The coordinator of the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras, Miriam Miranda (L), performs a traditional Garifuna dance at a forum in Tegucigalpa on 20 July 2023. EFE/Gustavo Amador

Honduran Garifuna demand restitution of stolen lands

Tegucigalpa, Jul 20 (EFE).- Members of the Garifuna community in Honduras pressed the government Thursday to comply with a ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordering the restitution of ancestral lands and respect for their rights.

Members of the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras perform a traditional Garifuna dance at a forum in Tegucigalpa on 20 July 2023. EFE/Gustavo Amador

Honduras is home to roughly 200,000 Garifuna: descendants of an Afro-indigenous population that arose on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent and were deported to the Central American mainland in the late 18th century by British colonial authorities.

The coordinator of the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (Ofraneh), Miriam Miranda, told EFE that the Garifuna expect President Xiomara Castro to sign the decree establishing a commission to implement the order from the court, a body of the Organization of American States.

In December 2015, the court found that the Garifuna of the Honduran province of Atlantida had been denied legal title to their lands, excluded from decisions that affected them, and deprived of judicial guarantees.

Compliance with the ruling will help “resolve the problem of violence within our communities and the violation of the human rights of the Garifuna people,” Miranda said.

During a forum in Tegucigalpa, the Garifuna also appealed for an end to the “criminalization” of their leaders.

“Every so often we have to be going to court because comrades who are community directors and leaders in the defense of the territories have been arrested or are being charged, that has us totally exhausted,” Miranda said.

She said that while criminalization has long been used to undermine the Garifuna, “nobody touches” the people who commit crimes against her community.

Garifuna activists are “harassed by people of great economic power, but also people linked to criminality and mafias,” Miranda said.

The first Garifuna arrived on the Honduran island of Roatan on April 12, 1797, but soon moved to the mainland.

Miranda said that she sees no sign of “political will” on the part of the Honduran state to comply with the court’s order “to guarantee respect for the ancestral possession of the Garifuna people.”

Powerful interests oppose the Garifuna “because we are on the best beaches and in the zone richest in biodiversity and they need to get us out,” she said.

The Garifuna are likewise “very alarmed” about authorities’ apparent unwillingness to investigate the disappearance three years ago of four community leaders.

Albert Snaider Centeno Thomas, Milton Joel Martinez Alvarez, Suami Aparicio Mejia Garcia, and Gerardo Misael Trochez Calix were grabbed by armed men on July 18, 2020, during a police operation.

EFE ac/dr