HOT TOPICS ▶ Climate Change     Undoing The New Deal     The Real Baltimore     Reality Asserts Itself     United Kingdom    

  July 31, 2011

Honduran Police Burn Community to the Ground

Homes, churches, schools, and crops all destroyed as the post-coup government continues to side with wealthy plantation owners over the country's organized farmers
Members don't see ads. If you are a member, and you're seeing this appeal, click here


Share to Facebook Share to Twitter

No sports, no celebrities, no paid stories, no agendas. Pure integrity. - Steve Dustcircle
Log in and tell us why you support TRNN

Honduras' Aguan Valley continues to be ground zero in the ongoing conflict that followed the 2009 military coup. Police burned an entire community to the ground without so much as an eviction notice. The community, known as Rigores, had been living there for 12 years and had been on a path toward getting land titles when the coup turned that dream upside down. Many believe that the land is destined to be bought up by Honduras' richest person, Miguel Facusse, to add to his massive palm oil business. But, the farmers of Rigores vow to continue fighting for their land, as well as participating in the national resistance movement to refound Honduras on more equitable terms.

Produced by Jesse Freeston.


SANTIAGO (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Here is the house of a friend, destroyed.

JESSE FREESTON, TRNN: This is what's left of the village of Rigores in Honduras's Aguan Valley. At first glance, it looks like a scene after a hurricane, but this was no natural disaster. It's called the desolojo, the Spanish word for eviction. It's when the police, the military, or hired paramilitary forces demolish communities of the country's smaller landless farmers, known as campesinos. On this occasion, it was the Honduran national police force, armed with automatic weapons, torches, and bulldozers, that destroyed more than 100 homes here, most of which were burned to the ground.

SANTIAGO: Here we can see how they destroyed this community.

FREESTON: Santiago ... is a member of one of the 114 families that lost their homes.

SANTIAGO: They didn't provide us with any eviction notice.

FREESTON: Not a single building was left intact by the operation.

SANTIAGO: This house here is a church--was a church. These buildings were our schools, where the teachers gave our kids the gift of knowledge, and you can see here they destroyed them as well. These people had no compassion. This was the kindergarten where our five- and six-year-olds received classes.

FREESTON: The campesinos of Rigores have been living on and farming this land for almost 12 years. They came from all corners of the country, drawn by promises of land in the Aguan Valley. Twelve years ago, they made use of Honduran land reform laws and occupied this plot, then owned by plantation owners that were holding more than the 300 hectare limit allowed in the Aguan Valley. Their legal claim was never recognized, and their occupation was consistently threatened until 2008. That's when the government of Manuel Zelaya included Rigores amongst a group of communities nationwide that was to be awarded government loans in order to buy the land at market value from the plantation owner and get their long-sought legal titles for the community. But following the overthrow of President Zelaya in a military coup in 2009, the Supreme Court declared the minor land reform decree unconstitutional. Rigores and many other communities never got their titles.

SANTIAGO: We left our homes in hope of finding a piece of land like the one we found 12 years ago. But look at the extreme we're at today, when we thought the land was about to be legalized because that's what they told us.

FREESTON: Believing that the land was about to be legalized, ... was one of the farmers to begin investing in his home. He built a second room out of concrete to put the kitchen in. It stood alongside the one-room hut made of wood and earth that the family slept in. Now they've lost both.

SANTIAGO: This was my house. They came and yelled, "Get out! Get out!" without giving us a chance. Then they quickly brought in the bulldozer. They knocked it over in one swoop and left it destroyed. That was my flashlight. They didn't give us time to grab our stuff. Some people managed to save a few things that are now in the community center.

FREESTON: Sofia Lopez is the community's kindergarten teacher. She gave us a tour of the community center located a mile or so from the community.

SOFIA LOPEZ (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Most of the stuff was lost. We didn't have a chance to get it out. We lost beds, stoves, kitchenware.

FREESTON: The one-room building is currently serving as both home and school to 80 of the homeless families. ... Castro was one of two women in the group who suffered miscarriages in the days following the attack. She shows us the bruises that were inflicted upon her by police batons.

CASTRO (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): My entire body is bruised. We have nowhere to raise our kids. We need this land. And these people need to pay for what they've done to us. They even caused us to have miscarriages. I feel bad for all of this. Why? Because I lost my child. That's all I have to say.

FREESTON: The story of the community of Rigores is just one example of a desalojo in Honduras, a country where organized farmers are fighting for control of land with a handful of wealthy plantation owners. We were denied an interview with the man who claims to own the land of Rigores. But many speculate that he plans to sell the land to Honduras's richest person, Miguel Facusse. Facusse's African Palm plantations surround Rigores on three sides. And palm is the dominant business in the Aguan, where the fruit is made into a high-energy oil used for lard, snack foods, and, most recently, biodiesel. Rigores, on the other hand, is a community producing healthy food for local consumption.

