Photo caption (Karen Spring): One of many brutal murders of campesinos in the Aguan Valley. Gregorio Chavez’s tortured body was found by buried in Miguel Facusse’s African palm PasoAguan finca on July 4, 2012 after being disappeared five days earlier. No investigation has been conducted
Two campesino leaders from the Movimiento Unificado Campesinos del Aguan (MUCA) barely escaped a death squad assassination attempt as they returned to their homes on November 10, 2012. Joni Rivas and Vitalino Alvarez were driving close to the turn off point to the MUCA community La Confianza between 7:00 and 7:30 pm when they heard approximately six machine guns discharge two rounds of shots roughly 300 metres from their vehicle.
Joni Rivas is also a congressional candidate in the department of Colon for the LIBRE party, the political arm of the broader social movement, the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular (FNRP).
MUCA reports that the vehicle passed their car on the main road and then fired in the air roughly thirty seconds after passing them. Many believe that the unusual vehicle that Rivas and Alvarez were driving at the time may have confused the attackers that had received word of their location. Both leaders turned to see bursts of light produced by the gunshots but are unable to determine the description of their attackers and their vehicle because of the darkness.
Marking the night before the final day of campaigning for all candidates participating in the upcoming primary elections, Rivas and Alvarez were returning from an event in San Pedro Sula where they were promoting food and agricultural products produced by MUCA. The attempt generated fear in the Aguan region and hindered the ability for LIBRE pre-candidate Rivas from actively participating in electoral campaigning the following day. This attempt as well as the strong militarization of the zone, have affected the freedom of movement of pre-candidates like Rivas and their ability to campaign and organize their supporters for the November 18 primaries.
The US has actively participated in the militarization of the region by sending US soldiers including the US Army Rangers to train on the 15thBattalion located in the Aguan Valley. Despite dozens of reports and international complaints in front of the Inter American Commission of human rights abuses by the Honduran military and private security guards of large landowners in the region, the US continues its political and economic support to Honduras and the military. Reports have also indicated that US Border Patrol have participated in highway checkpoints in the region and US Marines were present in the 4th Infantry base located in La Ceiba (1).
The assassination attempt against the MUCA leaders is one of many attempts, threats and violent actions against the campesino movement in the Aguan Valley. Both MUCA leaders reports varies threats against their persons which only add to the countless reports of assassinations, violent evictions, rape and threats against the campesino movement in the Aguan that has led to over 70 deaths of campesinos.
(1) Bird, Annie. (March 1, 2012). Repression is the negotiating strategy in Honduras. Available at: http://upsidedownworld.org/
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