From Tue Jul 16 07:30:10 2002
Date: Mon, 15 Jul 2002 23:33:19 -0500 (CDT)
From: ListMeister <>
Subject: Honduran Compesinos Solidarity Appeal
Article: 142219
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Honduran campesinos need your support

From Chicago News and Letters Committees, 15 July 2002

We are circulating a letter in solidarity with the campesinos murdered March 28 by guards working for Standard Fruit, a Dole subsidiary, in Honduras.

The letter is first; more info about the struggle follows, which is condensed in the letter.

You can return this letter via email, with signature, to the Chicago solidarity group, La Voz de los de Abajo, at They will compile all the letters and mail them to Dole and Honduran government officials.

Please circulate.

THANKS for your support.

--Chicago News and Letters Committees


24 Abril de 2002

Lic. Ricardo Maduro
Presidente de la Republica de Honduras
Casa Presidencial
Tegucigalpa, Honduras

Distinguido Seqor Presidente Maduro:

Respetuosamente me dirijo a Usted para expresar una profunda preocupacisn por la masacre de cuatro campesinos el 28 de Marzo de 2002 en Belfate, Colon, por parte de vigilantes de la Standard Fruit de Honduras, quien segzn testigos fueron los responsables de la masacre, bajo la direccisn de su jefe, Celio Zelaya. Solicitamos la investigacisn del caso, la captura y el juicio debido de los responsables. Ademas, estamos sumamente preocupados por las amenazas sufridas por los distintos sectores de la sociedad civil que buscan la resolucisn pacifica de los conflictos de tierra en todo el pams.

Exigimos la resolucisn pacifica de los conflictos por medio de la adjudicacisn tierras nacionales a los campesinos quienes las habitan.

Exigimos que se aplica su polmtica de Cero Tolerancia en contra los responsables de este crimen contra campesinos que solo buscan medidas de sobrevivir.



cc: Lic. Jose Erasmo Portillo, Director, Instituto Nacional Agrario Ambassador Frank Almaguer, US Embassy in Honduras David Sesi, Chairman and CEO of Dole Bananas David H. Murdock, President of Standard Fruit de Honduras Honduran Campesinos Murdered By Standard Fruit/Dole Guards

by Kari Lydersen 4:27pm Mon May 20 '02

Four campesinos were murdered by guards working for Standard Fruit, a subsidiary of Dole Foods, on March 28 as they walked to work on unused land they had reclaimed from the company. The battle to get justice for the victims and to get the truth out continues.

Almost a century ago Honduras earned the nickname Banana Republic because of the way U.S. fruit companies, namely United Fruit and Standard Fruit, essentially ruled the country with an iron fist, exploiting cheap labor in the desperately poor country to make billions in exporting bananas, coconuts and other tropical fruit.

Though the term Banana Republic is now connected more with the trendy clothing store than Central America, the tradition of violence and exploitation by U.S. fruit companies in Honduras continues.

On March 28, four campesinos in the Empresa Campesina 1 de Octubre organization were murdered by guards working for Standard Fruit of Honduras, a subsidiary of Dole Foods, as they walked to work in the Lis Lis area in the Colon province. While Dole maintains the campesinos were killed in a mutually armed confrontation with the guards, witnesses say the campesinos were all unarmed and were ambushed by 17 or more guards lying in wait for them with AK-47s.

At 7:30 that morning, the guards surprised about 40 farmers as they emerged into a clearing, wrote human rights activist Marguerite Pigeon in an April 6 report from the scene. People ran in all directions, many taking cover in a nearby creek as bullets flew by indiscriminately, lodging in trees and leaving dead Manuel De Jesus Reyes, 30, Feliciano Orellana Pacheco, 45, and Catarino Morales, 55.

Another man, Santos Lopez, later died from his injuries. A bitter struggle had been going on between the 76 campesino families who make up the 1 de Octubre organization and the fruit company for months.

The Lis Lis land, rich forest and farmland on the coast, was never actually bought by Standard Fruit but was given as a concession to the U.S.-based company at the turn of the century. During the agrarian reform movement in 1975, the concession was ended and the land reverted to the National Agrarian Institute. But in typical convoluted fashion, in a country ranked one of the most corrupt in Latin America, Standard Fruit of Honduras claimed to still have title to the land.

Under the agrarian reform laws, if land is not being used it can legally be reclaimed by campesinos who plan to work on it. The campesinos had first occupied the land, 650 hectares that had formerly been a coconut plantation, on October 1 of last year.

They were evicted after three weeks when Standard went to the Justice of the Peace to file criminal charges. The campesinos filed for ownership of the land with the National Agrarian Institute in December, a case which is still pending. On March 20 they reoccupied the land.

According to several eye witnesses, the guards first arrived the day before the attack with their boss, Celio Zelaya -- all employees of a security company called Multiservicios of La Ceiba, Honduras, Pigeon wrote. During a discussion with some of the farmers the guards claimed they would be back the next day with documented proof that the land was privately owned by Standard Fruit of Honduras. The guards did come back, but with guns rather than paper and a plan to kill as many of the farmers as they could.

In a statement, Dole said the farmers responded to the massacre by threatening to burn and destroy Standard Fruit property. Pigeon reported that later the same day guards and police came back again threatening violence.

After the morning massacre, the guards returned at 1 p.m. accompanied by Celio Zelaya and 10 more private police brought in from the nearby city of La Ceiba, she wrote. They came wearing baclavas and, according to the farmers, advanced in attack formation&$8212;crouching, guns aimed.

Land struggles like that in Lis Lis are going on all over the country; since 1985 at least 39 campesinos from the CNTC campesino organization (Central Nacional de Trabajadores Campesinos) alone have been murdered over land reclamations.

Rosalio Murcia Portillo, head of the CNTC, said violence and tension surrounding land struggles in Honduras has increased this year under the new administration of president Ricardo Maduro, exacerbated by a worsening drought, Maduro's courting of foreign investors and his zero tolerance policy based on U.S. models of responding to dissent.

At the behest of campesino and indigenous groups, a government commission is investigating the murders; meanwhile the seven guards who originally were jailed for the attack have reportedly been released and Standard has hired a private defense attorney for them.

Standard has a notorious history in the region, including a long record of union busting and poor working conditions. In 1998 the company settled a lawsuit with hundreds of workers who suffered sexual impotence, sores and other serious health effects from nocturnal spraying of the chemical Nemagon on the plantations. With $4.5 billion in profits world-wide each year, Dole, Standard's parent company, is the largest fresh produce company in the world, joining Del Monte and Chiquita as the Big Three producers of bananas, pineapple, melon and other fruit from Latin America.

The Chicago-based solidarity group La Voz de los de Abajo is collecting signatures on the above letter to send to the Honduran government and Dole's U.S. offices. Supporters can copy the letter, add their signature, and paste it in an email to La Voz at For more information, contact La Voz at

-Kari Lydersen