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JFP 7/13: WikiLeaks beats VISA in court; Hondurans who killed civilians "work for DEA"
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 13 July 2012 - 6:56pm
Just Foreign Policy News, July 13, 2012
WikiLeaks beats VISA in court; Hondurans who killed civilians "work for DEA"
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I) Actions and Featured Articles
Action: Urge @Sweden to Oppose Extradition of Julian Assange for Publishing US Diplomatic Cables
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Now we are appealing to people in Sweden to oppose the threatened extradition of Julian Assange to the United States to face charges under the Espionage Act of 1917 for publishing US diplomatic cables. Join us in our effort to engage Swedish public opinion.
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1) The Reykjavík District Court has ruled that Valitor, formerly known as VISA Iceland, violated contract laws by blocking credit card donations to Wikileaks, RT reports. In June, Datacell, the Iceland-based company that processed donations for WikiLeaks, filed a case against Valitor, the company behind VISA and MasterCard, for "unlawfully suspending financial services". Visa had banned its card-holders from donating to Wikileaks.
Datacell's director Olafur Sigurvinsson told reporters he was amazed at the double standards. "I can support Al-Qaeda, the Ku Klux Klan, buy weapons and drugs and all kinds of porn with my Visa card. There is nobody investigating this, but I cannot support a human rights organisation which is fighting for freedom of expression," Sigurvinsson said.
2) Stress-related and mental health disorders are on the increase in Gaza, according to a recent report by the UN, writes Angela Robson in the Guardian. According to a study by the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, depression has increased by nearly 18% among Gazans since the blockade. A 2010 study by Médecins sans Frontières said more than 50% of children under 12 in Gaza needed mental health intervention. Karl Schembri of Oxfam says the mental health crisis in Gaza will remain acute until the blockade is lifted: "How can you talk about post-traumatic stress interventions in Gaza when people are still in a constant state of trauma?"
3) Fears of violence in the Persian Gulf escalated Thursday, pushing the price of oil higher in response to new sanctions announced by the US, AP reports.
4) The Pentagon no longer believes a future Iranian missile will be able to strike America, writes Robert Beckhusen for Wired. The shift can be seen in a sentence in this year's Annual Report on Military Power of Iran. The report warns: "With sufficient foreign assistance, Iran may technically be capable of flight-testing an intercontinental ballistic missile by 2015." Two years ago, the Pentagon said that Iran could produce a missile "capable of reaching the United States by 2015."
5) The US government has claimed that DEA agents were only present in an advisory role in a May 11 raid that killed four civilians in Honduras, write Sandra Cuffe and Karen Spring for AlterNet. But a May 27 briefing in Tegucigalpa given by the US embassy's DEA attaché, James Kenney, to a North American human rights delegation gave a different picture of the DEA's role. Kenney referred to the DEA-vetted Honduran special police agents who opened fire as "his guys" and bragged that the Honduran agents "report directly to me – the DEA," and "basically work for the DEA."
6) Under Washington's anti-SLAPP, law, a Washington judge ordered plaintiffs to pay $160,000 for filing a frivolous lawsuit against the Olympia Food Co-op for boycotting products from Israel, Mondoweiss reports.
7) Twenty Ethiopians, including a prominent blogger, journalists and opposition figures were jailed for between eight years to life on Friday on charges of conspiring with rebels to topple the government, Reuters reports. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she was "seriously concerned" by the severity of the sentences, which were also condemned by Amnesty International and other rights groups. Ethiopia is a major recipient of Western aid, Reuters notes. But rights groups say Ethiopia regularly uses security concerns as an excuse to crack down on dissent and media freedoms. "The Ethiopian government is treating calls for peaceful protest as a terrorist act and is outlawing the legitimate activity of journalists and opposition members," Amnesty said.
8) A radio reporter became the 24th journalist killed in Honduras since the 2009 coup, Reporters without Borders says. "In each of these cases ... the same impunity applies, whether they are attributable to the country's high crime rate or the political violence spawned by the coup," RSF said.
9) The Permanent Human Rights Observatory of Aguan said three farmers have been slain since July 2 in Aguan, EFE reports. The group blamed security forces for the killings and demanded the withdrawal of the army from the area.
