TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – Miguel Facusse, a wealthy Honduran businessman involved in a two-decade fight with poor farmers who invaded his palm plantations on the Atlantic coast, died Tuesday in the capital, his family said. He was 91.
The family did not report the cause of death for Facusse, who was long a member of Honduras' business elite. His nephew Carlos Flores Facusse was president in 1997-2001, and the military used Facusse's private plane to fly the ousted President Manuel Zelaya out of the country in 2009.
Born in August 1924 to a family of Christian Palestinians who migrated to Honduras, Facusse made substantial investments in Central America and Cuba.
In July 1960 he founded Dinant Chemicals of Central America SA, which was associated with U.S. companies such as Procter & Gamble, American Home Products and Stepan Chemical to distribute and market canned food and household goods in the region.
In 1991, Facusse and three other businessmen bought thousands of acres of fertile land along of the Aguan River, about 600 kilometers (372 miles) northeast of Tegucigalpa. The land had been owned by peasant cooperatives that went bankrupt after Honduras opened its economy to freer trade and the poor farmers complained that the land was taken unfairly.
Shortly before the coup that removed Zelaya in 2009, the farmers invaded the plantations with government support, setting off a conflict that so far has caused at least 150 deaths among the activists and security guards working for Facusse's Dinant Corp.
Seeking to calm the situation, the government signed agreements three years ago to pay $27 million to Facusse and distribute parcels of land to more than 5,000 farmers. Facusse's company contends the government has failed to meet the payment schedule.