A Year of Jubilee

August 1st, 2011
by Alfonso Ebanks

[private] v9-8-Our Islands In the early sixties the going-on in Castro’s Cuba did not go unnoticed by the peasant farmers in this and other Latin American countries. The communist promise that every farmer would get their fair share of the land was believed by every farmer that owned little or no land.

The Government of the United States of America, quite aware that here lay the possibility of creating another Cuba, in an effort to head off the movement, created the Alliance for Progress. In August of 1961 in Punta Del Este, Uruguay, Honduras became a charter member.

The USA promised aid to Latin America in the amount of 20 billion dollars over the next ten years. As a signatory of the charter Honduras would be entitled to part of that money but there were conditions; these countries pledged to increase per capita earning by 2.5% over the ten year period, also establish democratic governments, eliminate adult illiteracy by 1970, create price stability to avoid inflation or deflation, they were also to institute a more equitable income distribution system with land reform and economic and social planning. Of all these things that could have been attempted, the Honduran government chooses land reform as its banner.

The tax-paying public began to criticize this action as being a communist ploy and accusing the president of open flirtation with communist Cuba, the then President Ramon Villeda Morales said: “It is not a communist or a socialist land reform; it is purely liberal and democratic.”

In November of 1962 Decreto Ley 2-62 was approved by the National Congress. That law became known as the First Agrarian Reform Law. The issuing of this law was supposedly based on the government’s claim that in that year (1962) there was a total of 3,461,528 manzanas (blocks) of land being used for farming and 0.04% of the land owners held 94.65% of the land. In the early seventies just after the emission of the Decreto Ley N0. 8 creating the Instituto Nacional Agraria (INA) the island of Bonacco was invaded by persons that were supposed to be famers seeking fertile soil in which to grow their crops. With over six million acres of cultivated soil, and many million more in land that only required to be cleared and prepared to become arable land, the INA chose the little island of Bonacco to send invaders to dispossess people of their hundred year old farms. The INA’s justification for the dispossession was that the land could be better used, and made to produce more crops of corn, a crop that island people never adapted as staple food.

In one particular case a person by the name of Sebastian, with the help and advice of the INA, took over a farm on the east side of the island. This farm had been in the same family for about a hundred years and was famous for its quality fruit and avocados. The first thing the invaders did was to cut down all the trees in the orchard and proceeded to burn the land getting it ready for the planting of corn. It was not long before the invaders realized that the land was only good for what it had been used, deep root trees, but the irreversible damage had been done. This was indeed a tragedy.

So far in the Aguan Valley there are 30 dead and wounded in a fight over land, but today that will stop because the Government has forced the owners of the land to sell their cultivated and producing land at half the price set by the owners. The ironic things about these lands are that the land was giving to the farmer by the INA, and after not being able to make it work for them; they sold the land to the present owners. Now 18 years later, and with the land producing properly, they want it back, and the government has obliged them by spending Lps. 547 million to buy the land again This political cauldron and its solution brought to mind a law in Biblical Israel that stated that in a Jubilee year all land would revert to its original owner, this is a Jubilee year for those farmers. [/private]

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