1) WikiLeaks wins case against VISA
RT, 13 July, 2012, 07:43
The Reykjavík District Court has ruled that Valitor, formerly known as VISA Iceland, violated contract laws by blocking credit card donations to Wikileaks, according to a press release posted on the whistleblowers' Twitter account.
The court also ordered that the donation gateway should be reopened within 14 days otherwise Valitor will be forced to pay a fine of $6,200 daily. Valitor CEO Vidar Thorkellsson told Bloomberg, however, that the company would appeal the ruling. He declined to comment further.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said "This is a significant victory against Washington's attempt to silence WikiLeaks. We will not be silenced. Economic censorship is censorship. It is wrong. When it's done outside of the rule of law its doubly wrong. One by one those involved in the attempted censorship of WikiLeaks will find themselves on the wrong side of history."
The blockade stripped away over 95% of donations from supporters of WikiLeaks, costing the organization in excess of $20 million.
In June, Datacell, the Iceland-based company that processed donations for WikiLeaks, filed a case against Valitor, the company behind VISA and MasterCard, for "unlawfully suspending financial services".
Wikileaks faced a number of financial obstacles in 2010. When Master Card and other companies began to block payments to the site, Datacell allowed VISA card-holders to donate to Wikileaks via the company.
However, Visa banned its card-holders from donating to Wikileaks. Datacell's director Olafur Sigurvinsson told reporters he was amazed at the double standards. "I can support Al-Qaeda, the Ku Klux Klan, buy weapons and drugs and all kinds of porn with my Visa card. There is nobody investigating this, but I cannot support a human rights organisation which is fighting for freedom of expression," Sigurvinsson said.
Donating money is a basic right in every free society, agrees human rights activist Peter Tatchell. "Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have not been charged with any offence, so to pre-emptively cut off the finances of a company that has not been found guilty of any crime, I think, is a very, very bad omen," he told RT. "Once we give those companies the right to veto whose donations to which companies they would accept, we are on a slippery road not only to censorship, but indeed to an unfree society."
2) Israeli blockade takes its toll on mental health in Gaza
Stress-related and mental health disorders are on the increase in the Gaza Strip, brought on by loss of jobs and dignity, and lack of freedom under Israel's blockade
Angela Robson, Guardian, Wednesday 11 July 2012 09.26 EDT
For as long as Farah can remember, her father has never worked. Nor, in recent years, has she particularly wanted to spend time with him. She and her three younger siblings love Abu Shawareb, insists their mother, Naima, but they have grown wary of him, particularly of his mood swings and violent outbursts.
"It was like a part of me had gone for ever," says Shawareb, recalling the day five years ago when he suddenly lost his job. "I kept thinking, how am I going to feed my family? How will we live?"
Since the Israeli blockade of Gaza in June 2007, Shawareb has been unable to find another job. "We've been left to die slowly here," he says. "I am just 40 but I feel as if my working life is over."
He has been diagnosed with chronic depression and is on medication. The treatment is helping, but Shawareb still has days when he can barely pick himself up off the floor.
"Today is a good day," he says, trying to smile. "I managed to go outside." The family's housing situation compounds his anxieties, says Naima when her husband goes to make tea. Recently their small, windowless house in Shati refugee camp – home to 87,000 refugees who fled from Lydd, Jaffa, Be'er Sheva and other areas of Palestine – was infested with mice.
Stress-related and mental health disorders are on the increase in the Gaza Strip, according to a recent report by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the near east (UNRWA). A combination of internal and external influences – including forced displacement, dispossession and occupation – have exacerbated the already high rate of mental health problems.
Hasan Zeyada is a psychologist and manager of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme. According to a study by the GCMHP, depression has increased by nearly 18% among Gazans since the blockade. Of those surveyed, 95% said they felt imprisoned. In 2010, another study by Médecins sans Frontières said more than 50% of children under 12 in Gaza needed mental health intervention.
"Feelings of powerlessness and helplessness are the main causes for depression among Gazans," says Zeyada. "Men, who in eastern culture are the powerful figures in the family, are particularly affected. After having been able to care for their families, overnight they become nothing. I come across many people looking for ways to finish their lives."
