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Mega-tourism determined to steamroll indigenous Garifuna rights

18 September 2008

The ‘Micos Golf and Beach Project’ in Tela Bay on Honduras’ north coast is going ahead, advancing upon the territory of the indigenous Garifuna people from all sides. The project, backed by the Inter-American Development Bank, has already completely displaced one of the five Garifuna Afro-descendent communities that have lived in the area for centuries and whose populations number approximately 100 000 in total.

The community most seriously threatened at the moment is Barra Vieja, 90% of whose land has already been taken. So far, the community has managed to defend their last small strip of land, standing in front of bulldozers until project workers have been forced to back down. But the risks are increasing, and according to accounts from Rights Action, individuals are being targeted by the real estate company and possibly also by police for their resistance. Santos Feliciano Aguilar Álvares, a member of the neighbouring San Juan community, was abducted, beaten and threatened with death, allegedly by security guards employed by the local real estate company, in early June this year, following a community meeting attended by representatives of the company. Several Garifuna leaders have been murdered or jailed since 1994, when developers first moved into the area.

The Garifuna are not defeated yet, however, and have been fighting to defend their rights through their representative organization OFRANEH (Black Fraternal Organisation of Honduras) and with support from US-based Rights Action and Geneva-based COHRE (Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions). Like other indigenous groups around the world, such as the Endorois of Kenya, the Garifuna are exploring varied avenues to make their plight known – from petitions to international human rights bodies, to local radio broadcasts. Garifuna Leader Alfredo Lopez, who has been jailed for 7 years in the past for his resistance, has vowed that ‘this is a struggle to the end. We will do whatever it takes to win.’

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