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History of the Honduran Peasant Movement and the General Context of the Peasant Struggle




The following document is by Central Nacional de Trabajadores del Campo/ National Center of Rural Workers (CNTC) outlining the history of the peasant movement in Honduras. The symbol for the CNTC is tecomate (similar to a waterskin but made with a natural plant similar to a pumpkin, “tecomate” is a nahuatl word) with a machete. “The CNTC, created in 1985, is a peasant organization, trade union, and protest organization that fights for a just distribution of land. It is affiliated to the Confederación Unitaria de Trabajadores de Honduras (CUTH) and is part of La Via Campesina. Its purpose is to support affiliated peasant families so they have land and resources to develop the productive activities of agricultural, forestry, and agro-industrial production. Their aim is to contribute to social and economic development. The CNTC organizes protests, actions, develops educational processes, and manages resources for the implementation of profitable productive projects with a focus on gender and sustainable agriculture. In addition, it also conducts research and legal monitoring of cases: diagnostics, land legalization procedures, evictions, and accompaniment of victims prosecuted for these processes.” (from https://pbi-honduras.org/es/qui%C3%A9n-protegemos/cntc ) - Translated by Kahlil I. Sankara and Libre X. Sankara of Troika Kollective


In the 1950s, under the influence of leaders in the agricultural workers' unions of the banana companies on the North coast, an organized peasant movement emerged.


1. In October 1961, the former leaders of the strike of 1954; Lorenzo Zelaya, Gabriel David, and Clemente Gutiérrez organized peasants in the region of Guaymas under the name of COMITÉ CENTRAL DE UNIFICACIÓN CAMPESINA/CENTRAL COMMITTEE OF PEASANT UNIFICATION (COCEUCA). The peasants carried out land recovery actions in Quebrada Seca, Finca 41, Santa Inés, and other places. They also promoted the first march and peasant assembly on March 4, 1962, in El Progreso. Later becoming the "Federación Nacional de Campesinos de Honduras/ National Federation of Peasants of Honduras (FENACH)" on August 29, 1962. FENACH combativeness caused apprehensions in the administration of Villeda Morales.


On April 30, 1965, mobilized 15,000 peasants in El Jute, El Progreso, and Yoro and were repressed by Owaldo Lopez Arellano, killing several leaders including Lorenzo Zelaya.


2. On September 29, 1962 la Asociación Nacional de Campesinos de Honduras/ The National Association of Farmers of Honduras (ANACH) is created in affiliation with la Federación Nacional de Trabajadores del Norte de Honduras / the National Federation of Workers of Northern Honduras (FESITRANH).


3. La Unión Nacional de Campesinos/ The National Union of Peasants (UNC) was founded in the city of Choluteca in 1972, in affiliation with the General Workers' Central (CGT). UNC mobilizations increased the political presence of the peasants throughout the 70’s. The massacres of La Talanquera, Santa Clara, and Los Horcones encaptured the capacity of peasant mobilization, while also reflecting the anti-popular policies of the government(s) in power. The political vision of the UNC is framed in the Social Christian conception.


4. La Federación de Cooperativas de la Reforma Agraria/ The Federation of Agrarian Reform Cooperatives (FECOHRA) was founded on August 26, 1973 it was pushed by Owaldo Lopez Arellano. FECOHRA’s area of influence is only the northern coast of the country and has business projects in bananas, African palms, and sugarcane. FECOHRA is a pro-government organization.


5. The CNTC was created in 1985 as the result of a unitary project of five small organizations that were scattered throughout Honduras: UNCAH, UNACOOP, FUNCAH, FRENACAIN, the Peasant Association for Transformation and Services (EACTS, and La Másica). Defining itself as a trade union organization for the struggle and not for social stabilization. Its motto is: "Unity, land, justice, and freedom".


After its formation, the organization's first step was to promote the implementation of massive land recovery actions in fourteen departments of the country and the demand for a comprehensive agrarian reform process at the national level. All while waging an intense struggle against the Government and its institutions, especially the National Agrarian Institute. A struggle to obtain the opening and monitoring of land application processes presented by grassroots organizations throughout the country.


Mission


The mission of an institution is the definition of its reason for being and existence, it defines its nature, its purposes, the populations to which its work, and all its efforts are directed.


