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Massive UN-Supported African Palm Plantations Leading to Oppression, Kidnapping and Murder

The promise of carbon credits and free money from schemes like the U.N.-backed Clean Development Mechanism, appear to be among the causes of renewed violence.

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"It's only just," one of the leaders of the MCA, Donaldo Aguilar Valle, told me in 2001, shortly after their takeover. "As campesinos, we are agrarian reform."

Unfortunately, the conflict does not end there. Several years ago, Miguel Facussé planted 700 acres of African palm on the former CREM land, and running gun battles have been a constant. Between August 2008 and September 2009, as many as 19 deaths resulted from conflicts between the peasants of Guadalupe Carney and the landowners.

By April 2010, after months of escalating violence, an agreement was signed between the MUCA and current President Porfirio Lobo Sosa, under which some 11,000 hectares of land would be turned over to the peasant movements in the Aguan, through the intermediary of the National Agrarian Institute (INA). In May, 2010, the INA turned over the first 3,000 hectares, and more than 2,500 campesinos were moved onto six newly established settlements.

At that same time, Miguel Facussé began a campaign to dismantle the reforms, pursuing legal injunctions against the families who were given land, accusing the peasant movements of guerrilla activity, and, according to many witnesses, sicking his private military guards on movement leaders in numerous violent confrontations.

On August 17, three members of the MUCA whose families had received new land, were killed by unknown assailants in the community of Aurora, near the town of Tocoa. On November 15, five more campesinos were killed, this time in broad daylight: a reported squad of more than 200 men, uniformed as private security guards of Miguel Faccusé, entered the community of El Tumbador, on the contested edge of the CREM property where Facussé had his 700 acre palm plantation, and opened fire with high-caliber weapons.

When the government failed to denounce the violence, a state of impunity began to grow throughout the region. On November 23, 500 federal troops appeared at the regional campus of the INA, in what became a two-month occupation. On December 7, the MUCA orchestrated a protest, blocking the main highway through the valley for nine hours. Two days later, on December 9, dozens of soldiers entered the nearby community of Paso Aguan and evicted all of the residents. Another eviction occurred on December 15, when 600 troops entered Guadelupe Carney without a judicial order and turned out the residents of El Tumbador.

Throughout the repression, the peasant organizations have resisted peacefully. "They want us to react with violence, to justify their repression," said Jose Santos Cruz, a leader of the MCA. "But we won't."

When the two-month siege of the National Agrarian Institute was lifted suddenly on January 20, workers there entered their offices to find filth, damaged computers and disarray. Esly Banegas, president of the Tocoa local of the Union of Workers of the INA said, "We have no doubt that the attack on our offices here was the first stage of a nationwide escalation of the conflict. All they gained was making us lose two months of work without any reason, stalling agrarian reform programs and impacting peasant families."

African Palm and the CDM Connection

Human rights organizations monitoring the situation express little doubt that the violence is fueled by lure of profits from African palm. Gilberto Rios, the Honduras Country Director for the human rights group FIAN International says "All around the [African palm] plantations in the hands of the large landowners, they've created belts of poverty. The workers live in conditions of exploitation, without labor rights, without social services. There is no interest in investing in food security; on the contrary, the only effort is to strengthen the model of production for export."

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