Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
Peasant families in the small Central American country of Honduras are waging a courageous and unequal struggle for land. Very little has been reported in the international media, but since 13 April hundreds of poor campesino families have been occupying 15,000 hectares of land in eight of the country’s departments. Much of this land, they say, either belongs to the state or is uncultivated and should therefore be distributed under the land reform law. They want it to grow food crops for their own families and local markets. The situation is extremely tense.
In recent months there has been an escalation in violence between campesinos on the one hand and army, police and militias employed by rich landowners on the other. In just one area, Bajo Aguán, according to the Honduran human rights organisation COFADEH, at least 43 peasants and land rights campaigners have been killed in the past two and a half years. This is an area where landless peasants were given official incentives to settle on vacant lands in the 1960s. However, titles were never regularised and in the past two decades large landowners have been taking over swathes of land to plant sugar cane and African palm.
On 28 March, just before the occupations began, four peasants were killed and eight wounded in an ambush in Trujillo, Bajo Aguán. Their attackers were dressed as peasants but carrying automatic weapons. Confused reports from press and government sources claimed that the attackers were either the peasants themselves or drug traffickers. However, locals suspect them of being militia hired by landowners, one of whom, Miguel Facussé, heads Dinant, a company specialising in producing and marketing palm oil, used to make biofuel. According to US analyst Lauren Carasik, Dinant has received loans from the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation to support the production of palm-derived biofuels.
Facussé is a member of one of Honduras’s most powerful oligarchic families, and was one of the leading supporters of the June 2009 coup that toppled President Manuel Zelaya. He was also identified as a probable drug-trafficker in several US embassy cables from 2004 released by Wikileaks.
Honduran peasants are demanding action by the government’s National Agricultural Institute (INA) to regularise land titles under the terms of the land reform law, which has been steadily eroded in the past 50 years, notably by the ‘agricultural modernisation law’ of 1992. According to the peasants, this was a charter for large landowners to assume formal title to lands they had been accumulating for decades by illegal purchase or simple seizure.
For a brief period in the 1990s it seemed that the power of the landowners might be challenged when President José Manuel Zelaya shifted to the left in the middle of his administration and promised new laws, proper implementation of the existing land reform and regularisation of land titles. However, these hopes were dashed when Zelaya was ousted in June 2009 in a military coup that was condemned throughout Latin America and by the OAS, the UN and the EU.
Only the US dragged its feet, claiming ‘further study’ of the situation was required, and then acted swiftly to recognise the new government of Porfirio Lobo, largely made up of those who had staged the coup. This has been one of several factors (along with US unilateralism on drug policy, the exclusion of Cuba and trade) impelling Latin American countries to strike a more independent line, establish their own regional organisations excluding the US and sideline the discredited OAS.
Honduras is the third poorest country in the Americas (after Haiti and Nicaragua) with a GDP per capita of £2,700 (Britain’s is £22,400). The 2009 Honduran coup and the installation in 2010 of the right-wing government of Porfirio Lobo (himself the scion of a rich landowning family from Olancho) gave the green light to landowners to resume seizures, and to international financial organisations to fund them, partly in the name of promoting green energy.
The response to the latest land occupations has been swift, both from government forces and from militias employed by the landowners. Rafael Alegría of Via Campesina, one of the organisations co-ordinating the action, told the Latin America Bureau that 126 peasants have already been tried for various offences. One, Neftali Zúñiga, was beaten by guards belonging to the sugar companies that claim the land. In San Manuel the occupying peasants have twice been evicted forcibly – but each time they returned to the land.
‘They are being threatened and prosecuted by the sugar companies and the press barons, because it is the landowning bourgeoisie in the north of the country who own the land, the banks, the press, and control government ministries and the police,’ says Alegría. ‘They’re all in a conspiracy together against the peasants.’
The Latin America Bureau website (www.lab.org.uk) is covering the Honduran land occupations in detail, with interviews with some of the peasant organisations directly involved
The police spend little of their time making arrests, and most crimes are not solved, writes Alex Vitale – their real purpose is social control
Many important things happened on conference floor, reports Alex Nunns – but you wouldn’t know it from reading the newspapers
Radhika Desai says Capital by Karl Marx is still an essential read on the 150th anniversary of its publication
The Spanish state is seizing ballot papers and raiding meetings, write Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte – but it is being met with united resistance
The crunch executive meeting ahead of Labour conference agreed some welcome changes, writes Michael Calderbank, but there is still much further to go
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny
Universal credit isn’t about saving money – it’s about disciplining unemployed people
The scheme has cost a fortune and done nothing but cause suffering. So why does it exist at all? Tom Walker digs into universal credit’s origins in Tory ideology
Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke
The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana
Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth
Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company
You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild
Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University
This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback
Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein
Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up
Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement
‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic
Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden
There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright
Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones
‘Your credit score is not sufficient to enter this location’: the risks of the ‘smart city’
Jathan Sadowski explains techno-political trends of exclusion and enforcement in our cities, and how to overcome this new type of digital oppression
Why I’m standing with pregnant women and resisting NHS passport checks
Dr Joanna Dobbin says the government is making migrant women afraid to seek healthcare, increasing their chances of complications or even death
‘Committees in Defence of the Referendum’: update from Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte on developments as the Catalan people resist the Spanish state's crackdown on their independence referendum
The rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people are not guaranteed – we must continue to fight for them
Kennedy Walker looks at the growth in hate attacks at a time when the Tory government is being propped up by homophobes
Naomi Klein: the Corbyn movement is part of a global phenomenon
What radical writer Naomi Klein said in her guest speech to Labour Party conference
Waiting for the future to begin: refugees’ everyday lives in Greece
Solidarity volunteer Karolina Partyga on what she has learned from refugees in Thessaloniki
Don’t let Uber take you for a ride
Uber is no friend of passengers or workers, writes Lewis Norton – the firm has put riders at risk and exploited its drivers
Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
Matt Phull and Will Stronge share more thoughts about the postcapitalist potential of the Acid Corbynist project
Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power
What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains
The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going