousands March Against Barrick Gold
3. Argentina: “Dirty War” Witness Murdered
4. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti

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: New Violence in Aguán Land Dispute
A private guard shot Honduran campesino Miguel Alonso Oliva dead on Apr. 1 when a group of campesinos attempted to occupy an African palms farm in the northern Honduran department of Colón, according to the German-based organization FoodFirst Information and Action Network (FIAN). The victim was a member of the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA), a group based in the Aguán River Valley that has fought since 2001 for some 20,000 hectares of land it claims were bought illegally by a group of influential landowners, Miguel Facussé, Reinaldo Canales and René Morales [see Update #1022]. Morales holds the title to the farm where the Apr. 1 killing took place.

FIAN reports that this was the third killing of MUCA members in less than a month. José Antonio Cardoza and José Carías, directors of the Brisas de COHDEFOR cooperative in Bonito Oriental, were murdered on Mar. 17, according to FIAN. (Prensa Latina 4/2/10, 4/4/10; Vos el Soberano (Honduras) 4/4/10)

On Apr. 2 MUCA charged that the military, police and paramilitaries were planning to remove thousands of campesinos “in a violent and bloody manner” from the land they are living on in the Aguán region, and that this operation might come as early as Apr. 6. The security forces to be used were trained in the Fourth Infantry Battalion facilities in La Ceiba, Atlántida department, MUCA said, under the command of retired captain Fernando “Billy” Joya Amendola. There was also training in a number of other locations, according to MUCA, including a factory belonging to Exportadora del Atlántico, a subsidiary of the Facussé family’s food company, Grupo Dinant.

Billy Joya was a notorious leader of the Battalion 316 death squad in the 1980s. A Honduran court ordered him and nine others arrested in October 1995 in connection with the 1982 abduction and torture of six students; at the time he was living in Spain [see Update #445]. Apparently Joya has been operating freely in Honduras at least since the military carried out a coup in June 2009. (Prensa Latina 4/4/10; Vos el Soberano (Honduras) 4/3/10)

Conservative Honduran media have been depicting MUCA as a violent and intransigent armed group receiving help from Cubans, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans. The Tegucigalpa daily El Heraldo reported that the campesinos were armed during the Apr. 1 incident at the Morales farm and that two security guards were killed, although the paper gave no further information about the guards. According to El Heraldo, the government of President Porfirio Lobo Sosa was trying to resolve the conflict by offering to buy 3,000 hectares where Miguel Facussé now grows African palms; presumably the land would be distributed to the campesinos. El Heraldo said MUCA hadn’t responded as of Apr. 2.

The paper also reported that “thousands of Hondurans employed by the Dinant company took to the streets to demand that private property be respected, along with national investment and the right to have a job. At the head of the peaceful demonstration was business leader Miguel Facussé himself; it ended in the Presidential House” in Tegucigalpa. The article didn’t give the date of the demonstration. (EH 4/2/10; Honduras Culture and Politics blog 3/4/10)

Founded by Miguel Facussé Barjum in 1960, Grupo Dinant produces snacks, other food products and cooking oil (including the Central American brand of Mazola). In June 2009 the Inter-American Investment Corporation (IIC) approved a $7 million loan for Dinant, in part to help finance increased cultivation of palm trees. At that time the company had started working on biodiesel production based on oil from palm trees, jatropha, and tempate. (CentralAmericaData.com 6/16/09; ICC 1/16/09)

*2. Dominican Republic: Thousands March Against Barrick Gold
Up to 3,000 Dominicans marched in Cotuí in the central province of Sánchez Ramírez on Apr. 3 to protest against the Pueblo Viejo gold mine, which is operated by the Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corp. Many of the protesters were local, but several dozen youths had walked the 105 km from Santo Domingo, starting on Mar. 31. An encampment was set up in Cotuí by the same young activists that successfully demonstrated last year for a suspension of construction of the Consorcio Minero Dominicano’s cement factory near Los Haitises National Park [see Update #994].

The protests against Barrick targeted what the organizers said were irregularities in the government’s contract with the company, which owns 60% of the mine--the Vancouver-based multinational Goldcorp Inc. owns the other 40%. The protesters also accused Barrick of damaging the environment and archeological sites.

Rice farmers joined the protest because of pollution issues; Mauricio María, president of the National Rice Producers Federation, said the rice farmers of the northeast would disappear if Barrick and the government couldn’t control pollution of the water going into the Hatillo dam near Cotuí, a source of water for rice farms. Juan Rodríguez Acosta, director of the Museum of the Dominican Man, has charged that Barrick Gold is dynamiting mountains whose caves contain traces of the indigenous Taino culture.

Adding to the bad publicity for Barrick, 326 workers from the mine’s night shift had to be hospitalized on Mar. 15 for food poisoning—nearly 10% of the operation’s 3,500 employees. Barrick said the problem was bacterial and blamed it on the company that contracts to supply food at the mine, but the Academy of Sciences and the Autonomous University said the cause was a toxic agent of chemical origin. (El Nuevo Diario (Dominican Republic) 4/3/10; El Nacional (DR) 4/3/10; La Raza (Chicago) 4/3/10 from El Diario-La Prensa correspondent; Primicias (DR) 4/4/10; Winnipeg Free Press 3/15/10 from AP)

*3. Argentina: “Dirty War” Witness Murdered
On the morning of Mar. 29 unidentified people assaulted and stabbed Silvia Suppo in her crafts shop in the small town of Rafaela in Argentina’s northeastern Santa Fe province; she suffered 22 knife wounds and died later that day in a hospital.

As a teenager Suppo was kidnapped, tortured and raped by the military during the “dirty war” carried out against leftists by a 1976-1983 military dictatorship. Recently Suppo was a witness in the trial of former federal Víctor Brusa, Juan Calixto Perizotti, Héctor Colombini, María Eva Aebi, Mario Facino and Eduardo Ramos, who on Dec. 21, 2009 were given prison sentences of 19 to 21 years for the crimes they had committed against her in the 1970s. Suppo was also pursuing the case of Reinaldo Hammeter, her companion at the time of her kidnapping; he was kidnapped and disappeared on Jan. 25, 1977.

Police say some objects were missing from the shop, pointing to a robbery, but Supppo’s friends and local human rights activists considered the killing political. This was “a murder in her capacity as a witness,” said attorney Lucila Puyol, from H.I.J.O.S. Santa Fe, the local branch of an organization dedicated to seeking justice for the crimes of the dictatorship. (La Jornada (Mexico) 4/2/10 from correspondent; H.I.J.O.S. communiqué 3/30/10 via argentina.indymedia.org

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti

Argentina: Fathers of the Disappeared

Update: Communitarian Socialism in Bolivia

Climate Change: From Copenhagen to Cochabamba

Latin America's Indigenous Reject Market Mechanisms as Solution to Climate Change

Freed FARC Hostage Thanks Efforts of Venezuelan President to Win His Liberation

A Human Rights Perspective on Clinton's Visit to Central America

Honduras: Deadliest Month Ever for Reporters

Disappeared But Not Forgotten: A Guatemalan Community Achieves a Landmark Verdict

Mexico: Coalition Takes on the PRI in Oaxaca's Crucial 2010 Elections

Interview: Climate Justice Organizing in Mexico

Mexico Backslides on the Merida Initiative’s Human Rights Conditions

The Upcoming Donors' Conference for Haiti Tectonic Shifts?

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