Friday, April 9, 2010

Lobo Sosa, the Bajo Aguan, and the OAS

If the title of this post sounds like a bad foreign film, well, hold on because we are about to embark on a very odd ride.

On April 7, the pro-coup Honduran newspaper La Tribuna published an article tying together these three unlikely themes. Headlined There are political interests in the problem of the Bajo Aguan (well, yeah...), the article quoted Porfirio Lobo Sosa appealing to the OAS to send a "commission" to review the government's proposal to settled the tense confrontation in the Bajo Aguan, characterized by La Tribuna as involving claims by 3,000 campesino families for use rights of 4,500 hectares of land currently planted in African oil palms. By my math, that would be about 1.5 hectares per family. Never mind that Honduras is not part of the OAS. Lobo Sosa needs some help, and apparently, the OAS owes it to him.

La Tribuna notes that last Monday, a proposal made by the campesinos, organized in the Movimiento Unificado Campesino del Aguán (MUCA), was "immediately rejected" by the government. The MUCA proposal is described as involving
the total recovery of 28 cooperatives that had been formed with the approval of the Ley de Reforma Agraria or the judgment of five hectares per family.

Lobo Sosa went on record as saying that the government offer looked good to him, not surprisingly:
the proposal, which consists of a hectare cultivated in African palm and another that would permit them to engage in contracts of co-investment with the businessmen, "is very good", since he has had experiences with co-investment with campesino groups and every time that such a transaction has been made, "it has been something that functions well when there is good faith".


Perhaps that "good faith" thing would be a bit more convincing if the article didn't also include Lobo Sosa's thoughts on the broader forces at work in encouraging the campesinos of the Bajo Aguan:
“I perceive that behind this, what there is is a political interest in damaging the government with the theme of human rights", he added, on considering that it makes no sense for someone to oppose the government proposal that consists of the grant of two hectares of land to three thousand families that form the campesino movement.

Funny how accusing peasant cooperatives of being armed militants might raise the broader issues of human rights, isn't it?

In an almost-certainly inadvertent moment of irony, Lobo Sosa encouraged the MUCA group to settle because otherwise, if they don't,
the declaration signed by ex-President Manuel Zelaya on June 12, 2009, will be taken as the point of departure, which consisted in the grant of 30 millon lempiras for the purchase of the land.

That's the spirit. You wouldn't want to have to go back to the way things were under Mel? oh wait, maybe we can rephrase that-- as César Ham, UD party candidate for president in 2009 co-opted by a cabinet post in the Lobo Sosa government, tried:
The director of the Instituto Nacional Agrario (INA), César Ham, recounted that the proposal of the Lobo Sosa government surpassed that proposed by Zelaya, since it went from 30 millon lempiras to 800 millon lempiras.
So we have the spectacle of Lobo Sosa and César Ham proposing more recompense to MUCA than the supposedly socialist Zelaya, albeit with extremely sticky strings attached. Obviously, the only reason to turn down such a great deal must be a desire to make politics with a land dispute to embarrass the government.

In other agricultural institute news, César Ham is looking for 100 missing tractors sent by ALBA in 2009. Or maybe all he needs is the keys; La Tribuna reports that rumor has it the tractors were found but missing the keys. And while he's at it, he can try to find anyone who knows what happened to the other farm equipment from ALBA: 85 heavy earthmovers, 15 fumigators, and 15 planting machines.

As the article helpfully concludes, all this equipment coming to Honduras was
a result of the close relationship that Zelaya maintained with Chávez, which caused discontent, above all among the businessmen and politicians, who criticized Honduras' joining ALBA from the beginning the 25 of August of 2008.

Pretty strong aversion to farm machinery.

For the want of a nail, a shoe was lost.
.. or, updated,

For the sake of a fumigator, a coup was born...

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