Features — 14 September 2019
Foreigners and government of Juan Orlando Hernández want to dispossess lands of Garífunas

Monday, 06 February 2017 – pasosdeanimalgrande.com

Behind the tourism projects where the marriage of foreign capital and the country’s elites merge, the rights of the Garifuna people are in constant danger, which are intended to be guaranteed by using the armed bodies of the State of Honduras to contain their defense. In Garífuna territory they have built a millionaire hotel complex and luxury golf courses, one of them the “Indura Hotel” that belongs to the Hilton “Curio Collection”; built on threats, harassment and human rights abuses of 157,000 Garifuna families, depriving them of their ancestral and agricultural lands, located in Barra Vieja, Cayo Santa Marta, located in Tornabé, department of Atlántida.

The president of the patronage of Barra Vieja, Carlos Castillo, indicated that the situation they are going through is complex, since the police and the army obey Indura and the Portuaria, which they translate as attacks directly from the State against their communities. Indura affects two communities, that of Barra Vieja and Tornabé, which suffered in 2013 (August 6) and 2014 (September 30) two strong evictions with excessive use of force, tear gas, beatings and inhabitants’ intimidation of children, despite winning two lawsuits before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, IACHR.

The entities of terror in that place filed an appeal in the Supreme Court of Justice. He accused the Office of the National Commissioner of Human Rights of Honduras (CONADEH) of expressing himself in favor of the violation of his rights. The representative in both evictions named Rigoberto Martínez told Castillo that “we had to evict the community because it was an order from above, from Juan Orlando Hernández.” Likewise, “We are in anxiety waiting to be called back to the courts, they argue that they are owners but we have lived here since 1885, we had 10 elders but they have been dying from blows and depression,” recalled the Garifuna leader. The claim of Indura Hilton is to appropriate 300 hectares of land, for the alleged expansion of the hotel emporium, this implies the disappearance of the community of Barra Vieja and the remainder of the functional habitat of Tornabé.

The project began in December 2008, when the tourism minister of that time, Ricardo Martínez Castañeda, tried to persuade the inhabitants of Barra Vieja to evacuate. He indirectly owns 49 percent of Indura’s shares through the Honduran Tourism Institute. In 2009 he wanted the Prosecutor and the Minister of Security to evict them; but it was the port that officially requested the eviction. In 2014 they announced the construction of two luxury hotels, which would culminate the complex with 600 buildings, according to data from the recent Global Witness report. One of the factors that the government ignored is Convention 169 in denying the condition of the Garifuna as indigenous peoples — they are considered foreigners. The Honduran Black Fraternal Organization, OFRANEH, reported that the Attorney General’s Office, (PGR) sent a written plea to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, (IACHR), arguing that “we are not indigenous, even in the broadest interpretation made in the guiding criteria. The PGR ignored the judgments of the Inter-American Court regarding the cases of Punta Piedra and Triunfo de la Cruz”. “The image of the Indura Hilton is compromised by the dispossession actions undertaken by the PGR and the National Port Company, which claims to be the owner of the lands of Santa Marta Cay. The strategy of devaluation promoted by the PGR and the Indura group of entrepreneurs, which is part of the Hilton chain, is another violation of ILO Convention 169”, Ofraneh said at www.ofraneh.wordpress.com

Land dispossession
The Garifuna leader Carlos Castillo considered that these actions are part of the strategy of looting the Garífuna people promoted by the State in charge of auctioning the north coast of the country, with the complicity of the PGR. On Tuesday, September 30, 2014, a combined force of police and army carried out the eviction of 400 people from the Barra Vieja community. “On that same day, already at night, we returned to our community because it belongs to our ancestors, we must remember that it was our ancestors who arrived in 1802 from nearby places and began to decompose the Guamiles that were in this area and made the small houses to inhabit them,” said Castillo. In June 2015, the Public Ministry could not prove the crime of usurpation against 64 members of the community, therefore the Fabric Court had to dismiss the charges for lack of grounds. As part of the black town community, Castillo condemned the use of the justice system to take away their land. On January 12 of this year, the Judgment Court of the city of Tela referred to the Supreme Court of Justice for the crime of Usurpation of Elena Martínez Martínez, José Armando Gamboa, Luis Geovanny Lazo, Sotero Valerio Martínez, Heriberta Castillo and Carlos Humberto Castle. Barra Vieja has suffered numerous eviction attempts and faced criminal trials that were won by the Garifunas, demonstrating with documents that they have owned the territories for decades.

Historical background
As Barra Vieja was founded in 1919, but the municipality of Tela registered it in 1950, in the twentieth century the Garífunas forced them to relocate due to the pressures of the banana companies. In 1975 the State donated the lands of Barra Vieja to the National Port Company, (EPN), without previously informing the inhabitants of the place, as the OFRANEH has denounced.

Park in the combo
In the “Frente a Frente” program, the vice president of the Cuero y Salado Foundation (FUCSA), José Herrero, gave the “Lancetilla” Foundation as an example of nature conservation, which is supposed to work on the maintenance of the “Janeth Kawas” park, created on January 1, 1988. Kawas was an environmental activist and director of the PROLANSATE organization (Protection of Lancetilla, Punta Sal and Texiguat). She – Kawas – was killed on February 6, 1995 for her efforts to protect the park against palm plantations in the region. On March 30, 2016, the park suffered a raging fire that was supposedly caused, which the authorities described as an “environmental crime,” as it was apparently perpetrated to sow African palm, but according to the Global Witness report, the limits of the Kawas national park were redrawn to allow the expansion of the Indura tourist complex.

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August 30, 2019
Finca Solana
Corozal Town

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Deshawn Swasey

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