[QODLink]
Americas
Thousands of Honduran workers occupy land
Squatters say they have been waiting for land for 15 years, fuelling new tensions over land rights.
Last Modified: 19 Apr 2012 10:43

Thousands of Honduran farm workers have launched a co-ordinated land occupation, squatting on about 12,000 hectares nationwide and fuelling new tensions over land rights, authorities said.

More than 3,500 families started squatting on farmland in the provinces of Yoro, Cortes, Santa Barbara, Intibuca, Comayagua, Francisco Morazan, El Paraiso and Choluteca on Tuesday - the International Peasant Day of Struggle.

Activists say the seized arable land is public property and small farmers have the legal right to grow crops under Honduran law. The large landowners who have been farming the land say they bought it legally from the government.

On Wednesday, police and soldiers read an eviction notice to farm workers on the San Manuel sugar plantation, about 22km north of the capital Tegucigalpa. The workers then peacefully vacated the 2,500 hectare area.

The rest of the farms were still occupied late on Wednesday, activists said.

Mabel Marquez, of the organisation Via Campesina, said that the largest seizure had occurred on the country's Caribbean coast, where roughly 1,500 farm workers had seized land held by a sugar plantation near the city of San
Pedro Sula.

"We want to avoid any type of confrontation," Marquez said, adding that the farmworkers were unarmed and used no force.

A land dispute between small farmers and landlords in the northern Aguan Valley has led to dozens of deaths among farmworkers in recent years.

Leaders of the farmers in the impoverished Central American nation said they were worried authorities would violently kick them off the land they were currently occupying.

Activists said they were seeking meetings with government officials to open up a national dialogue on land disputes, and to make clear that the lands were public property and that the farm workers should not be dislodged.

Farmers say they have been waiting for land for 15 years, and have not received any titles. Forty per cent of farmers are living in extreme poverty, aggravating the situation's urgency.

According to United Nations figures, 53 per cent of Hondurans live in the countryside and, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America, the residents of 72 per cent of rural homes are below the poverty line.

Meanwhile, Cesar Ham, director of the National Agrarian Institute said the land seizures were politically motivated and aimed at destabilising the government.

He blamed leftist legislator Juan Barahona at least in part for the land use tensions.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
More than one-quarter of Gaza's population has been displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Muslim charities claim discrimination after major UK banks began closing their accounts.
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Featured
US lawyers say poor translations of election materials disenfranchise Native voters.
US drones in Pakistan have killed thousands since 2004. How have leaders defended or decried these deadly planes?
Residents count the cost of violence after black American teenager shot dead by white Missouri police officer.
EU's poorest member state is struggling to cope with an influx of mostly war-weary Syrian refugees.
Study says tipping point reached as poachers kill 7 percent of African elephants annually; birth rate is 5 percent.
join our mailing list