Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bajo Aguan: MUCA rejects government offer-- or maybe it accepts it

A report posted three hours ago by La Tribuna claims MUCA has rejected the government offer and demanded demilitarization of the Bajo Aguan as a condition to continuing negotiation. The report cites Jerónimo Escobar, described as representing MUCA, interviewed on Radio América. At almost the same time, Radio América published a contradictory report claiming an agreement was within reach. Meanwhile, Spanish- and now English- language press alike is swallowing and reproducing the claim that the deployment to the Aguán was never meant as a threat to the campesinos, but was just the beginning of a little military repression of the general population across the country. Which, for some reason, the Lobo Sosa government seems to think makes deploying the army against the citizenry better.

Jerónimo Escobar is said to have indicated that at the meeting with Porfirio Lobo Sosa, MUCA presented
a "new and good" proposal to the governor Lobo Sosa, on the basis that the proposal that had been made would not be accepted because it would not resolve the problems of land tenancy of the campesino families.

As a reminder, the government offer reportedly is two hectares to each family, one cultivated in African oil palm (which has to be sold to the companies owned by the major opponents of the campesinos for processing) and the other in
a co-investment project that would guarantee the sale of the product to the businessmen... the government offers to the 28 campesino organizations that make up MUCA 28 parcels of land in African palm production so that by a mechanism of co-investment the farmhands can supply the processing plants.

In other words, the campesinos would become a labor force for the business community, taking on all the risks of production, while the processors could set prices in response to international markets, allowing them to make money no matter what the world market did.

Lobo Sosa spokesman Samuel Reyes continued the government's practice of assessing its own proposals as very good ones, saying that
the proposal that the government is making is attractive compared to the counterproposal of the campesino movement that demands the assignment of 4 or 5 hectares of land for each family since that is what the Ley de la Reforma Agraria calls for.

Unfortunately, according to La Tribuna, MUCA did not actually agree with the self-congratulation of the Lobo Sosa administration.

It is somewhat surprising, then, to turn to Radio América's website and find them reporting that there will be an agreement. Datelined just after 4 PM, this story says that the campesino negotiators meeting with Lobo Sosa
estaría aceptando la propuesta que les presentó recientemente el gobierno para pone fin a la lucha por la tierra

[will be accepting the proposal that was presented recently to them by the government to put an end to the struggle for land.]

The subjunctive voice here tells the most important part of the story. Radio América continues
the government delivered to MUCA a proposal that includes 10 points, which in the majority are in agreement with the demands of the fieldhands and others require revision.

The source credited by Radio América is Andrés Pavón, described as playing the role of mediator for MUCA, who is said to indicate that there is consent by MUCA to resolve the confrontation. Pavón is also said to have indicated that
for the moment they trust the word of the authorities of the government that the military and police deployed in the Aguán are to initiate a process of general disarmament and to combat the wave of criminality and not to violently dislodge the campesinos.

This is really the only position that MUCA can take: it puts pressure on the Lobo Sosa government not to turn to military violence, since that would be a public proof of falsehood. MUCA, like the Frente de Resistencia in general, is committed to non-violent protest, so they have nothing to fear from disarmament if it takes place under watchful eyes of international media, said to be in the region, and with the Lobo Sosa administration on alert not to give itself a black eye.

But it cannot be ignored that the deployment to the Bajo Aguan is a form of intimidation; nor that it serves to advance a narrative of lawlessness and violence that is dangerous and serves to legitimate greater police and military repression.

This, in fact, is how the ongoing tension in the Bajo Aguan has finally reached English language mainstream media, via an AP news wire story by Freddy Cuevas in Tegucigalpa. Headlined "Honduran Army to help combat violent crime wave", the story advances the official storyline:
On Monday, Lobo's administration announced it was sending more than 2,000 soldiers and police officers to the Atlantic coast region around the Aguan River to seize drugs and illegal weapons. Drug cartels are increasingly using the coasts of Central America to move drugs toward the U.S. market.

Even if this militarization does not end in repression of the MUCA group specifically, let's pause to consider what it implies for the condition of civil society in contemporary Honduras. According to this story, which is rapidly being republished around the US as I write-- and others in Spanish published previously in Honduras-- the new campaign will involve soldiers assigned to search vehicles and pedestrians and pursue criminal suspects.

This is the fulfillment of the law and order promises that Lobo Sosa made in his failed presidential bid in 2005, and it is worth underlining that the means taken potentially open the doors to violation of civil rights under the Honduran Constitution, if searches take place without cause and without due process. And an open-ended military-police action against the citizenry casts a shadow over all projected mobilization by Hondurans who plan to continue protesting the situation in their country.


Oscar said...

What subjunctive voice are you referring to?

RAJ said...

"estaría aceptando la propuesta" which is present conditional, a form of subjunctive, technically, used "to describe an action that could take place in case a specific condition is completed".

Or: wishful thinking.