Saturday, August 4, 2012

Swindles, land grabs, & drug trafficking in Honduras

The original caption to this photo said: “Soldiers stand guard in a plantation of the Bajo Aguan valley, Honduras. President Porfirio Lobo ordered a general disarmament in the Aguan valley in an attempt to stop the violence related to the dispute over land ownership that has already caused 78 deaths.” (Photo by Orlando Sierra/AFP)

This is another case of not quite lying in order to avoid telling the truth. What’s going on here is a land grab & dispossession of small farmers by Honduran agribusiness & oligarchic interests in league with the IMF & World Bank--not to mention oligarchic drug traffickers. In brief: this conflict originated in the 1950s with the rise of social unrest among rural workers & landless farmers. To avoid expropriating the large landholdings of North American banana companies, the Honduran government pulled a Hail Mary pass by recruiting landless farmers to colonize state-owned rainforest in the Bajo Aguán Valley. The farmer cooperatives would receive support in the form of government loans & price supports especially for planting palm oil for the cosmetics & food industries. The 1974 land reform law prohibited sale of lands & ruled abandoned lands would revert to the government for re-distribution to other landless farmers. 60,000 migrant families moved to the Aguán Valley for the arduous, back-breaking work of clearing land & building infrastructure. But by the early 1990s, the farmer cooperatives were going belly up due to the imposition of IMF & World Bank Structural Adjustment Policies which were pressuring for neoliberal policies & a switch from cooperative farming to private ownership along with a switch to giant palm oil plantations for biofuel export. In 1992, an obliging government reversed the 1974 land reform law to legalize & facilitate a land grab. In a massive swindle, the cooperatives were manipulated, bullied, & coerced into selling their lands primarily to three palm oil magnates, including the richest man in Honduras, Miguel Facussé Barjum. Realizing they were swindled, farmers began to mobilize & reoccupy their land in 2000. Thousands of farmers occupied thousands of acres reclaiming property now “owned” by Facussé. Facussé however got court orders to evict them. Hundreds of soldiers, cops, & private paramilitaries raided the valley to wrest the land from the farmers, using extreme violence & terror. This militarization of the area has been accompanied by human rights crimes of all sorts to terrorize the farmers with complete impunity (death threats, kidnappings, torture, assassinations, disappearances) & is justified by government & media allegations the farmers are engaged in drug trafficking. The US funds & trains the military, police, & paramilitary thugs conducting the occupation on behalf of Miguel Facussé, who along with his palm oil plantations is also known by the US (as revealed in Wikileaks cables) to be a major cocaine trafficker. Facussé & his company, Grupo Dinant, have received millions of dollars in loans from international financial institutions to promote palm oil for biofuel production but what do you bet also to promote international drug trafficking!? International drug trafficking is a multi-trillion dollar operation, fully integrated into international capital, & operated at the highest levels of governmental control. The 2009 coup to replace the Honduran president was very much related to facilitating this massive land grab & the whole rotten deal.

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