The CNTC is a peasant organization, trade union, vindicating, fighting for the fair distribution of land, and the reduction of latifundia and minifundia as a form of tenure. It functions with the purpose of supporting affiliated peasant families to have land and resources and develop various productive activities at the agricultural, forestry, and agro-industrial level with a business vision. With the purpose to contribute to their social and economic development.


Vision

The Vision is the future dream that we want to achieve thanks to the effort of the institutional work, oriented to achieve changes with the target populations. The positioning of the organization, financial sustainability, and internal teamwork. Our Vision is the following:


To be an organization consolidated in the political, economic, and social field with a presence throughout the national territory. To claim the rights of the peasantry, Food Sovereignty, a Comprehensive Agrarian Reform, and the exercise of equal power at the grassroots and in the direction of the organization.


Principles and Values


The principles and values of an organization become habits or behaviors that it assumes in its daily life; this helps to regulate coexistence and relationships both internally and externally.


In the CNTC, the fundamental principles and values that we practice are the following:


Principles


Justice


It is to respect the rights of others, it is to be impartial in all the actions of the CNTC.


Freedom


It is that everyone thinks and acts according to what they believe, what is convenient internally to the CNTC, and to say what they want to say.


Love


Is the sense of belonging we have for the CNTC and the dedication to work in a selfless manner to be demonstrated with actions.


Democracy


It is the right to participate, analyze, and make decisions in the CNTC.


Values


Unity


It is the harmonious behavior that prevails in the families affiliated with the CNTC.


Discipline


It is to submit to the rules and norms that exist in the Statutes and Regulations of the CNTC.


Solidarity


Is to be sensitive to the problems and difficulties of both other members and the community.


Transparency


Is the proper and efficient management of the CNTC's assets and resources.


Equity


Is to act fairly in decision-making and in the distribution of profits.


Loyalty


Fidelity to the principles and values of the Organization.


Socio-political Context


After 22 years since the coup d'état, the political crisis in Honduras is still ongoing. This crisis reveals deep cracks in the Honduran political system and reveals a tangled web of close and questionable relationships; between politicians, religious leaders, the military, and businessmen. It also reveals details that better explain the strange connections between people and groups linked to; politics, religion, media, and private enterprises. In Honduras, it is evident that it has symptoms of a deteriorated democracy threatened by a rule of law in crisis. Increasingly, political parties are delegitimized, while repressive bodies that have demonstrated innovation confronting old ghosts, take advantage of the civilian crisis.

On the other hand, in the exogenous sphere, Honduras is witnessing its most severe international economic crisis since the one suffered in 1929. The U.S. private financial system collapsed in 2008 as a result of financial speculation in real estate and with it systematically dragged down the entire financial system of industrialized countries. The so-called investment banking system began disappearing in the course of weeks. The commercial banking system moved towards being sustained with an impressive amount of public resources, which has led some to call it the nationalizing of the financial system.

The Honduran economy, which is growing through its exports and family remittances. 50% of exports are destined for the US market and remittance arriving from approximately one million Honduran migrants, accounts for almost 25% of the GDP. Our economy has begun to suffer the consequences. From GDP growth rates of up to 6% in the last 4 years, a reduced growth is expected to begin this year, with tendencies of stagnation and decline in the next two years. If we look around, exports have begun to plummet in value and volume alongside a stasis in remittances.

The crisis has shown both those who promote free-market policies and those who passively suffer them, are unsustainable. The gradual disappearance of public policies to regulate the market and intervene in it has begun to disappear. They’ve been disappearing since the world began to be governed by the neoconservatives of the 1980s. The crisis shows that both public policy and regulation are desirable and indispensable to stop the voracity and lack of scruples of the financial elites in their hunger for excessive profits, which has led to filling the vaults of the banks with euphemistically called "toxic assets".

Latin America has also changed: from neoconservative sectors to more neoliberal governments, with a little of its power in the United States, to center-left governments that emerged from electoral processes. Of course, with the sole exception of some countries on the continent. Even the United States itself had to change in the formulation of its domestic and foreign policy. We are witnessing the birth of the re-foundation of states and societies that seek to be conscious actors in globalization and not mere pieces. Pieces whose movements and futures are determined by those who defined, up until recently, without any discussion or opposition on what to do in poor and emerging countries.

In the endogenous sphere, as already mentioned, the national economy has begun to suffer the consequences of the international financial crisis, which will aggravate the indices reflecting the poverty that is affecting society nationally. It is possible that the small advances achieved may be reversible if alternative measures are not taken.


