The Honduran sugar industry began toward the end of the 19th century. In the present day, there are 8 sugar mills in the country across 80,000ha, one of which is Azucarera La Grecia in Choluteca. La Grecia´s sugar production is associated with environmental damages such as soil, air, and water pollution, soil erosion, excessive pesticide and fertilizer use leading to biodiversity loss, air pollution, and more. Consequently, youths, the elderly, and adults alike have died from poor working conditions, cardiovascular diseases, bronchitis, asthma, pulmonary emphysema, and more. The thick smoke from burning during processing also frequently disrupts air traffic. However, because the sugar industry contributes so much to the economy, the government has very little political incentive to enforce environmental and human rights regulations .
62 Peasant farming families living in Las Salinas, Aldea de Monjarás, Marcovia, Choluteca have been struggling against La Grecia´s forced evictions since 2017, when the government relocated them to a 20ha reservation of the land for them to grow basic food products [3, 7]. In November 2019, La Grecia began legally harassing, intimidating, and surveilling the community, ironically blaming them for ¨land-grabbing¨ . Notoriously, on April 2, 2020 at approximately 4am, La Grecia sent guards from private security company CRAES to, without prior notice or warning, evict the people while they were sleeping, bulldozing and burning their homes and livestock. The eviction was illegal because there was no official order from a judge authorizing the eviction because the courts were closed during the COVID pandemic.
The police came and surrounded the area during the raid, but remained distant and did not take any action to prevent the situation from escalating to bloodshed. During the evictions, guards shot at the crowd, much of it consisting of families fleeing with children, who tried defending themselves with sticks and stones. Although members of organization Ecumeniacal Action for Human Rights (AEDH) such as Marta and Lucrecia Maradiaga quickly arrived to try and talk to the guards and persuade them to put down their weapons, the guards ignored them and kept opening fire . The guards targeted and killed woman leader Iris Argentina Álvarez, also injuring 6 others, including a child. Iris was working for the Cerro Escondido cooperative, which mobilizes peasants fighting for their legal rights to the land stolen by La Grecia [1, 2, 3]. Fellow defenders including lawyer Ely Portillo, Luid Fernando, and Johana Espinal put Iris and the other injured people in a truck and tried to escape to the hospital and call the police, but no one responded. Two bullets grazed Portillo as she was helping the others escape .