The Guardian September 4, 2002


Honduras: Coffee workers fight for survival

Honduran police last month used tear gas and nightsticks against more 
than 1000 coffee workers protesting for more farm aid in the capital 
Tegucigalpa, injuring at least 14 people. This followed the arrest of more 
than 500 coffee growers on their way to the protest.

Three coffee leaders were among those arrested in the clash in El Zamorano, 
25 kilometres north of Tegucigalpa, and 24 were injured.

The coffee farmers had been protesting and blocking roads across the 
country for more than a week, demanding that the government extend them $20 
million in low-interest loans to help soften the blow of falling world 
coffee prices.

The protestors travelled in buses to the capital for the street march and 
rally. Some 160 police officers used nightsticks, heavy plastic shields and 
tear gas to attack the protestors in the capital where at least another 
four coffee union leaders were arrested and charged with inciting a riot.

Honduras, like all of Central America, is deep in a coffee crisis. More 
than 120,000 Hondurans live from coffee, which is Honduras's main crop.

The price of coffee has dropped from US$184 per 46-kilogram sack to less 
than US$44 per sack in the last four years.

A worldwide coffee glut has pushed international prices down to the point 
that many growers cannot afford to harvest their beans.

The growers say the loans would add up to US$6 for each sack of coffee for 
farmers, which would allow them to make enough to carry out their harvest.

Coffee growers said they are also protesting because the government wants 
to add a three percent interest rate to US$40 million in previous loans 
that were interest free.

"We are going through a crisis and we're not going to accept that the $40 
million they loaned us interest free suddenly has a 3 percent interest", 
said Jose Saavedra, leader of the National Coffee Growers Association.

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