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La Grecia Sugar Mill in Marcovia, Choluteca, Honduras


Description:

The Honduran sugar industry began toward the end of the 19th century. In the present day, there are 8 sugar mills in the country across 80,000ha, one of which is Azucarera La Grecia in Choluteca. La Grecia´s sugar production is associated with environmental damages such as soil, air, and water pollution, soil erosion, excessive pesticide and fertilizer use leading to biodiversity loss, air pollution, and more. Consequently, youths, the elderly, and adults alike have died from poor working conditions, cardiovascular diseases, bronchitis, asthma, pulmonary emphysema, and more. The thick smoke from burning during processing also frequently disrupts air traffic. However, because the sugar industry contributes so much to the economy, the government has very little political incentive to enforce environmental and human rights regulations [8].

62 Peasant farming families living in Las Salinas, Aldea de Monjarás, Marcovia, Choluteca have been struggling against La Grecia´s forced evictions since 2017, when the government relocated them to a 20ha reservation of the land for them to grow basic food products [3, 7]. In November 2019, La Grecia began legally harassing, intimidating, and surveilling the community, ironically blaming them for ¨land-grabbing¨ [5]. Notoriously, on April 2, 2020 at approximately 4am, La Grecia sent guards from private security company CRAES to, without prior notice or warning, evict the people while they were sleeping, bulldozing and burning their homes and livestock. The eviction was illegal because there was no official order from a judge authorizing the eviction because the courts were closed during the COVID pandemic. 

The police came and surrounded the area during the raid, but remained distant and did not take any action to prevent the situation from escalating to bloodshed. During the evictions, guards shot at the crowd, much of it consisting of families fleeing with children, who tried defending themselves with sticks and stones. Although members of organization Ecumeniacal Action for Human Rights (AEDH) such as Marta and Lucrecia Maradiaga quickly arrived to try and talk to the guards and persuade them to put down their weapons, the guards ignored them and kept opening fire [6]. The guards targeted and killed woman leader Iris Argentina Álvarez, also injuring 6 others, including a child. Iris was working for the Cerro Escondido cooperative, which mobilizes peasants fighting for their legal rights to the land stolen by La Grecia [1, 2, 3]. Fellow defenders including lawyer Ely Portillo, Luid Fernando, and Johana Espinal put Iris and the other injured people in a truck and tried to escape to the hospital and call the police, but no one responded. Two bullets grazed Portillo as she was helping the others escape [6].

Basic Data

Name of conflict:La Grecia Sugar Mill in Marcovia, Choluteca, Honduras
Country:Honduras
State or province:Choluteca
Location of conflict:Aldea de Monjarás
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Agro-fuels and biomass energy plants
Specific commodities:Sugar
Land

Project Details and Actors

Project details

La Grecia has a milling capacity of 8,000 tons of sugar cane per day, harvesting more than 12,690 hectares of sugar cane [9].

Project area:12,690
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:2017
Company names or state enterprises:Azucarera La Grecia from Honduras - owner
Relevant government actors:Police Investigation Directorate
Asociación de Productores de Azúcar de Honduras (APAH),
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:National Human Rights Commission, Red de Ambientalistas del Sur, Ecumenical Action for Human Rights, Mesoamerican Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders, Southern Social Environmental Movement (MASSVIDA), Platform of Human Rights Defenders of the South, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Honduran Protection Mechanism for human rights defenders, Journalists and Social Communicators and Justice Operators, Association for Participative Citizenship (ACI Participa), Cerro Escondido.

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Women
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Public campaigns

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Fires, Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths, Other Health impacts
Other Health impactscardiovascular diseases, bronchitis, asthma, pulmonary emphysema
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors

Outcome

Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Court decision (undecided)
Repression
Violent targeting of activists
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:La Grecia still continues with complete impunity for its violent, illegal evictions and environmental violations.

Sources & Materials

[1] Land Portal. Iris Argentina Álvarez: Campesina hondureña asesinada por lucha de tierra en el sur (2020)
https://landportal.org/es/news/2020/04/iris-argentina-%C3%A1lvarez-campesina-hondure%C3%B1a-asesinada-por-lucha-de-tierra-en-el-sur

[5] FIDH. Honduras: A un año del asesinato de Iris Argentina, la defensa de la tierra sigue siendo atacada (2021)
https://www.fidh.org/es/temas/defensores-de-derechos-humanos/honduras-a-un-ano-del-asesinato-de-iris-argentina-la-defensa-de-la

[2] Business and Human Rights Resource Centre. Iris Argentina Álvarez (2020)
https://www.business-humanrights.org/es/%C3%BAltimas-noticias/iris-argentina-%C3%A1lvarez/

[8] Criterio. Azúcar: Dulce al paladar, amarga para el ambiente (2017)
https://criterio.hn/azucar-dulce-al-paladar-amarga-ambiente/

[3] DW. Honduras: ONU condena asesinato de dirigente campesina (2020)
https://www.dw.com/es/honduras-onu-condena-asesinato-de-dirigente-campesina/a-53015468

[6] PAG. Responsabilizan a seguridad de azucarera del asesinato de una defensora de la tierra (Davila 2020)
https://www.pasosdeanimalgrande.com/index.php/en/denuncias/item/2765-responsabilizan-a-seguridad-de-azucarera-del-asesinato-de-una-defensora-de-la-tierra-en-el-sur-de-honduras

[7] Criterio. Denuncian persecución contra campesinos cooperativistas de Marcovia, Choluteca (2020)
https://criterio.hn/denuncian-persecucion-contra-campesinos-cooperativistas-de-marcovia-choluteca/

[9] APAH. Sugar mills
http://azucar.hn/en/sugarmills/

[4] Iniciativa Mesoamericana de Mujeres Defensoras. Defender killed by security agents in violent, illegal eviction (2020)
https://im-defensoras.org/2020/04/whrdalert-honduras-defender-killed-by-security-agents-in-violent-illegal-eviction/

Meta information

Contributor:Dalena Tran, ICTA-UAB, [email protected]
Last update11/10/2021

Images

 

La Grecia

Source: APAH

Iris Argentina Álvarez

Source: Red Nacional de Defensoras de DDHH en Honduras.