SAN PEDRO SULA, HONDURAS-“The rich have the power” were the words of one villager who was made homeless after a violent raid by the National Police. On September 23, 2015 in the community of Regalo de Dios outside of Villa Nueva, Cortez, seventy families who had lived on the land for seven years underwent what they say was an illegal eviction. These are common in Honduras. Land that was once set aside for the state under agrarian land reform is being awarded to wealthy landowners who have in recent years been claiming more land than is legally allowed in the country.
The week before, in the southern part of the country in the department of Choluteca, another raid forced people out of their homes. Footage showed military police violently beating a woman and deploying tear gas on the village. According to television footage villagers appeared to be moving out of the area in the direction that they were ordered, police were still seen committing violence against the people. Children were screaming and others were running for their lives.
Sixteen-year old Fernando Castro was shot to death by police in Villa Nueva. One Villa Nueva villager who didn’t wish to be named but did wish to interview explained why, “It’s dangerous in this country [to be identified].” He described that day under the condition of anonymity,
“They were heavily armed. There were about 150 police and then more were called. There were patrols, and military too. When it happened they hit children, and pregnant women. I was in the front. The families started to yell at [the police] to get out so then [the police] started shooting tear gas at them. I’ve seen other evictions. At those the military usually shoots tear gas in the air, but here they shot the canisters right at people. This injured several people. They even shot tear gas into the school. Then they started to shoot live bullets. This happened even the same day that President Juan Orlando Hernandez happened to be in the state. There has been interest in this land for an electricity project but one person wants it for herself. Her name is Alejandrina Elan Maldonado from San Pedro Sula.
I have sufficient documentation concerning this land. It was once owned by a banana company but in 1936 it went back to the state.
During the raid, people from surrounding areas came to support. Sixteen were arrested. Houses were bulldozed and destroyed. Twenty houses were being built. This was my house.
Most are too scared to come back but this woman stayed.”
A woman who had come from a distance joined the group and gave her account,
“I don’t even want to remember that day. A 16-year old boy was shot to death and a 9-month old baby was hospitalized for tear gas inhalation but survived. I ran and tried to hide. They hit me in the head right here. Alejandro started vomiting blood. It was a day that no one will ever forget.”
A tour of some of the homes showed that they were destroyed to the ground with only rubble from the bricks remaining. The community intends to initiate a law suit.
The gentleman who described the raid to us, and whose home was completely destroyed, is rebuilding. He said that some families would not return.
screenshots of September 23, 2015 Villa Nueva raid (taken from video footage of unknown source)
Aftermath of September 23, 2015 raid as seen on October 6, 2015 (photos: KGNU News)