2 more killings in Aguán: Jose Efrain Del Cid and Juan Jose Peralta Escoto

TWO MORE KILLINGS IN THE AGUAN: Jose Efrain Del Cid and Juan Jose Peralta Escoto
By Annie Bird, annie@rightsaction.org, May 19, 2012

On Friday, May 18 at approximately 7:30pm, Jose Efrain Del Cid, a member of the Nueva Panama Campesino Business, one of the 14 campesino organizations that make up the Campesino Movement of the Aguan on the Left Bank (MUCA-MI), was shot while sitting in a car in the municipality of Sonaguerra, Colon. He was shot several times in the face. He was traveling with a fellow campesino who had just gotten out of the car moments prior to the killing.

This killing occurs just three days after Juan Jose Peralta Escoto, a member of the 21 of Julio Cooperative, also one of the 14 cooperatives and campesino businesses that form the MUCA-MI, was shot and killed in Tocoa near the town of La Confianza on May 16 at approximately 9:30am. Witnesses report that the car in which Juan Jose Peralta, his son of the same name, and Antonio Velez were traveling was pursued by Dinant Corporation security guards firing at them. Juan Jose Peralta son and Antonio Velez were also injured in the attack.

MUCA-MI is currently in the final stages of negotiating terms for the purchase of a portion of the lands the government and palm oil planters have promised to sell the campesinos in an agreement signed April 17, 2010. Lands demanded by campesinos were agrarian reform lands taken from them in many cases through fraud, violence and threat in the 1990s after changes in Land Reform legislation opened allowed agrarian reform laws to be resold.

Over the past two years of extreme violence against over 60 land rights activists in the Aguan and people associated with them have been killed, most in what appear to be death squad style assassinations in which private security forces hired by palm planters, principally the Orion Security Company, the 15th Batallion and 4th Naval Base, and the Tocoa Police have been particularly blamed by area residents for the killings.

The 15th Batallion and 4th Naval have received training from the U.S. Army Rangers and the Marines.

On May 11, 2012 a U.S. State Department helicopter carrying Honduran and Guatemalan security forces, private contractors and DEA in the nearby region of the Mosquita fired on a canoe carrying 13 Miskitu villagers local authorities and neighbor affirm were not involved in drug trafficking activities and were unarmed.

Four were killed, including two pregnant women and a 15 year old. U.S. official responses have implied that local officials who denounced the massacre are involved in drug trafficking and to implicate the local indigenous population in drug trafficking activities.