Naima Shawareb says her husband is a shadow of the man she married 10 years ago. "The children are scared of their father. If they are playing around him when he happens to be really depressed, he can't control himself and lashes out," she says. "When he cries, they sit in silence and cry like him."
As if on cue, her husband begins to weep uncontrollably. Farah, his eldest daughter, runs to the corner of the room to find him a tissue. She says nothing as she pats his arm to comfort him, but then notices that her mother has tears streaming down her face, too. The nine-year-old girl looks stricken and creeps out of the room.
"Naima's family is one of thousands who became poor overnight as a result of the blockade," says Karl Schembri, Oxfam spokesman in Gaza. "It makes it next to impossible for such families to recover their economic losses. Depression is rife. Oxfam offers temporary jobs for people like Naima in sewing workshops, but the crisis of dignity gripping her husband and so many other men we meet is hard to tackle."
Schembri believes the mental health crisis in Gaza will remain acute until the blockade is lifted and internal divisions between Palestinians are resolved.
"After the 2009 military operation against Gaza, the number of children who were clearly traumatised was so visible," he says. "Children are less attentive in school. Two-thirds fear more war and a high percentage want revenge. How can you talk about post-traumatic stress interventions in Gaza when people are still in a constant state of trauma?"
3) US sanctions on Iran spark new concern of Persian Gulf violence; oil prices rise
Associated Press, July 12
New York - Fears of violence in the Persian Gulf escalated Thursday, pushing the price of oil higher.
The Obama administration slapped Iran with more sanctions aimed at stifling its nuclear program. Traders, who worry that the sanctions will eventually lead to a military conflict in the Gulf, responded by buying oil.
Oil prices, which had been down all day, jumped after the sanctions were announced. Benchmark U.S. crude added 27 cents to end at $86.08 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, which sets the price for imported oil, added 84 cents to finish at $101.07 per barrel in London.
4) Never Mind: Military Doesn't Think Iran's Missiles Will Reach U.S. After All
Robert Beckhusen, Wired, July 12, 2012
Another year, another Pentagon report on Iran's military power. Which means another round of imprecise predictions about when Iran may first test an intercontinental ballistic missile. But this time, the Pentagon no longer believes a future Iranian missile will be able to strike America. And another reason not to worry: Even if Iran does develop one, it'll probably suck.
The shift can be seen in a sentence in this year's Annual Report on Military Power of Iran (.pdf), first provided to Bloomberg by the Pentagon. The report warns: "With sufficient foreign assistance, Iran may technically be capable of flight-testing an intercontinental ballistic missile by 2015." Which sounds scary. But it's actually a less gloomy estimate than the last Pentagon report on the subject, which came out two years ago.
Back then, the Pentagon said that Iran could produce a missile "capable of reaching the United States by 2015." Now, there's no reference to such a missile being able to hit any place outside of the Middle East or Eastern Europe, let alone America. All the Defense Department is saying is that Iran might be able to conduct its very first flight test of such a weapon. Then again, it might not.
Before you ask: This isn't just an accident of editing. Words are chosen very carefully in the Pentagon's assessment of the U.S.'s number-one enemy. This means Americans can sleep safely: The Pentagon doesn't believe an Iranian ICBM will obliterate the East Coast any time soon. The Pentagon also follows a shift from the United States' spy agencies, which used to hype Iran's missile threat to the homeland but then quietly hushed on the estimates.
And that's all moot without Iran acquiring "sufficient foreign assistance." Iran's not going to develop an ICBM on its own, the report suggests. It's likely North Korea regularly shares missile components with Iran, and has done so - to some extent - since supplying Iran with Scuds during the Iran-Iraq War. (.pdf) Problem is North Korea's long-range missile program has a 4 for 4 record of failures, including such missile stunts as blowing up prematurely and flopping into the sea.
5) Botched DEA Raid Exposes How Militarization Terrorizes Communities Around the World
Sandra Cuffe and Karen Spring, AlterNet, July 12, 2012
[Cuffe is a journalist based in Vancouver. She previously lived in Honduras for five years, working as a human rights activist and journalist. Spring is a human rights activist based in Honduras. She led the North American human rights delegation that visited the Moskitia after the May 11 raid.]
A deadly May raid brought the impact of the drug war on local communities in Honduras into the global spotlight.