Rising Poverty and Inequality


Honduras was the second poorest country in Latin America in 2015. La Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe/ The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) points to Honduras as one of the countries with the highest poverty rate in Latin America. According to the "Social Panorama of Latin America 2014, the nation reached 70.5 percent multidimensional poverty.” This variable measures the precariousness of housing, overcrowding, basic services, education, employment, and social protection.

According to Instituto Nacional De Estadísticas Honduras/ Honduras Institute for National Statistics (INE), poverty in Honduras, measured in terms of households, increased from 58.8% in 2009 to 64.5% in 2013. In terms of extreme poverty, it went from 36.4% to 42.6.1% in the same period.

At the rural level, the most serious shifts are in terms of population in extreme poverty as a consequence of the process of land concentration that has been precipitated by structural adjustment policies. Policies highlighted by la Ley para la Modernización y Desarrollo del Sector Agrícola /the Law for the Modernization and Development of the Agricultural Sector that limited the Agrarian Reform Law and created incentives for the concentration of property.

Despite the fact that the rural sector contains the most serious shifts in indices of poverty and exclusion. The rural sector continues to be the sector that generates the most important part of the national product and it is also where the main resources are located. In this sense, Rural Development is a fundamental policy for the country and the population.

On the other hand, large amounts have been invested in the supposed activity of designing policies for the Honduran rural sector, but results have been ineffective. The fact lies in that agriculture is more impoverished in human resources after the rural flight to the cities; almost more than half of the population now lives in cities and surrounding areas with more than twenty thousand inhabitants each.

The labor market, using data from the same source (INE), confirms the impoverishment of the population. In May 2009, the per capita income in rural areas of the country was 1,578 lempiras (Honduran currency) per month and in May 2013 this income only increased by 121 lempiras per month (1,699 Lps) in the span of 4 years. It should also be recalled that the cost of the basic food basket in 2013 was 7,335.96 lempiras per month, according to the report of la Secretaría de Trabajo y Seguridad Social/the Ministry of Labor and Social Security.


Increased social conflict and government control with dialogue and repression; tendentially greater threats to the integrity of human rights.


In the post-coup context, citizens have the perception that conflict has increased. The government is the central target of social conflict. Either because the demands go directly to it or because it is self-claimed to play the role of intermediary. The most intense conflicts have been the struggle of the peasants of Aguan, the teachers' movements, and the workers' demands for an increase in the minimum wage. The government's response has been a combination of openness and repression.


The land tenure situation offers a discouraging panorama: 1% of the business owners own one-third of the land in Honduras, while 375,000 small farmers have no land on which to plant their crops. Faced with this inequality, peasant organizations demand a Comprehensive Agrarian Reform, to solve the problem. Whereas the response of the government in office was the repeal of Decree 18-2008 that legalized the land held by peasant groups for more than 20 years. The neoliberal government also acted in the non-approval of the Law on Comprehensive Agrarian Reform with Gender Equity for Food Sovereignty and Rural Development presented to Congress on April 9, 2016. Currently, there are around 5,000 imprisoned peasants (700 women) through alternative measures and 11 prisoners in different jails throughout the country for the struggle for land.

On the other hand, the removal of Honduras from the list of countries that violate human rights by la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos/ the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has been considered by government authorities as a great result. This response from human rights organizations is a consequence of the application of the IACHR rules of procedure in countries that accept an on-site visit by this inter-American organization. It in no way signifies a significant improvement in the respect for human rights.



The Preliminary Report of the IACHR's on-site visit to Honduras from December 1 to 5, 2014 offered an alarming panorama in the areas of violence against human rights defenders; violence against indigenous leaders; violence against children and adolescents; violence against journalists and the media; violence against women; violence against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGTB) people; violence against migrants; violence in the context of the Aguán agrarian conflict. In addition to these figures, the militarization of public security is a response to violence, impunity, and the deficient functioning of the justice system. The IACHR closed its reports touching on the structural violence expressed in poverty, inequality, and social exclusion.

