Petition in Defense of the Rights, Culture and Territory of the Garifuna People


Petition published by OFRANEH, July 25, 2012


The Garifuna People have lived in Honduras for 215 years, after being expelled from the island of San Vicente, where our culture’s ethnogenesis took place in the mid-17th century.  The loss of our communities’ traditional territory has been an ongoing process for over a hundred years. The Honduran State handed over huge tracts of land to banana companies in exchange for laying down railway infrastructure. Military officials, politicians and businesspeople joined forces to seize beachfront lands, with the pretext of “tourism development.” Our territories are being converted into protected areas, without any consultation with affected communities.


But it was the coup in 2009 that marked the beginning of a definitive offensive by the State. The appropriation of the Bay of Trujillo by Canadian citizen Randy Jorgenson – known in his country as the “Porn King” – for the creation of a tourist emporium led to the destruction of the Garifuna community of Rio Negro.


In 2010, the government that emerged out of the June 2009 coup began to promote concessions of national territory for the creation of a quasi-independent state, with its own judicial, administrative and security systems.US economist Paul Romer promoted the concept of Charter Cities (“Ciudades modelos” in Spanish), intervening in the National Congress for the quick approval of a Special Development Regions (RED) law.


Demonstrating the interest of Canadian investors in taking over the Caribbean coast of Honduras, Canadian Senator Gerry St. Germain participated in a special congressional session on RED regulations. In 2011, without debate, the congress legislated regulations for the charter cities.


Government authorities have indicated that the first RED will be located between the Bay of Trujillo and the Sico river – an area with 24 Garifuna communities that are considered to be a cultural sanctuary. This same corridor is becoming an area controlled by people associated with organized crime, engaging in the illegal purchase of lands with the collusion of government institutions.


On October 18, 2011, a group of lawyers filed a motion of unconstitutionality regarding the REDs to the Supreme Court of Justice. This past February 25, the Attorney General’s Office (Ministerio Público) declared that there were grounds for the motion to proceed. Immediately, the National Congress began a campaign to pressure and influence the court, including a threat to make cuts to its budget.


The independence of the judiciary – an element without which democracy itself is in question – is at stake inHonduras.




Urgent Action by Greg McCain

On Friday July 6th I witnessed the exhumation of the body of Gregorio Chavez Aranda on one of the fincas (palm plantations) of Miguel Faccusé. He had been missing since July 2nd. Two months prior to his disappearance, Senior Chavez complained to Faccusé’s private security guards about the ongoing theft and killings of his farm animals by the guards.

His body was found many miles deep into the finca, but only approximately a mile from where the guards have been camped out. Gregorio’s head was covered with a small plastic bag and he had severe trauma to the back of his head as evidenced by a large wound and the pooling of blood inside the bag. The community of La Panama, of which Gregorio was a respected member, had tried to search the finca but were stopped by the guards when they had come to that section. Members of the Human Rights Observatory of the Aguan as well as Karen Spring from Rights Action and Mary Dean and myself had visited the Chavez family on Wednesday July 4th. We also spoke with members of the National Police and relayed to them the grave human rights violations that they were engaged in by riding up and down the roads of the community while acommpanying the heavily armed private security guards, a clear symbol of intimidation of the community.

Finally on Friday, the National Police, after much pressure from the community, agreed to accompany members of the community onto the Finca to allow them to search for Gregorio. They found a crudly dug shallow trench covered by palm leaves with many flies buzzing over it. After many hours of waiting for a forensic team to finally show up members of the community, including members of Gregorio’s family dug up his body.

Also, Jacobo Erazo Lopez, member of MUCA-Right Bank and partner in the campesino cooperative La Tranvio was assassinated last week in the community of Quebrada de Arena.
Tell the US Embassy that as the Embassy has maintained a close relationship with Miguel Facusse (principal owner of the Dinant palm oil company) and trained military forces in the region, they must act now to bring Gregorio and Jacobo’s assassins to justice:
Nathan Anderson
Human Rights and Labor Attaché
U.S. Embassy Tegucigalpa
Office: (504) 2236-9320 ext. 4733
Cell: (504) 9719-0289

If you speak Spanish, call Honduran officials:

Ana Pineda, Minister of Human Rights (504) 9982-6801
Commissioner Mejilla – Departmental Chief of Police for Colon: (504) 9761-3669
Police Station in Trujillo: (504) 2434-3211

Update on the Polis Letter on LGBT Murders

Below is an update on our previously posted call to action to contact your representatives asking their support of the Polis letter. Keep up the pressure!

Dear Friends:  The Polis letter on LGBT murders in Honduras now has 13 signers.  In addition to the 6 initial signers, the following were added today:  Reps Woolsey (D-CA), Grijalva (D-AZ), Velazquez (D-NY), Hinchey (NY-OR), Schiff (D-CA), Lee (D-CA), and Blumenauer (D-OR).  Schiff is a first time signer on a Honduras letter, and has a June 11 statement in support of LGBT Pride Month. 

 We are off to a good start!  Keep the calls and emails going in to the foreign policy staffers with the action alert below.”

Gary L. Cozette

Honduras Solidarity Network – Congressional Action Team (HSN-CAT)

Program Director, Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN)