Honduras Govt Makes Deal to End Bajo Aguan Land Conflict

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The Honduran Congress has passed a decree allowing peasant farmers to purchase over 4,000 hectares of land, in a deal aimed at bringing an end to the bitter land conflict in the east of the country.

On Thursday Congress voted to allow a deal·to·allow a peasant farmer movement to purchase disputed land in the region of Bajo Aguan, which lies along the borders of the northeastern provinces of Colon and Yoro. At least 11 people have died since mid-August in the area in incidents related to a conflict between landless peasants and landowners who have purchased vast swathes of land to produce palm oil for export.

Under the deal, the farmers will purchase more than 4,700 acres of land, funded through a private bank loan which will be guaranteed by the state.

The farmers will repay at a favorable rate of 10 percent on the 15 year loan. Should the farmers not be able to repay the loan, the state will be liable and will issue bonds to cover the repayments. The purchase and sale of land will be exempt from stamp duty and other taxes and surcharges.

The move is the latest attempt by the government of President Porfirio Lobo to resolve the land conflict in Bajo Aguan, which has resulted in the deaths of 37 people since December 2009, according to newspaper El Heraldo. In June 2011, a previous plan to allow peasant farmers to purchase 4,000 hectares of land fell through as a result of fresh outbreaks violence in the region.

Local authorities, and the government, have in the past attempted to link the conflict and the peasants to foreign organized crime.

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