A boat riddled with bullet impact marks sits docked at a landing along the bank of the Patuca River. A few feet from the boat, a small building on stilts has become a de facto temporary military outpost. Armed forces patrol the small community of Paptalaya, in the municipality of Ahuas, the heart of the Honduran Moskitia.
The boat is evidence from an anti-narcotics operation on May 11 involving the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Honduran police and private military contractors. Four indigenous Miskitu residents were killed in the operation. Despite a regional outcry from local indigenous communities and organizations, the region rich in natural resources continues to be heavily militarized. The May 11 raid brought the impacts of the drug war on local communities in Honduras into the global spotlight.
The presence of Honduran and US security forces has dramatically increased over the past several years and even more so since the June 2009 coup, particularly in communities along the Patuca River where recent DEA-led operations have occurred. The militarization of the region is being attributed to fighting drug smuggling, but local residents do not trust the authorities that justify the strong security presence in the name of the "war on drugs."
"More than anything else, they're militarizing because of the natural resources that are in the Moskitia, especially the strategic spots where there is oil," says Norvin Goff Salinas, president of MASTA, an indigenous Miskitu federation.
Regardless of its purpose, indigenous residents have denounced the increasing militarization and its negative impacts on local communities in the department of Gracias a Dios, in the Moskitia.
"The effects are negative," says Goff Salinas. "It has affected us, like the intimidation of the communities and the effects of the presence of armed forces and the transportation they use, the panic specifically in children and elders."
Back in the Honduran capital, the embassy's DEA attaché, James Kenney, told a North American human rights delegation a different story. He spoke with delegation participants on May 27, at a meeting coordinated by the embassy of the United States in Tegucigalpa. US embassy political counselor Silvia Eiriz was also in attendance.
"These people out in Gracias a Dios or other departments, they aren't doing what they used to do. They aren't growing corn, and piña or pineapple and other products," Kenney told the North American human rights delegation. "They are waiting for a narcotics plane or boat to come in."
MASTA secretary Reymundo Eude points out the conditions of poverty in which the majority of people are living in the Moskitia. Many houses and boats are handmade with local natural resources. People would live differently if they all had money because of drug trafficking, he told the North American delegation.
"If you look at the Landín, ask people there if they asked [the armed forces] to come. Who asked them, the military personnel, to come here?" asked Eude.
"They come by force. They invent, saying there is drug trafficking [in the Miskitu communities]," he said, asking the group to take a look around at the poverty in local communities in the Moskitia. "You can see how people are living. If there were drug trafficking, we would not be in these conditions. Ok. So this is a ploy on the part of the government just to get the funding."
Before their identities were verified, those killed in the May 11 raid were immediately branded as criminal drug traffickers by Honduran authorities and Honduran and US media outlets and the operation was deemed a success. But indigenous witnesses and survivors shared testimonies of indiscriminate violence, terror and the loss of community members who were in no way linked to drug trafficking. They highlighted the fact that two of the dead were pregnant women.
US authorities claim that at approximately 2:30am on May 11, people on a boat on the Patuca River fired upon anti-narcotic operation agents who were also on the river at the time. The agents, in the process of pursuing and seizing a boat loaded with cocaine, returned fire. Helicopters monitoring the situation from the air fired as well. But local residents claim that a passenger boat carrying 16 people -- men, women and children -- had almost ended its 6-7 hour journey from a community downriver when helicopters suddenly appeared above them and opened fire on the boat. The surviving occupants of the passenger boat say they had no interaction with anyone, drug traffickers or security forces, prior to hearing and seeing the helicopters that opened fire on them.
In response to questions at a press briefing, the US State Department said that Honduran police, the DEA, the Guatemalan military and private contractors were all involved in the May 11 operation and that the helicopters involved were titled to the State Department itself. But the US government was quick to declare that Honduran forces were the only ones to fire weapons and that the DEA was only present in an advisory role.
The controversy about US involvement in anti-narcotics operations in Honduras, resurfacing in the press in the wake of the video footage, also highlights the lack of clarity about the nationality and role of the various armed uniformed agents. While the State Department was quick to assert that only Hondurans fired weapons, the Honduran police agents involved are all part of a special tactical team and each individual agent has been vetted by the DEA. Some agents involved in the May 11 operation are part of a Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team (FAST), but unanswered questions remain about the role of private military contractors and other foreign agents, the organizational structure of cooperation between forces and the chain of command.
