The man whose plantation security guards once shot toward a human rights delegation that KGNU was accompanying
(2012 audio report of the attack on the observer delegation)
died Monday of unkown causes. Miguel Facusse, thought to be the richest and most powerful man in Honduras has manufactured a complex regime of repression against civil society after becoming the chief economic advisor to President Roberto Suazo Cordova in the 1980s.
In his quest to turn the country into a haven of African palm oil production, he has been named as the author of multiple violent evictions of campesinos and rural residents throughout the country. KGNU has reported from the northern coast of Honduras where indigenous Garifuna reported the violent evictions from the land they have occupied for centuries. The Garifuna recuperated their territory and recently won title to their native Vallecito but not before having suffered multiple violent evictions rendering the group homeless and forcing them to live under plastic tarps each time they recuperated their land.
In the Bajo Aguan region communities have been attacked and violently removed from their homes where Facusse attempted to confiscate land of residents who possessed cooperative land titles issued at a time when a pre-2009 coup government honored cooperative titles. Communities there have also resorted to under-tarp existence after recuperating their land.
Last week KGNU aired the interview of a resident (holding protective measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights because of death threats) about the attempts of Facusse to confiscate the land in Zacate Grande in the southern region of Honduras where indigenous communities also reside. Facusse owns or claims the land surrounding their territory.
Born in 1924, he gained prominence in right wing circles in his earlier years by holding a degree in aeronautical engineering from the United States and later using his skills converting warplanes into commercial cargo airliners after World War II. He continued his influence by making a career of maintaining military aircraft from international sources. He later entered the textile industry and then founded Dinant Chemical of Central America after which he began distribution of products for Proctor and Gamble.
His Dinant Chemical factory began manufacturing soap but his more recent factories now produce the palm oil used in the junk food that now permeates the Honduran food market. The remaining oil is distributed internationally as biodiesel and rejected by informed prospective buyers who have termed the product “blood oil.” The World Bank has in the past withheld loans to the Dinant Corporation reportedly the result of the WB being forced to seriously consider the multiple reports of human rights violations on the part of Dinant although at other times has awarded Facusse and his Dinant corporation massive loans to fund his projects.
Facusse publicly supported the 2009 military coup which catapulted Honduras into the most dangerous country in the world seeing an escalation of assassinations of political opponents, union leaders, land rights activists, the attorneys who represent those groups, and the journalists who report on this repression.
His ties to the cocaine industry have been common knowledge among Honduran civil society but also to the US State Department. 2011 WikiLeaks cables exposed that the US Embassy in Tegucigalpa has known of his cocaine dealings for years prior to being exposed. The clandestine landing strips for his planes are rural. KGNU reports concentrate on rural communities and we have reported from on location where the community pointed to landing strips on his property and to where residents have heard plane activity only during the night.
US military aid to Honduras directly supports the Honduran military who have been present to execute many of the violent evictions of indigenous and rural communities. Many human rights groups have called for the ending of US military aid to Honduras.
Facusse’s inevitable death has never been considered the only threat to Honduran peace and quest for democracy. He leaves behind five children and a nephew, Carlos Flores Facusse who was president of Honduras from 1998 to 2002. Flores Facusse has collaborated with his uncle Miguel Facusse on many business dealings and also in his repressive tactics when Flores Facusse was overheard by a Canadian reporter saying “Just kill him!” at a news conference where a Honduran reporter was challenging the elder Facusse’s business practices.
Today the US human rights group La Voz de los de Abajo raised concerns about Facusse’s legacy as well. A coordinator for La Voz, Vicki Cervantes responded to the news this morning “My organization and I have personally accompanied survivors and families of so many campesinos violently attacked by Miguel Facusse’s paramilitary guards, witnessed so many families threatened, forced off their land because of the intransgence of this most powerful of all oligarchs. I don’t know what his heirs will do but the agrarian problem cries out for legal reform and an end to Facusse-type impunity.”
Chuck Kaufman Co-coordinator for the human rights group Alliance for Global Justice responded to the news of Facusse’s death, “A prince of darkness has returned to hell.”
We have chosen to report about specific incidents, locations, and persons in general terms. We have omitted the names of those under direct threat for their protection. Several persons who have received protective measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights created by the Organization of American States (OAS) have been assassinated in recent months after their identities or positions were made public.