Monday, July 7, 2014

WNU #1226: New Death Reported in Honduran Land Struggle

Issue #1226, July 6, 2014

1. Honduras: New Death Reported in Land Struggle
2. Brazil: Campesino Protesters Occupy Banks
3. Brazil: US Turns Over Documents on Military's Abuses
4. Chile: Judge Confirms US Role in 1973 Killings
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Honduras, Mexico, US/immigration

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. It is archived at For a subscription, write to Follow us on Twitter at

*1. Honduras: New Death Reported in Land Struggle
Honduran security forces mounted a major operation on July 3 to remove hundreds of campesinos from an estate they had occupied in a dispute over land in the Lower Aguán River Valley in the northern department of Colón. One of the occupiers, Pedro Avila, was shot dead in the operation and two were wounded, according to Santos Torres, who heads the campesinos’ organization, the Gregorio Chávez Collective. Some 400 families were “violently evicted” and “repressed with tear gas and live ammunition,” the campesinos charged in a statement, and at least 20 people were detained. The operation was carried out by soldiers under the command of Col. René Jovel Martínez and by National Police agents and by security guards in the pay of the Corporación Dinant food-product company, the campesinos said. The estate, named Paso Aguán, is owned by Honduran entrepreneur and landowner Miguel Facussé Barjum, Dinant’s founder [see Update #1204]. On July 4 Dinant business relations director Roger Pineda denied that company security guards were involved. Pineda claimed no one was killed, although “the effects of the tear gas made [one person] pass out.”

At least 147 people, including more than 104 campesinos, have died violently in the region since a number of campesino collectives started occupying estates in late 2009 to promote their claim that the landowners had illegally acquired territory intended for family farmers in an agrarian reform program in the 1990s [see Update #1221]. Facussé’s Paso Aguán estate has repeatedly been a target of occupations by one of the largest campesino groups, the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA); the violent July 3 eviction followed a removal of occupiers from the same site just a week before, on June 26. The Gregorio Chávez Collective appears to be named for a 69-year-old MUCA supporter whose body was found buried on the estate in July 2012; there was evidence that he was tortured before being killed [see Update #1136]. (El Heraldo (Tegucigalpa) 6/27/14; Radio Bío Bío (Chile) 7/3/14 from AFP; La Tribune (Tegucigalpa) 7/5/14)

About 500 families from another group, the Authentic Claimant Movement of Aguán Campesinos (MARCA), occupied the El Despertar estate on June 24. Soldiers, police agents and security guards under the command of the military’s Col. German Alfaro removed the occupiers and arrested five campesinos later the same day; no injuries were reported. Col. Afaro claimed his forces found three M16 rifles, a Falk rife, 30-calibre rifle, a Macarov pistol, bulletproof vests and police uniforms at the site. The campesinos had reoccupied the estate after being removed on May 21. (El Heraldo 6/24/14)

El Despertar is owned by a Nicaraguan entrepreneur named René Alberto Morales Carazo [see Update #1137, which incorrectly described him as an “entrepreneur and politician”]. Apparently Morales Carazo is involved in the distribution of African palm oil grown in Honduras, as are Miguel Facussé and the Dinant company. According to a March 2007 article in the Nicaraguan daily El Nuevo Diario, Morales Carazo is the brother of Jaime René Morales Carazo, a leader in the rightwing contra war against the leftist Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) government during the 1980s--and later the country’s vice president in the 2007-2012 administration of the FSLN’s Daniel Ortega Saavedra. (END 3/12/07)

*2. Brazil: Campesino Protesters Occupy Banks
Some 3,000 campesinos, including children and seniors, some with musical instruments, staged sit-ins on June 26 in the states of Goiás, Bahía and Piauí at 18 branches of Brazil’s two largest state-owned banks, the Banco do Brasil and the Caixa Económica Federal. The daylong protest, organized by the Popular Campesino Movement (MCP), targeted budget cuts in the government’s popular low-income housing program, My House My Life; MCP leaders said 950 campesino families had been dropped from My House My Life’s National Rural Habitation Program (PNHR). The group demanded an increase in housing construction for the rest of this year, payment for projects already in progress, and improvements in the PNHR for next year. “The campesino families are struggling for a dignified life and don’t accept having to wait more time for reform, enlargement [of the program] and construction of housing,” the MCP said in a statement. “Waiting longer means increasing the exodus from the countryside and increasing the problems of rural life.”

The protesters left the banks at the end of the day after the Caixa--which administers My House My Life, with investment from the government and from private investors--promised to include the MCP in the PNHR program and to fund the projects already started, with the possibility of constructing 1,000 new housing units in the three states. The bank also agreed to discuss the MCP’s reform proposals. (Jornal Opção (Goiânia) 6/26/14; Adital (Brazil) 6/26/146/27/14)

*3. Brazil: US Turns Over Documents on Military's Abuses
During a visit to Brasilia on June 17, US vice president Joe Biden presented Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff with 43 declassified US State Department documents referring to abuses committed under the country’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship. The handover of the documents, which will go to Brazil’s National Truth Commission (CNV), was part of an effort to mend relations with Brazil after revelations in 2013 that the US National Security Agency (NSA) had been spying on Brazilian government agencies and on President Rousseff herself [see Update #1193]. The NSA revelations led to Brazil’s cancellation of a planned state visit to the US in September 2013 and to the US manufacturer Boeing Co’s loss of a $4 billion fighter jet contract with the Brazilian air force. (Reuters 6/17/14)

