By Madeline Watkins, Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A fertile region in northern Honduras has been gaining international attention because of human rights abuses and escalating violence over land reform.
"It has been very difficult for us," said Fr. Felipe Lopez, pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Trujillo. Of the 10 parishes in the Diocese of Trujillo, St. John the Baptist is one of the closest to the conflict, centered in the disputed territory known as the Bajo Aguan.
"The violence has lessened in the last three to four weeks," Fr. Lopez told Catholic News Service in mid-July, "but June was very violent, almost as if we were in the midst of a war."
Most of the fighting is taking place on the large palm plantations in dispute. Fr. Lopez said at least 40 to 50 people have been killed in the conflict over land claimed by both peasant farmers and three wealthy landowners in the region.
"Sadly, those who are suffering the most are the very poor," Fr. Lopez said. The increased levels of violence have caused greater poverty in the region because most of the peasants work on the palm plantations in dispute, he said.