At the May 27 meeting in Tegucigalpa, Kenney told North American delegation participants about the actions of "his guys" -- the vetted Honduran special police agents -- that night.
"They don't have a chain of command like most units. They don't have a lieutenant, captain, major. They report directly to me – the DEA," said Kenney. He added that the Honduran agents technically report to the Honduran General Director of Police, but that information does not really get passed on to the supervising Honduran authorities. "They basically work for the DEA."
From the beginning, the survivors of the May 11 raid and local community residents who were bystanders when the boats and helicopters arrived have told a different story than US authorities including the DEA, the State Department and the US Embassy in Tegucigalpa. Their testimonies have remained largely unheard.
On May 11, Lucio Adan Nelson Queen, 22, was a passenger in a pipante, the traditional dugout canoe-style boat of the Miskitu and a principal means of transportation in the region. He was injured that night, with a gunshot wound to the back. The bullet exited his body below his right arm. He spoke with the North American human rights delegation while recovering in a hospital bed in La Ceiba, a hub city on the Caribbean coast.
"I was traveling to my girlfriend's house when this occurred. It was nighttime. They shot me from above, from a helicopter. I was sleeping in the pipante," Nelson Queen said. "When I woke up, they were shooting. The helicopter was low overhead. I threw myself into the water."
Hilda Lezama was also a passenger in the pipante carrying local Moskitia residents from points further down the Patuca River to Ahuas. She received gunshot wounds to both of her legs, with the gunfire leaving a deep groove across her thighs. She spoke to the delegation from her hospital bed in Ahuas, where she lives.
"We were traveling with more than thirteen people plus cargo plus a table, chairs, loads of things. The pipante was full," said Lezama. "Then when we were coming close to the landing we saw helicopters that were hovering, hovering, hovering, hovering. I thought – well, I didn't know what they were looking for at the time."
"I heard shots. I do not know how but I threw myself into the water when the bullet hit me. I wanted to hide under the cargo but I couldn't when they shot me. I had to get into the water, close to the banks of the river. I could not swim. I don't know how I did, but I did in that moment. I got to a patch of grass at the side of the river and grabbed onto it, a tree branch. Everyone was in the river, including the injured," she said.
When people helped her out of the water, Lezama was only partially conscious. After emergency treatment in the hospital in Ahuas, she was sent to the hospital in La Ceiba. She was recovering in Ahuas when the delegation visited the region.
Fourteen-year-old Hasked Brooks Wood; 21-year-old father of two Emerson Martinez Henriquez; 28-year-old pregnant mother of two Juana Jackson Ambrocio; and 48-year-old pregnant mother of six Candelaria Pratt died as a result of their gunshot wounds. All four were indigenous Miskitu residents of communities in the region.
6) Judge orders Stand With Us-backed plaintiffs to pay $160,000 in Olympia Food Co-op BDS case
Allison Deger, Mondoweiss, July 12, 2012
Today a Washington state judge ruled against a Stand With Us backed case that charged the Olympia Food Co-op with wrongful doing in their decision to de-shelve Israeli products as part of the global movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). The judge fined the plaintiffs $160,000 for their attempt to stifle the co-op's free speech. From the Center for Constitutional Rights:
July 12, 2012, Olympia, WA and New York, NY – Today, in a lawsuit brought against current and former members of the Olympia Food Co-op board of directors for their decision to boycott Israeli goods, a Washington State court ruled that plaintiffs are liable for the costs and fees of the suit and $160,000 in statutory damages. The court had previously determined the lawsuit was a SLAPP, Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation, and upheld the constitutionality of the anti-SLAPP law against plaintiffs' challenge.
7) Ethiopia Jails Blogger, Reporters, Opposition Figures
Reuters, July 13, 2012
Addis Ababa - Twenty Ethiopians, including a prominent blogger, journalists and opposition figures were jailed for between eight years to life on Friday on charges of conspiring with rebels to topple the government.
The European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she was "seriously concerned" by the severity of the sentences, which were also condemned by Amnesty International and other rights groups.
