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Deadly toll leaves conflict over land
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Three farmers were murdered for defending their land.

Three farmers from the Lower Aguán Valley in northern Honduras were murdered on Nov. 4 by strangers who shot from a moving vehicle.

In a statement, the Unified Peasant Movement of Aguán, or MUCA, claimed that the three farmers were shot as they were waiting for transportation in the city of Tocoa, department of Colón. These deaths add up to more than 80 murders since 2009 as a result of conflict between landowners and groups of  peasants who have occupied properties cultivated with African palm trees, claimed MUCA.

The farmers assure that they were assigned the plots of land in 1980 during an agrarian reform. However, a 1992 law allowed the sale of the plots of land as cooperatives that the landowners acquired fraudulently at very low prices.

According to MUCA, “in the 90s a process of buying and selling of cooperatives was initiated, a process guaranteed under the Law for the Modernization and Development of the Agricultural Sector. The process ended with the purchase of the assets of 40 peasant companies that were grouped in the hands of Miguel Facussé, René Morales, and Reinaldo Canales. This phenomenon continues to be investigated because of the multiplicity of errors and violations of the law carried out with the intention of guaranteeing that the previously mentioned businessmen could ‘keep’ the assets of the cooperatives.”

In May of 2009, MUCA, representing 29 agricultural cooperatives, began a takeover of the facilities with the aim of pressuring the government of the former President Manuel Zelaya (2006-2009). After a series of meetings with governmental authorities, MUCA agreed to temporarily and peacefully evacuate the occupied facilities and to start a negotiation process to reach agreements. The overthrowing of President Zelaya on June 28 put an end to the dialogue, and in December of that year MUCA began “the definitive reacquisition of the land” belonging to the cooperatives.

“MUCA has legal documentation to show that Miguel Facussé, Reinaldo Canales, and René Morales are not the owners of the land stolen from 29 agricultural cooperatives,” ensured the organization.

Even though last June the government signed an agreement with Facussé, Morales, and Canales for the purchase of more than 4,000 hectares (10,000 acres) to be given to the farmers of  MUCA, the violence has not stopped. In an attempt to control the situation, the government of President Porfirio Lobo sent in August some 2,000 policemen and military troops to this area of the Honduran Caribbean, where clashes between bands of drugtraffickers who mobilize drugs to the United States also occur.

MUCA has made the landowners accountable for the assassinations, including the death of lawyer Antonio Trejo Cabrera, who advised farmers of the Aguán Valley in their fight to reclaim their land. His death occurred on Sept. 22 in Tegucigalpa at the hands of strangers who shot him at the exit to a church.

“Once again we call on national and international human rights organizations to join us for this fight for farmers,” expressed MUCA as it also repudiated and condemned “these cowardly and intimidating acts against the farmers,” and made a call to the Lobo regime “to stop the violence against the farmers of the Lower Aguán Valley”.
—Latinamerica Press.

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