Honduras: Farmers win back their land

Farmers fighting for the redistribution of land

Jul 4, 2012

After a long and costly conflict, two regional courts in Trujillo and Tocoa have now decided that the plantations of the notorious Dinant company have been wrongly built on pieces of land owned by the local farmers of Bajo Aguán.
The judges have ordered to vacate the plantations, so the land can be returned to the farmers.

Until now, it has never been a good sign for the small-scale farmers of Bajo Aguán, a valley located in northern Honduras, when forces of the police showed up. But on Friday, June 29th, 2012, the security forces did not move in to harass the civilians: They came to protect them against the paramilitaries hired by major landowners Miguel Facussé and René Morales. After a long and costly conflict, two regional courts in Trujillo and Tocoa have now decided that the plantations of the notorious Dinant company have been wrongly built on pieces of land owned by the local farmers of Bajo Aguán. Police forces have been called in to oversee the vacating of the plantations, so the land can be returned to its rightful owners.

Occupation of farmland by major landowners illegal

Since 1994, the major landowners keep three farms under their permanent occupation: San Isidro, La Trinidad and El Despertar. In these areas, palm oil plantations have been established to produce and export agrofuels and edible oils. The small-scale farmers in the valley reclaim the land for themselves, and they accuse the company’s security guards of expelling them from their property by force. About 700 families affected by this have banded together to found the organization Movimiento Auténtico Reivindicador Campesino del Aguán (MARCA). For 18 years now, they are fighting for their rights to regain their property – and for just as long, the agroindustrialist Facussé is doing everything in his power to silence the farmers by employing extreme violence. Since January 2010, 64 people have been killed in this region, and many farmers are among the victims. According to several reports in the Honduran media, Facussé’s company Dinant is blamed for at least 19 of these cases of murder. Miguel Facussé comes from one of the most influential families of entrepreneurs in Honduras. He is said to stand in close contact with the military and – according to WikiLeaks reports – with the drug mafia as well.

Bajo Aguan – groundbreaking judgment with an impact on the entire country

The recent decision of the regional courts strengthens the rights of the farmers and confirms their claim to the ownership of land in Bajo Aguán. As yet, it remains to be seen how the powerful opponent’s highly-paid lawyers will react and which political strings Facussé will pull. But apart from the possible consequences, it must be viewed as a success that the judges of Trujillo and Tocoa were not intimidated by Facussé’s power and assigned the land rights to the farmers.

Since April 2010, Rainforest Rescue supports the small-scale farmers in Bajo Aguán and their demands for justice and an agrarian reform by starting petitions and by doing public relations work. A protest campaign against the international financing of Facussé’s plantations has already prompted DEG, the German Investment and Development Company, to withdraw from a proposed loan to Dinant.

Please follow this link for a statement of FIAN Honduras on the recent court ruling.