The Horn of Africa nation, a major recipient of Western aid, is fighting separatist rebel movements and armed groups it says are backed by arch-foe Eritrea.
But rights groups say Ethiopia, sandwiched between volatile Somalia and Sudan, regularly uses security concerns as an excuse to crack down on dissent and media freedoms.
Blogger and journalist Eskinder Nega, who was arrested last year and accused of trying to incite violence with a series of online articles, was jailed for 18 years.
Five other exiled journalists were sentenced in absentia to between 15 years to life.
Andualem Arage, from the opposition Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) party, was jailed for life. Two other prominent opposition figures, Berhanu Nega and Andargachew Tsige, both out of the country, also received life sentences.
Critics point to an anti-terrorism law passed after several explosions in 2009 which says anyone caught publishing information that could incite readers to commit acts of terrorism could be jailed for up to 20 years.
More than 10 journalists have been charged under the law, according to the Committee to Protest Journalists. The group says Ethiopia is close to replacing Eritrea as the African country with the highest number of journalists behind bars.
Two journalists were each jailed for 14 years on similar charges in February, two months after two Swedish newsmen were sent to prison for 11 years on charges of entering the country illegally and aiding a rebel group.
The EU's Ashton was concerned about the sentences and that "a lack of clarity with regard to what constitutes a terrorism offence ... can affect the freedom of expression ... enshrined in the Ethiopian Constitution," a statement from her office said.
Amnesty International said: "The Ethiopian government is treating calls for peaceful protest as a terrorist act and is outlawing the legitimate activity of journalists and opposition members."
8) Radio reporter gunned down and TV journalist shot at for second time
Reporters without Borders, 13 July 2012.
Adonis Felipe Bueso Gutiérrez, a reporter for the Christian radio station Radio Stereo Naranja, was shot dead with two of his cousins on 8 July in Villanueva in the northern department of Cortés while on holiday visiting his family.
He was to have taken part in celebrations on 21 July marking the first anniversary of the station, located in Sonoguera in the department of Colón.
His death brings to 29 the number of journalists killed in Honduras in the past decade, of whom 24 have died since the coup d'état on 28 June .
"The motive has yet to be determined in this case, despite the fact that some of the victims' belongings had disappeared, which supports the theory that it was a robbery," Reporters Without Borders said. "However, the possibility that it was connected with his work cannot be ruled out.
"In each of these cases that has plunged the profession of journalism into mourning, the same impunity applies, whether they are attributable to the country's high crime rate or the political violence spawned by the coup.
"So far, the only investigation that has yielded real progress is the one into the death of Alfredo Villatoro.
Also in the Cortés department, television reporter Selvín Martínez, who works for the station JBN, was the target of a shooting attack yesterday for the second time in less than two months. His home was machine-gunned in April and this time an unidentified gunman fired at him as he was riding his motorcycle to his daughter's school, according to the Reporters Without Borders partner organization C-Libre.
Martinez, who was unhurt, said he counted 12 shots. He believed the perpetrator to be the leader of one of the criminal gangs in Central America known as "maras", who have a reputation for extreme violence. In May this year, the journalist's wife escaped a kidnapping attempt. Reporters Without Borders calls for the immediate implementation of protective measures as requested by Martínez for himself and those close to him.
9) 3 Peasants slain in Honduras land dispute
EFE, July 12, 2012
Three farmers have been slain since July 2 in Aguan, a region on Honduras' Caribbean coast torn by conflict between peasants and wealthy landowners, a human rights organization said.
The Permanent Human Rights Observatory of Aguan blamed security forces for the killings and demanded the withdrawal of the army from the area, which lies in Colon province.
The body of one victim was found on a palm-oil plantation "in possession" of magnate Miguel Facusse, the observatory's Heriberto Aleman said at a press conference in Tegucigalpa.
An accord signed more than a year ago by the Honduran government, plantation owners and an organization representing the peasants called for more than 4,000 hectares (9,876 acres) of land to be distributed among landless families in Aguan.
The agreement has yet to be implemented and around 60 people have died in Colon during the last four years in the conflict pitting peasants against private security guards employed by palm-oil barons, according to the National Human Rights Commission.
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