Death Toll Rises to 12 in Honduran Land Dispute

August 15, 2008

TEGUCIGALPA – The death toll of the massacre sparked last weekend by a land dispute in Honduras increased to 12 with the death of a 15-year-old boy, authorities announced.

Added to the 11 people killed Aug. 3 in Silin, in the Caribbean province of Colon, is Fernando Osorto, 15, who had been wounded during the incident but died three days later in the hospital, police officials said. The officials said that seven of the victims were relatives of National Police inspector Henry Osorto and that the other five worked on the family property, which a campesino group claimed is theirs.

Up to now Honduran authorities have not arrested anyone involved in the massacre, which occurred when about 300 campesinos armed with firearms and machetes surrounded the victims’ house and set it ablaze.

According to the local press, members of the Osorto family said that the campesinos’ action was “premeditated,” while campesino leaders said they were responding to an attack by armed men who then sought refuge in the house.

The 12 victims died from being shot, hacked with machetes or being burned to death in the fire. The dispute between campesinos and the family of inspector Osorto, who was assigned to the western province of Lempira, goes back several years.

The massacre occurred in Silin, some 600 kilometers northeast of Tegucigalpa, over a parcel of land on a large property that was home in the 1980s to a counterinsurgencytraining center for Salvadoran troops battling guerrillas in their own country.

Rafael Alegria, adviser to the Coordinating Council of Honduran Campesino Organizations, said the tragedy began with an attack on a nearby campesino settlement by armed men working for the Osortos. He said that when police “didn’t do anything” in response to the call for help, the campesinos took matters into their own hands and chased the assailants back to the Osorto home, where the gunmen took refuge.

“It appears the outraged campesinos did set fire to the home,” Alegria said, blaming the bloodshed on the government’s failure to resolve the land disputes in Silin.

Henry Osorto provided a different account of the events, saying that his family and their employees “were having lunch when 300 to 400 armed men attacked them.”

“The scene speaks for itself – the dead are in my house,” Osorto said.

–EFE

 

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