The CNV posted all 43 documents to its website on July 2, and the Washington, DC-based National Security Archive research group’s blog Redacted links to five documents of special interest. One of these, an April 1973 cable from the US consul general in Rio de Janeiro entitled “Widespread Arrests and Psychophysical Interrogation of Suspected Subversives,” detailed a “sophisticated and elaborate psychophysical duress system” used to “intimidate and terrify” suspected leftists. In some cases suspects were placed naked on a metal floor “through which electric current is pulsated.” The military also used more violent methods, and the suspects were sometimes “eliminated”; the media were told that these prisoners were killed in shootouts. “The shootout technique is being used increasingly in order to deal with the public relations aspect of eliminating subversives,” the cable said, and to “obviate ‘death-by-torture’ charges in the international press.”

The State Department seemed less concerned about the reports of torture than about the possibility that the US Senate might pass an amendment proposed by then-senator John Tunney (D-CA) to pressure the Brazilian military to end the practice. A July 1972 cable from the US embassy in Brasilia, “Allegation of torture in Brazil,” claimed that top Brazilian officials were trying to halt the use of “excessive police measures,” but “without undermining the continuing and notably successful battle against terrorism.” The cable’s author--presumably then-ambassador William Rountree--said there appeared to be a reduction in the reports of torture, “undoubtedly due in part to [Brazilian government] success in substantially reducing number of active terrorists.” The US government did not “condone” what the cable described as “harsh interrogation techniques,” the writer noted, but he said he “strongly support[ed] the [State] Department’s efforts to dissuade senators from advancing the new proposal [for an anti-torture amendment], and to encourage its defeat if offered.”

The military was apparently not selective about which people it arrested and tortured. “Conditions in DEOPS Prison as Told by Detained American Citizen,” an Oct. 7, 1970 memo, recounted the experiences of Robert Henry North, described as a “tall, clean-cut” US citizen working for a Brazilian seed company. North was arrested at an airport on his return from a trip to the US and was kept for three days in a cell with six other detainees. He reported that all of his cellmates were being held without charges and had been tortured. North, who was fluent in Portuguese, was convinced that five of the cellmates “were absolutely innocent of subversive political activity,” although the sixth “looked like he might easily throw a bomb.” The authorities arrested North himself because they had a watch list with the names of members of the radical US Weather Underground group, including the activist Robert Henry Roth; it seems the name was enough of a match for the military to justify an arrest. (Redacted 7/3/14)

*4. Chile: Judge Confirms US Role in 1973 Killings
Chilean investigative judge Jorge Zepeda has ruled that US intelligence agents shared responsibility for the killing of US journalist Charles Horman and US graduate student Frank Teruggi by the Chilean military in the days after the Sept. 11, 1973 coup that overthrew leftist president Salvador Allende Gossens. “US military intelligence services played a fundamental role in the murders of two US citizens in 1973, providing the Chilean military with information that brought [them] to death,” Zepeda concluded in his report, which the Associated Press wire service cited on July 1. This was the first official confirmation of suspicions by Horman and Teruggi’s families and friends that the US shared in the responsibility for the killings, the subject of the 1982 film “Missing.”

Zepeda named retired Chilean army colonel Pedro Espinoza as the mastermind behind both murders and counterintelligence agent Rafael González Berdugo as an accomplice in Horman’s death. Zepeda had requested the extradition of former US Navy Capt. Ray E. Davis in 2011 to stand trial for providing the information that led to the killings; Chile’s Supreme Court of Justice upheld the request in October 2012 [see Update #1149]. Apparently the courts were unaware that Davis was in fact living in Chile; he died in a Santiago nursing home in 2013. (El Nuevo Herald 7/1/14 from AP; The Jurist 7/2/14)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Honduras, Mexico, US/immigration

Popular agrarian reform: an alternative to the capitalist model (Latin America)

"World Cup For Who?" Photo Report From Outside the Stadiums (Brazil)

Brazil Organizations Challenge Legality of Belo Monte Dam in Court

U.S. Gives Brazil Declassified Documents Detailing Torture and Executions During its Dictatorship Era

Brazil: 'imminent' threat to isolated peoples

The Fifth Anniversary of the Bagua Massacre in Alternative Media and Art (Peru)

Mining and Post-conflict in Colombia

Venezuelan Farmers on Disputed Land Say They Have No Intention of Vacating

Narco wars drive migrant kids to US borders (Central America)

Honduran Charter Cities New Model for Salvadoran Private Sector

Being Young and Zapatista in La Realidad (Mexico)

From El Barrio to La Realidad, Women Lead Struggles to Transform the World (Mexico)

Burn Them Alive! (Mexico)

The Big History of Little Chihuahua (US/immigration)

In Oregon, activists have forced sheriffs to defy ICE (US/immigration)

For more Latin America news stories from mainstream and alternative sources:

For immigration updates and events:


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