Thousands of farmworkers have seized 30,000 acres (12,000 hectares) of land around Honduras as part of a dispute with large landowners and the government, activists and officials said Wednesday.
Activists say the seized territory is arable public land that small farmers have the legal right to grow crops on under Honduran law. The large landowners who have been farming the land say they bought it legally from the government. A land dispute between small farmers and landlords in the northern Aguan Valley has led to dozens of deaths among farmworkers in recent years.
Mabel Marquez, of the organization Via Campesina, said that the largest seizure had occurred on the country’s Caribbean coast, where roughly 1,500 farmworkers had seized land held by a sugar plantation. The movement also took possession of several farms on the outskirts of the capital, Tegucigalpa.
“We want to avoid any type of confrontation,” Marquez said, adding that the farmworkers were unarmed and used no force. Marquez said the farmworkers didn’t rule out an official attempt to dislodge them from the fields.
Activists said they were seeking meetings with government officials to open a national dialogue on land disputes, make clear that the lands were public property and that the farmworkers shouldn’t be dislodged. According to United Nations figures, 53 percent of Hondurans live in the countryside and, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America, the residents of 72 percent of rural homes are below the poverty line.
from via campesina:
17th of April Actions around the world
This action day will take place a few days before the World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty in Washington DC, April 23-26, 2012. The Via Campesina mobilisations will voice small farmers’ strong opposition to the World Bank initiative of Responsible Agricultural Investment (RAI) that is supposed to prevent land grab abuses but in fact legitimizes farmland grabbing by corporate and state investors.
“In the run up to the Rio+20 Earth Summit, farmers and supporters of the food sovereignty and agroecology movement are now actively opposing the “greening of capitalism” that is now promoted at the international level. We believe that land, water, seeds and all natural resources should be used by small farmers to protect them and feed to world, and not by transnational corporations to make profit”, said Henry Saragih, general coordinator of la Via Campesina.
On April 17 1996, in the Amazonian state of Pará, at Eldorado dos Carajás, the state military police massacred peasants organized in the Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST), killing 19 individuals.That day, 1500 women and men organized in the MST occupied and blocked the BR-150 highway in Eldo-ado dos Carajás, with the intention to pressure the state and federal governments for agrarian reform. At about 4pm, 155 state military police from two brigades surrounded the MST on the highway, firing tear-gas,live ammunition and machine guns. In addition to the 19 MST killed during the massacre, three more died later from injuries, and 69 people were wounded. State authorities, the police, the army and powerful local landowners were involved in planning and executing of the massacre. Fifteen years later, none of those responsible for the massacre at Eldorado dos Carajás has been imprisoned or punished.