HONDURAS: OAS & WB Failing Garifuna people, as repression and land
URGENT ACTION: Honduran Government Continues to Violate Garifuna
Community Rights; Violates Protective Measures Ordered by the Inter-
American Commission on Human Rights.
Last week, representatives of various Garifuna communities traveled
to the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa to denounce ongoing violations
of community land rights and to pressure government institutions to
respect the protective measures ordered by the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights for the community and ancestral lands of
Triunfo de la Cruz.
This past August, the community was subject to both an armed
invasion of communal lands and an agreement signed by the municipal
government authorizing continued construction of the
illegal "MarBella" tourism project.
Letters are urgently needed to bring further pressure on the
government and highlight international attention and concern on
For more information, to support the development, environment and
human rights work of the Garifuna communitiesinfo@...
***1. THE CURRENT/ONGOING SITUATION***
Garifuna communities along Honduras' Caribbean coastline continue to
struggle for the effective legal recognition of their ancestral
In the 1990s several communities were granted community land titles
covering only a small part of their territory – usually a very
limited residential area –, excluding the functional habitat
comprised of the agricultural lands and forested areas necessary for
community subsistence and survival.
Furthermore, ancestral Garifuna lands all along the coast have been
usurped by Honduran and foreign landowners, politicians and
investors, many of the latter with plans to develop tourism projects.
Due to the ongoing violations of collective land rights, on May 1,
2006, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ordered
Protective Measures for the Triunfo de la Cruz community. These
protective measures include orders that the "government adopt the
necessary measures to protect and respect property rights to the
ancestral lands pertaining to the community of
Triunfo de la Cruz."
Similar protective measures were dictated more recently for the
community of San Juan. Both communities belong to the municipality
of Tela, located in the Tela Bay, an area highly coveted by national
and international investors in the resort tourism industry.
For years, the municipal government of Tela has been involved in the
illegal usurpation of Garifuna community lands. Back in 1989, the
municipality extended the city's urban limits to include various
Garifuna communities and ancestral lands without prior consultation.
In 1992, national government institutions authorized the extension,
affecting both San Juan and Triunfo de la Cruz. The municipal
government of Tela has used this extension to justify granting
illegal land titles within the communal land titles and
ancestral lands of San Juan and Triunfo de la Cruz, such as the
illegal title to 22 manzanas of land located within Triunfo de la
Cruz' community land title granted on January 15, 1998 to the
municipal workers' union, in lieu of owed pay.
Last month, on August 13, 2006, armed members of the municipal
workers'union invaded the lands, intimidating and provoking Triunfo
de la Cruz community members.
Then in late August, the Tela municipal government signed an
agreement with the IDETRISA and MASERICA companies, which have once
again invaded Triunfo de la Cruz communal lands in order to continue
construction of the MarBella luxury housing complex.
Opposition to the MarBella project has been both at the center of the
community's struggle for their land rights and at the root of the
violent repression against community leaders over the years,
including murders,threats and unjust imprisonment.
Both of these recent actions are blatant violations of the protective
measures ordered by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on
May 1, demonstrating that far from taking the necessary measures to
protect and respect community property rights to the ancestral lands
of Triunfo de la Cruz, local government authorities have continued
to actively violate these rights.
Another issue addressed by Garifuna community representatives in
Tegucigalpa was the continuation of ancestral lands rights
violations by the World Bank-financed Honduran Lands Administration
Program (PATH). Using the highly contested Property Law of 2004 as
its legal framework, the land `regularization' Program respects land
titles granted to outsiders within communal lands, proposes
unconstitutional `settlement roundtables' to resolve land conflicts,
and permits the individualization of community land titles.
The World Bank funded PATH is being implemented in the regional
context of CAFTA and Plan Puebla Panama, creating the kind
of `security' of land tenure needed by foreign investors, at the
expense of indigenous and Garifuna communities' ancestral land
As part of PATH, a Regional Garifuna Commission – called Wadabula –
was created with the participation of various Garifuna individuals
in order to pressure communities to get with the Program.
Garifuna communities are calling for the dissolution of Wadabula,
which has been posing as a representative entity to governmental
institutions and requesting copies of Garifuna communal land titles
and documentation without community authorization.