Thousands of farmworkers seized 30,000 acres of land from major landowners and private companies in Honduras on Wednesday morning. The coordinated land seizure, which commemorated International Day of Peasant Struggle, marks the largest in the country’s history. The farmers say their actions are not motivated by politics, and claim that they have a right to cultivate the seized land because it is public property according to Honduran law.
Mabel Marquez of Vía Campesina’s Honduras chapter said that peasants “want to avoid any type of confrontation” and are open to dialogue with government officials. But hours after 1,500 farmers seized land belonging to Compañía Azucarera Hondureña, S.A. in the northern Cortés department, police had already begun evictions. Other land seizures occurred simultaneously in the Yoro, Santa Bárbara, Intibucá, Comayagua, Francisco Morazán, El Paraíso, and Choluteca departments.
Though Wednesday’s confrontations between farmers and law enforcement remained relatively peaceful, many previous land disputes have ended in violence. Tension over land has run high in Honduras for decades, as half the population lives outside of the cities and 72 percent of rural households live in poverty. Fifty-five farmers, farm security guards and policemen have died in land-related conflicts over the past two years alone.