Two more Honduran land rights activists killed in ongoing violence

The Guardian
October 19th, 2016
By: Nina Lakhani

Two more land rights activists in Honduras have been murdered amid a continuing wave of violence against community leaders opposing big business interests.

Jose Ángel Flores and Silmer Dionicio George – both members of the Unified Peasant Movement (MUCA) – were shot dead by a group of men outside the organization’s office in Tacoa, in the Bajo Aguán region.

A killing spree triggered by the 2009 coup d’état has made Honduras the world’s most dangerous country for environmental and land activists, leaving at least 120 dead, according to the NGO Global Witness.

The murder of indigenous activist Berta Cáceres in March triggered international condemnation, but the outrage has failed to stem the violence.

“Honduras has become a ‘no-go area’ for anyone who dares raise their voice for the protection of the environment,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, director for the Americas of Amnesty International.

In the fertile Bajo Aguán, land conflicts have fueled a dirty war in which almost 150 peasant farmers and their supporters have been murdered since the coup, mainly by paramilitary groups.

The Bajo Aguán dispute dates back 20 years, to a World Bank-funded land modernisation programme. The farmers say thousands of hectares of land used for subsistence farming were fraudulently transferred to agribusinesses that grow African palms, which are exported to the west for biofuel.

MUCA was formed to try and reclaim the land through both legal action and illegal land occupations.

Former president Manual Zelaya launched an investigation to resolve the conflicts, but this ended when he was toppled in a coup backed by the business, political, military and church elites. After that, the region was heavily militarized, violence soared and drug traffickers moved in.

Read more at The Guardian.