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Grabbing Power explores the history of agribusiness and land conflicts in Northern Honduras focusing on the Aguán Valley, where peasant movements battle large palm oil producers for the right to land. In the wake of a military coup that overthrew Honduran president Manuel Zelaya in June 2009, rural communities in the Aguán have been brutally repressed, with over 60 people killed in just over two years. United States military aid--spent in the name of the War on Drugs--fuels the Honduran government's ability to repress its people. A strong and inspiring movement for land, food and democracy has grown over the last two years, and it shows no sign of backing down.
Journalist Manuel Torres Calderón (2002) calls Honduras the unknown country,” the least known and the least understood country in Central Americaprimarily thought of as a banana republic” and a US base for counter-insurgency in the 1980s. Indeed, compared to most Latin American countries, there are few English-language books about Honduras written for a popular audience. Even after the June 2009 coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya and the massive popular movement that followed, Honduras languished in mainstream media obscurity, overshadowed by celebratory coverage of the Arab Spring. When the media did report on Honduras (or Central America in general) it generally portrayed the region as a hopeless basketcase” beset by gangs, crime and a tragically unwinnable War on Drugs. These portrayals tell us little about the structural (political and economic) causes of poverty and violence. Nor do they show us how fiercely Hondurans are fighting to take back control of their local economies, protect their families from violence, and build democracy from the ground up.
Over the last three decades, the poverty generated by Honduras’ unequal land distribution has been magnified by climate change and natural disasters, rising food prices, and land grabs for corporate agribusiness and tourism development. While deepening vulnerability, these events also sparked new forms of grassroots organizing and political consciousness. This book explores the dramatic expansion of agro-industrial development in northern Honduras in the neoliberal era, its relationship to strengthening elite power, and the seeds of popular resistance it has paradoxically sown. Honduras is not a hopeless basketcase. It is, like many countries in the global South, a country where hunger, poverty and violence are rooted in a lack of genuine democracy (and not, as some would have it, a lack of foreign aid or economic growth). And that is precisely what Honduran peasant movements are fighting for: the democratization of land, food and political power.