PBI-Honduras attends presentation of draft report on agrarian conflict in Aguán valley

Published by Brent Patterson on

On August 25, PBI-Honduras tweeted:

“[We] recently attended the presentation of the draft of a report on the agrarian conflict in Aguán, carried out by @CESPAD_HONDURAS [Centro de Estudio para la Democracia / Study Center for Democracy]. We emphasize the importance of investigating the conflict and reflecting on possible democratic ways of resolving it.”

In December 2021, Reuters explained:

On July 3, Juan Moncada, a leader of a Honduran agricultural cooperative, sat down with his wife, Esmilda Rodas, and told her: “They’re going to kill me.”

Three days later, gunmen shot Moncada dead outside a bank in Tocoa, a small city in the fertile Aguán Valley near Honduras’ Caribbean coast. For a decade, the couple, their family and their cooperative have been struggling to reclaim land in this region where they once grew food crops but that is now dominated by large landowners and sprawling, lucrative palm plantations.

His murder is part of a free-for-all in northern Honduras that pits peasants, landowners, public and private security forces, criminal gangs and government officials against one another.

Nearly 150 murders and disappearances in connection with the land conflict have convulsed the Aguán Valley since 2008, when violence first intensified here.

Convictions have been reached in just 25 of those killings, according to a government summary of the cases reviewed by Reuters.

Disputes still rage over some of the land now growing with palm. The Honduran government hasn’t verified many of the contested titles or resolved allegations by local residents, human rights groups and others that farms were acquired by force and at unfair prices.

The result, say those who monitor the region, is a legal and social vacuum increasingly filled by violent criminals and abandoned by locals who find the valley unlivable.

At times, the perpetrators have allegedly included private security guards working on behalf of large palm growers, small farmers ostensibly defending their plots, would-be landowners seeking to muscle in amid the chaos, and armed gangs increasingly moving cocaine through Central America.

The 146 victims tracked by the Aguán Human Rights Observatory, a local monitoring group, include more than 100 farmers, 16 private security guards, a judge, a police officer, and a handful of collateral victims, including a 13-year-old boy.

The conflict in the Aguán, named after the river that shapes the valley, festered as land here grew ever more profitable. Oil from the small red palm fruit is an increasingly common staple of the global food, personal care and biofuels industries. Palm oil exports from Honduras, now trailing only those of coffee and bananas, last year totalled almost $380 million.

In a region where many once relied on subsistence farming, palm has overtaken much of the fertile terrain, creating food shortages and a reliance on outside sources for nourishment, agronomists say. Palm has also altered the topography, making the land more susceptible to drought, floods and crop damage, especially during increasingly powerful hurricane seasons. More than half the population of the Aguán Valley, Honduran government data show, lives in extreme poverty and has trouble putting food on the table.

The full feature article can be read at: How a bloody land feud in Honduras is stoking migrant flight to U.S.

On August 23, CESPAD tweeted: “Yesterday, CESPAD socialized the draft report ‘Agrarian conflict in Aguán: its structural causes, the dynamics of the confrontation and the prospects for a democratic solution’.”


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