Thursday, November 25, 2010

Dreams of an Insurgency

On November 15, armed guards at one of Miguel Facussé's African palm plantations in the Bajo Aguan community of El Tumbador, shot and killed 6 campesinos who they said were trying to invade the plantation.

The police declined to investigate the latest shootings. They neither recovered the bodies nor collected any evidence.

After these latest killings, Porfirio Lobo Sosa ordered the complete militarization of the zone.

Oscar Alvarez, Honduras' security minister, claims to have information through the Police intelligence unit that there are armed groups intending insurrection forming in the Bajo Aguan.

This is not a new claim; it was made at least as early as February of this year. There's no public evidence to support the claim.

Then on Wednesday, Porfirio Lobo Sosa, declaring that there was good evidence that there was an arms cache somewhere in the Bajo Aguan with 1000 AK-47s and M-16s in the hands of groups being trained to attack the government of Honduras. Lobo Sosa knows this because Security Minister Alvarez told him it was true.

Lobo Sosa indicated a massive, secret operation was underway in the Aguan, to clean out all the known arms caches in the Bajo Aguan:
"We have traces of the people who have been voyaging outside of Honduras to receive training, we have them all located, including the places where they are being trained outside of here, of Honduras; it's a large quantity of arms they have, and we're going after them."

No one outside of the military and the national police knows the target(s) of this investigation. Lobo Sosa claims the current operation will put an end to the killings in the Bajo Aguan.

The first, and so far, only target, was the INA regional office in the Bajo Aguan, which the military and police took over in an early morning raid yesterday morning.

They found nothing.

Why target INA? it might have something to do with the history of the land where the latest massacre of peasant activists took place.

El Tumbador, the site of the massacre, in the 1980s formed part of the Centro Regional de Entrenamiento Militar (CREM). CREM, just outside Trujillo, was where US military advisers trained Salvadoran, and later Nicaraguan Contra forces, in the US's battle against leftists in Central America.

There's a long history of conflict over this land, home to some important archaeological remains investigated in the 1970s by Paul Healy. In 1983 I was advised by the Honduran military that the US base commander had denied me permission to verify the safety of the Selin Farm archaeological site, which I was checking as a representative of the Instituto Hondureño de Antropología e Historia.

After the CREM facility was decommissioned, campesinos moved in and established the community of Guadalupe Carney in the remains of the base. Guadalupe Carney has been the site of killings of as many as 17 campesinos in struggles over rights to the land.

Today, both the Movimiento Unificado de Campesino del Aguan (MUCA) and the US citizen Temistocles Ramirez claim El Tumbador. So how does Miguel Facussé come into it?

The Instituto Nacional Agrario (INA) says that the government, not Miguel Facussé, owns the land in question at El Tumbador.

The documentation is stored in the INA regional office in Sinaloa, in the Bajo Aguan. César Ham, current head of INA (a cabinet position in the Lobo Sosa government, remember), said that Facussé appropriated 565 hectares of government land inappropriately, land which belongs specificially to INA, land that was part of CREM.

Oscar Alvarez, the security minister, says that armed groups in the Bajo Aguan are funded by NGO's that are trying to destabilize Honduras. According to him, it's Nicaraguans and Venezuelans who are supporting these supposed clandestine groups. This charge has drawn a categorical denial by Nicaraguan Authorities.

Rafael Alegria, campesino leader and one of the voices of the FNRP called Alvarez's allegations a smoke screen designed to disorient public opinion.

The de facto regime made similar claims about the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular (FNRP) right after the coup, and harrassed and deported many Central Americans during its 7 month reign. In fact, Oscar Alvarez goes further, and revives a claim that in the 1980s, "several Hondurans were recruited in Nicaragua and then trained in Cuba to try to destabilize the Honduran government".

In fact, there is a large paramilitary organization in the Bajo Aguan right now, armed with AK-47s and M-16s, and protected by powerful individuals, just as Porfirio Lobo Sosa claimed. Except that it's not a campesino group. It's the armed guards hired by DINANT corporation to guard facilities in the Bajo Aguan.

Honduran resistance members argue that these private police forces are being trained by Colombian groups like the Mano Blanco, linked to similar violence against campesinos in Colombia. Reports of former AUC (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia) operatives being hired by Honduran elites were treated seriously by the UN in fall 2009. It is publicly acknowledged by Honduras and Colombia that security forces from Colombia are in Honduras this year on a "training" mission.

It was the spokesperson for DINANT corporation, Roger Pineda, who told HRN radio the unbelievable story that the El Tumbador finca guards were attacked by a group of 200 campesinos armed with AK-47 rifles. Press photographs circulated that showed several of the corpses allegedly holding (in what appeared to me to be a completely unnatural manner) AK-47s.

It's among DINANT corporation's paramilitary guards that Oscar Alvarez needs to look for his arms cache.

But instead, credit the new military operation for the successes it can report: in traffic stops they found 27 people carrying pistols and even a shotgun, without having the proper documentation of their right to own these guns

So José Luis Muñoz Licona, director of the National Police called the operation a success.

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