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José Leonel Álvarez Guerra, MUCA member, assassinated

José Leonel Alvarez Guerra (35), a member of the La Confianza Cooperative with the Unified Peasant Movement of Aguán (MUCA) was killed by two men on a motorcycle, when he was coming home. The assassination took place in the Manga Seca neighborhood in Tocoa, Colón, Wednesday, April 7.

The killing was consistent with the kind of of paramilitary actions recently denounced by the peasants, who noted that a group of 30 men were being trained by Billy Joya Amendola, a notorious death squad leader. Joya had been a member of 3-16 death squad in the eighties and been very active since day of the coup, serving as security adviser under Roberto Micheletti.

The situation had worsened in Aguán after the regime rejceted a counterproposal from the MUCA, stating a desire for independence from the African palm landowners who want to keep the peasants as servants. The mobilization of paramilitary, police, and military had intensified in recent days. MUCA also sought to recover some 700 hectares of land that had been occupied by the Regional Military Training Center, CREM, and were now occupied by the landowner Miguel Facussé.

The attack on farmer José Leonel Alvarez Guerra occurred around 11:20am as he was coming home from the town of Taujica, where he and several colleagues had taken over land in December 2009.

The two individuals were riding a red motorcycle and shot him five times in different parts of the body. The attackers fled immediately. Guerra Alvarez was taken to the Tocoa Hospital and died soon after.

So far the takeover of state-owned land subject to land reform (appropriated by the landowners Miguel Facussé, René Morales and Reinaldo Canales) has resulted in six deaths and numerous assaults. The targets are men and women who have decided to risk their physical integrity in order to solve their problems of hunger and landlessness.

The Platform for Human Rights visited the area between March 20 and 22 and reported a very critical situation regarding human rights violations. The visit to six settlements showed unsanitary living conditions in addition to a general situation of insecurity which the peasants are subject to.

During that visit COFADEH documented several complaints ranging from constant harassment by hooded men who monitor and follow members of the cooperatives to attacks with firearms directed against their huts. The actions cause a constant feeling of anxiety among the peasants.