421 former day-laborers were forcibly evicted on February 1 from unused land belonging to a multinational fruit company. For generations, the residents of Finca Tacamiche had worked the banana lands owned by the Tela Railroad Company.
They had been squatters since June of 1994, when the company abandoned its banana operation, claiming that the land was only fertile for cultivation of basic grains. The workers were fired and instructed to leave the company's lands. Despite previous efforts to remove them, including a standing offer of land elsewhere and a violent previous eviction attempt, the "tacamiches" remained, planting the area with subsistence crops.
The February 1 eviction was carried out by hundreds of soldiers and members of the Public Security Force. No injuries were recorded. President Reina explained his decision to evict the squatters: "It has not been understood, though I've said it a thousand times, that in Honduras we live under a state of law. That means that when coercion must be used it must be used within the law ... ungovernability would be chaos, and disrespect for the law is a challenge to democracy." U.S. Ambassador William Pryce expressed his satisfaction that "the government has complied with the law, since the land is property of the Tela Railroad Company ... I have always said that respect for the law helps investment, and national and international investment helps economic development, and that helps the people, including the workers."
Others, including the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CODEH), the Coordinating Council of Campesino Organizations (COCOCH), and the National Workers' Center (CNTC), argued that the eviction was not legal. They held that the court order that originated the incident called only for the squatters' arrest, not the removal and confiscation of their property.
The families agreed to resettle on land in El Porvenir, where the government has promised to build houses, a school, a health center, electricity and potable water, as well as to idemnify each head of household with $500. The company bulldozed the squatters' shacks and plantings; in the near future the area will be replanted with sorghum.