Within this framework, a significant achievement of human rights organizations, and social and political sectors have undoubtedly been the rejection by the National Congress of the elevation of the military police. The elevation of the military police to constitutional rank, which would imply the direct command of the Executive over this military force. This fact represents a setback in militarization. This process would have led to the re-militarization of Honduran society. This achievement opens the possibility of the reconfiguration of a multi-party political opposition to the current government administration. It marks a new field of confrontation of the diverse political and social forces that display the political polarization of the country has not yet been overcome. The next battle will be for the approval or rejection of this initiative of the Executive. The battle can be regarded through the call for a plebiscite or "fourth ballot box" (in November 2017), where the population would pronounce itself in favor or against the constitutional rank of the military police.


Unequal access to Education and Health


In terms of access to education and completion of basic education, Honduras -together with Guatemala and Nicaragua- is one of the countries in the region with average graduation. Examining the primary level and low graduation at the secondary level; Honduras suffers from widespread illiteracy. The illiteracy rate is over 14% of the total population and 30% in rural areas. The problems for public education include a lack of schools, understaffed schools, precarious salaries for teachers, the high cost of subjects needed for these schools, and the poor quality of public education.

The gap in education negatively affects women, which can be explained by the impossibility of many women to continue with their formal studies. Many are forced to face alone the maintenance and care of their homes, becoming heads of households. The lack of access to education and the low quality of education available is one of the traps of poverty. Being one of the factors that prevent families from leaving low-productivity activities. On the other hand, it is also evident that the differences in gender themselves are a reason education does not have the same return for women as for men. For similar levels of education, women obtain less income for their work than men and the income gap is greater among the population with more years of education. This constitutes a disincentive for women 's higher education. In addition to gender gaps in education, gaps tend to persist in labor market opportunities, as well as in the ability to participate in public life and decision-making.

The health system in Honduras is mixed, i.e. there is a public and a private part, the latter is made up of; some hospitals, clinical laboratories, temporary medical clinics, private general and specialized medical offices, alternative centers, pharmacies, clinical laboratories, all of which are regulated and governed by the State. It is important to point out that there are deficiencies in relation to this and access (40% of the population does not have access to health services); there is the marked exclusion of ethnic minorities and rural populations. Health spending is among the lowest in the Central American region. There are also deficiencies in health care, as well as in the supply and clinical laboratory services (supplies, medicines, special exams: tomography, MRI, endoscopy, colonoscopy). Another aspect is the infrastructure, in many health units and hospitals the buildings do not provide adequate conditions for care, related to privacy and hygiene, which affects a low quality of care to the public in general, especially for women. Another relevant aspect to point out regarding social security is that more than 95% of the population is not covered by insurance systems.


Violence against Women


Femicide is one aspect out of all the things that happen in terms of women's human rights. Therefore, denouncing these facts also involves; denouncing inequality in public and private spaces, discrimination, domestic and intra-family violence, the lack of access to health and education, the absence of job opportunities and the precariousness of labor rights in all areas, the care economy (that always falls on women), women's limited access to land, and a group of people who have to risk their lives in the defense of their natural resources. It also involves revealing the repression and persecution of women who dream and fight for a different country, the violations of women's rights of Indigenous and Black peoples. As well as the existence of a government that is part of a coup d'état and responds to the interests of the oligarchy. All the while organized crime and drug trafficking take over neighborhoods, communities, and entire regions. All of these are pieces that painfully build a chain of violence that culminates in the murder of women for being women. According to data from the la Fiscalía de la Mujer/ Women's Prosecutor's Office, in 2009, 377 women were murdered, in 2010 there were 407 cases and between 2010 and 2020 the number of murders increased by 65%, with 95% of the cases going unpunished.


Natural Resources


The rate of deforestation has increased; water is dramatically lacking or is a danger where it is plentiful; pollution is on the rise due to discharges into watersheds and the trail of erosion from deforested highlands.


In short, the current public development policy is to reproduce the poverty of the rural poor with technological advancements. Bringing capital to those who already manage and have capital. In all these interventions, hidden, there is always the footprint of corruption.


Conclusions


Reviewing the actions of the CNTC throughout its 36 years of existence, we realize that the membership has not been stable because the peasant bases have not been stable.


That this process of providing land to peasants has been arduous (hard), risky and expensive in money and human lives.


That the leaders of the CNTC continue to be the most combative and capable of the peasant movement.


The strength of the work of the CNTC has been its fight for the acquisition of land and its training of affiliates. Its weakness has been the business side. However, in the last 5 years, we have made efforts to give it a turn in business development, making joint efforts to secure economic resources to be invested in economic development projects, entrepreneurship, and economic initiatives aimed at strengthening food security and food sovereignty.




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