SANTIAGO: Here we see an orange orchard that was also destroyed by the same police officers that carried out the desalojo. They took our own machetes and cut the trees down.

FREESTON: ... is coordinating the little food that the community has to work with.

(SUBTITLED TRANSL.): It's really hard to be without food, to watch them burn our harvest and cut down the orange trees just as we were wanting to harvest them. The same officers took our coconuts off our trees and ate them. It's terrible to know that the police aren't here to defend us but instead to destroy us.

FREESTON: The Honduran police force is currently receiving funding and training from various governments and political parties across Europe, the United States, Canada, Colombia, and Japan. If it weren't for the coup, the campesinos of Rigores would have likely had titles to their land today. Instead, they're homeless. They're also all active members of the national anticapitalist resistance movement that has been organizing since the 2009 coup with a goal to rewrite the Honduran Constitution and, in their words, refound Honduras. For the campesinos of Rigores, the resistance represents their path toward a Honduras with a more equal land distribution.

SANTIAGO: Ever since the coup, we've left behind the foolishness of thinking in terms of the traditional political parties that only bring us misfortune. We are with the resistance.

(SUBTITLED TRANSL.): We are honorable campesinos. We don't steal anything from anyone. We're only fighting to work the land, to grow our beans, our corn, and our squash, everything for eating. I don't know what else to tell you. The truth is, it hurts to have planted my corn one day before they took us out in this way. So I ask you to help us in this fight. Let's win our land. God gave the land for all of us, not just for a small few. That's all I can add.


FREESTON (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): You're wearing a T-shirt from the National People's Resistance Front.

LOPEZ: Oh, yes! Look! "We women aren't taking back the country."

FREESTON: What does the resistance mean to you?

LOPEZ: Well, it's for the struggle that we're all in, men, women, and children. Nobody's going to give up here. We are going to win. That's how we'll prevail, with everyone together.


FREESTON (ENGLISH): From Honduras's Aguan Valley for The Real News Network, I'm Jesse Freeston.

End of Transcript

DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


Our automatic spam filter blocks comments with multiple links and multiple users using the same IP address. Please make thoughtful comments with minimal links using only one user name. If you think your comment has been mistakenly removed please email us at

latest stories

Trump Boasts of Killer Arms Sales in Meeting with Saudi Dictator, Using Cartoonish Charts
15 Years of Mass Destruction in Iraq
Mercer's Cambridge Analytica 'Utterly Sleazy'
Meet The Man Behind Cambridge Analytica, Who Made Trump President
Will Congress Affirm its Constitutional Power to Stop the War in Yemen?
In Afrin the Turks are Looting and Pillaging with Gunfire
Protester Arrested At State House: Gov. Hogan Would Not Drink Water Contaminated by Fracking
'Samantha Em-Powers Genocide in Yemen': Students Protest US Role in Saudi War
After a Shooting at His School, a Maryland Teacher Speaks Out
European Left Divided Over Brexit
Marilyn Mosby: From Freddie Gray to GTTF
Trump and the Rise of the European Right, with Reps of UK Labour Party, De Linke, Podemos, and Syriza
Petroleum Executives Visit Trump, Increasing Offshore Oil Drilling
EPA Sued for Removing Independent Scientists from its Advisory Board
Inequality in America: A National Town Hall
Laura Flanders Show: Women's History Makes The Future
Corbyn Allies in Labour Attacked For Supporting Palestinian Struggle
Paul Jay: Threats facing Humanity, Russiagate & the Role of Independent Media
Kochs and ALEC Behind Criminalization of Dissent Bills in Five States
West's Anti-Russian Fervor Will Help Putin Win Election On Sunday
Stephen Hawking: Fighter for Progressive Politics
Corbyn Smeared as 'Russian Stooge' for Requesting Evidence on Poisoned Spy
Chief in Charge of Internal Affairs To Retire from Baltimore Police
Corbyn Calls for Evidence in Escalating Poison Row
Sanders Resolution Against War in Yemen Challenged by Mattis
Senate Expands 'Lobbyist Bill' to Deregulate Real Estate
Expressions of Afro-Asian Solidarity During the Cold War
Economic Benefits of Tax Cuts Should Have Arrived - Where Are They?
Trump's Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Is Another World Possible? - Leo Panitch on RAI (4/4),, The Real News Network, Real News Network, The Real News, Real News, Real News For Real People, IWT are trademarks and service marks of Independent World Television inc. "The Real News" is the flagship show of IWT and The Real News Network.

All original content on this site is copyright of The Real News Network. Click here for more

Problems with this site? Please let us know

Web Design, Web Development and Managed Hosting