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Honduran Garifuna Communities Evicted by Tourism Interests

In the morning of September 30, 2014, members of the National Police and military conducted an eviction in the Afro-descendant and indigenous (Garifuna) community of Barra Vieja, Tela, in northern Honduras. Members of the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras, or OFRANEH, are demanding respect for their right to their ancestral home and an immediate return of the usurped lands.

The police and military forces scattered people and destroyed their homes in violation of the human and territorial rights of 400 Garifuna people of Barra Vieja. This land has been the home of the Garifuna people for more than two centuries. OFRANEH, a Grassroots International partner in Honduras, sees the eviction as part of a bigger strategy to grab the Garifuna ancestral land on the coast for tourism projects to benefits foreign investors and the Honduras power elite.  

The community of Barra Vieja is located at the entrance of the Indura Beach & Resort tourism project, launched in November 2013. This project was previously known as Laguna de Micos & Beach Resort.  According to OFRANEH, this resort is own by a powerful group of elites who were directly involved in the coup of 2009. Community residents say the resort group is guilty of filling in 80 acres of the wetland of the Laguna Los Micos without taking into account environmental damage and in open violation of the Convention International Wetlands Protection, known as RAMSAR.

Earlier evictions attempts were unsuccessfully initiated August 6, 2014. The eviction orders were repeatedly directed to individuals rather than the community of Barra Vieja.

OFRANEH said in a public statement that Barra Vieja eviction is illegal and promoted by Indura Beach & Resort, with the support of the Court of Appeals in La Ceiba and the Municipality Government of Tela, which has been noted for being at the service of the tourist industry much to the detriment of the Garifuna population living in the bay. “Actually the eviction promoters are Indura Resort and the Honduran Institute of Tourism,” said a Garifuna leader from OFRANEH. “They should be reported as violators of human rights, and the Public Prosecutor (Public Ministry) for agreeing to evict us, and finally, the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Ethnic Affairs for inaction.”

OFRANEH has been working on two cases at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights related to violations of territory rights of the Garífuna communities of Triunfo de la Cruz and Punta Piedra.  Through these cases, OFRANEH is promoting the communities’ right to participate in matters that concern them, and their rights to a fair trial and judicial protection.

The cases also highlight communities’ right to Free Prior and Informed Consent concerning the adoption of decisions affecting their ancestral territories. OFRANEH argues that this eviction violates the right to Free Prior and Informed Consent – Convention 169- and the UN Declaration on Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples, because it ignores the ancestral property of Garifuna people.

Their lands and rights are increasingly coming under attack from large developers attempting to buy or take over Garifuna territories for agribusiness or tourist projects. They also face devastating impacts of climate change.  Additionally,  Garifuna communities face other major threats, including the planned building of 20 “charter cities” in Garifuna territory, the expansion of agrofuels plantations, and the exploration and exploitation of oil.

PHOTO: A Garifuna woman facing evction says, ‘Yo aquí nací no tengo donde ir” — I was born here and have no where else to go.