Terror and impunity against the Garifuna of Honduras

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Miriam Miranda He does not give up in his struggle to clarify what happened to four Garifuna activists who a year ago were violently disappeared by police in the Caribbean community of Triunfo de la Cruz, in Honduras. This Honduran activist, defender of the rights of the Garífuna populations of the Central American country, demands that the Government, led by the controversial Juan Orlando Hernández, press the State institutions to clarify what happened to the young people, whose case has triggered the alarms on the situation of violence suffered by the Honduran Garifuna people, haunted by crime and powerful economic groups interested in exploiting the wealth of the region where these indigenous populations settle. “These are forced disappearances and the State does not show political will to investigate what happened. What’s more, the State denies what happened, ”says Miranda.

The incident occurred at dawn on July 18, 2020, when heavily armed men wearing bulletproof vests, members of the Police Investigation Directorate, detained Alberth Snaider Centeno, Suami Aparicio Mejía García, Milton Joel in the Triunfo de la Cruz community. Martínez Álvarez and Gerardo Mizael Roche Calix. The four actively participate in the defense of the rights of the Garífuna people through the Honduran Black Fraternal Organization (OFRANEH), coordinated by Miriam Miranda. The testimonies collected by the organization reveal an excessive use of force and the violation of the rights of the detainees. A year after what happened, nothing is known about the whereabouts of the four boys and the Honduran government shows no progress in the investigation of the case, Miranda denounces.

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Triunfo de la Cruz is part of the five Garífuna communities on the Caribbean coast of northwestern Honduras, a region that has beautiful coasts that attract tourists, but also the ambition of economic groups that want to exploit them. Due to the threat that threatens this population, the community obtained in 2015 a judgment of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (Inter-American Court), that he condemned the Honduran State for various violations of his rights. Snaider Centeno was an uncomfortable voice for the Government, since it had actively demanded compliance with the sentence. After the disappearance of the four activists, the Inter-American Court issued provisional measures in their favor, but the young people’s families affirm that they have not had access to the investigation carried out by the State, nor have they been called to testify in the process. “The problem is that the State throughout the year has been presenting inconsistent reports that do not shed light on what happened or why this happened. The State does not want to accept that these are forced disappearances and that they should be investigated as such, ”explains Miranda.

Honduras is listed as one of the most violent countries in the world for human rights defenders. Miranda denounces that in five years 50 members of the Garífuna populations have been murdered and the threat against this people is constant, which has made many decide to leave their populations, migrating to other countries, such as Mexico. One of the most notorious cases of violence against activists is that of Berta Cáceres, murdered in 2016 and for whose crime eight people have been convicted, including David Castillo, former executive president of the company Desarrollos Energéticos SA (DESA). Cáceres had publicly denounced Castillo for death threats. “She pointed out that if someone was going to kill her, that person was him,” said her daughter, Berta Zúñiga. The ecologist had openly opposed the construction of the Agua Zarca dam, a hydroelectric project that would affect the Gualcarque River, an important source of resources for Honduran indigenous communities.

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In the case of the disappeared Garifuna activists, Miranda denounces that the Honduran State has refused to set up an International Committee for the Search and Investigation of the Disappeared of Triunfo de la Cruz (called SUNLA, in the Garífuna language) that is made up of experts international organizations such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). “The State is responsible for what happened. Alberth Snaider Centeno was being harassed and filed a complaint about the danger he felt, because even motorized vehicles intimidated him at home because of the work he was doing, ”says Miranda, who also criticizes that the Government has launched a smear campaign against activists by hinting on social media that they were linked to organized crime.

Miriam Miranda has also received threats for her work and complaints, despite having precautionary measures issued by the IACHR. “I have suffered kidnappings from criminal groups. I fear for my family. The organization [OFRANEH] it has been criminalized ”, he details. Despite this harassment, the activist continues her crusade to clarify what happened with her colleagues from Triunfo de la Cruz. On Tuesday he led a demonstration in Tegucigalpa and this Wednesday he maintained the mobilization in the dangerous Honduran capital. “There is a great voracity for the resources of the areas in which we live and that is why they want to make our people disappear. It is a genocidal plan against the Garífuna people that responds to the interests of the country’s political and economic class, which wants to hand over the territory to foreign investors. The Honduran State shows great contempt for the Garífuna community ”, concludes the activist.

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