While a delegation from the Chicago-based La Voz de los de Abajo organization and another international delegation from Germany are visiting a campesino land occupation in the Aguan region of northern Honduras, they have just received news of another political assassination in the country's lower Aguan Valley. The La Voz delegation plans on visiting the scene of the murder tomorrow.
At approximately 12:30 p.m. local time, campesinos from the group Refundacion Gregorio Chavez were fired on by private security guards working for Miguel Facusse, the country's largest land owner and one of its wealthiest men. Herman Alejandro Maldonado was killed and Ivis Ortega was gravely wounded.
Maldonado and Ortega were working on the plantation (finca) of Panama, which is near the town of Tocoa in Colon province of Honduras. This brings the number of murdered compesinos in the Aguan Valley to 79 since a U.S.-supported coup in 2009.
"This latest assassination by Miguel Facusse's employees is one more indicator of an escalating violence in the midst of an already severe human rights crisis as the country moves into elections," said Vicki Cervantes of La Voz de los de Abajo. Primary elections are scheduled for this November, and national elections for November 2013.
"This escalating violence includes the murder of the resistance political party (LIBRE) candidates and activists, threats against the Honduran human rights organizations themselves in the country," said Cervantes.
Campesino, Garifuna and indigenous communities are threatened by new mining and water concessions, and plans to wipe out labor, civil rights and environmental regulations in select areas dubbed "Model Cities." Protests are developing in the capitol of Tegucigalpa today over these plans to sell Honduras to the highest foreign bidders.
The La Voz delegation has spent four days visiting campesino communities in the Honduran provinces of La Paz, Progreso, Cortes, Atlantida and now Colon. The delegation has been told by community members in Aguan of the presence of U.S. military personnel in the region.
"We have witnessed hundreds of campesino families living under plastic sheets after violent evictions in the last three weeks and have received testimony from the men, women and children who have been detained and prosecuted for the 'crime' of wanting to survive," said Alexy Lanza of La Voz. "Everywhere the same story is told, 'they are trying to exterminate the campesinos,' they want to eradicate the poor not poverty.'"
Besides Cervantes and Lanza, members of the La Voz delegation include Sarah Sommers of Cleveland's Interreligious Task Force on Central America; Lois Martin, Tucson and a member of No Mas Muertes, an organization dedicated to preventing the deaths of migrants crossing the deserts in the border region; Sidney Hollander, an activist with the Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America; human rights activists Mary Dean and Greg McCain, formerly of Chicago and now of Colon, Honduras; and Andy Thayer, a Chicago-based anti-war and gay rights activist.