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Peasant Leader Brutally Attacked in Honduras
Grassroots' partner Rafael Alegria attacked on the floor of the National Congress
By Jovanna Garcia Soto
May 16th, 2014
Grassroots International joins with our partners La Via Campesina-Central America in condemning the recent attack of Rafael Alegría which occurred on May 13.
General Coordinator of La Via Campesina-Honduras, as well as a newly elected member to the Honduran National Congress, Rafael was attacked in the National Congress during a peaceful demonstration.
Rafael Alegría was immediately taken to the hospital by supporters of the Libre Party, where he was diagnosed with a broken right arm, bronchial obstruction due to tear gas and abdominal trauma likely caused by being kicked. He is expected to fully recover.
“The attack on our partner Rafael Alegría was a brutal and heartless attempt by conservative forces to hold on to power and consolidate their land grabs in the face of growing peasant and indigenous resistance,” says Nikhil Aziz, executive director of Grassroots International. “We continue to stand with Rafael and all those who so courageously claim their right to land, to economic and social justice and to a dignified future.”
Last year, before the elections, Rafael was forced into hiding after his closest legal advisor, Antonio Trejo Cabrera, was murdered. At that time, Rafael spoke plainly about the threats he and other peasant farmers face: “At this moment in time, there is a very serious agricultural conflict taking place – the campesinos [peasants] want to work and produce their own food to feed their families and to contribute to the national economy. I am being targeted by a campaign to blacken my name and am being threatened by groups who are opposed to agrarian reform.”
This May 13 beating followed the orders of the President of the National Congress, Mauricio Oliva, to repress the demonstrators who had occupied the congressional hall. Military police, police from the Special Operations Command (COBRA), and military troops reportedly entered the Chamber of the National Congress, surrounding the protesters and assaulting people with batons, tear gas and shields.
These actions are a direct attack to the Honduran peasant movement. According to La Via Campesina Honduras, the peasant movement has been strongly repressed since a 2009 coup ousted then-president Manuel Zelaya. Since then, the Honduran government has ruled with a neoliberal agenda advancing the interests of the elite, and the justice system has been manipulated to defend the interests of corporations that have violated the rights of the Honduras people. The results have been assassinations, death threats and striking levels of repression against peasants, Garifuna (Afro-descendant) and indigenous peoples fighting for food sovereignty and defending their lands, rivers, and forests.
At the time of this recent attack, the peasant movement has been working to pass the Agrarian Reform with Gender Equality for Food Sovereignty and Social Development, a reform bill framed to solve the land problem in Honduras. Rafael Alegría recently presented the bill to Congress. On May 1st, La Via Campesina Honduras mobilized thousands of people demanding the prompt approval of the Agrarian Reform bill. The movement is also organizing to push the new agrarian reform and the abolition of the current Agricultural Modernization Act.
Two days after the brutal attack of Rafael Alegría and others in the congressional chamber, on May 15 all the peasant movements in Honduras started a 48-hours fast. This will likely become a Hunger Strike for the approval of the Agrarian Reform. The peasant movement is going to combine these actions with massive land occupation to plant food as a part of strategy to push the agrarian reform.