Urgent Action: Demand the Return of the 4 Forcibly Disappeared Garifuna Men in Honduras
In this posting:
A- Take Action to demand a search for the five Garífuna men who were forcibly disappeared on July 18, 2020
B- Background on the Garífuna community of Triunfo de la Cruz, Honduras
C- Calls from the US, Europe, and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights demanding a search for the Garífuna men
D- More articles and analysis
E- Sample letter you can send to your US representative and US senators
F- More info: contact OFRANEH and Honduras Solidarity Network
A- Take Action to demand a search
On the morning of Saturday July 18, Garífuna leader Snider Centeno, together with four others from the Triunfo de la Cruz community, were forcedly disappeared by a group of men wearing Honduran Police (DPI) bullet proof vests.
Click here to TAKE ACTION now!
Contact Honduran officials, with copies to US and Canadian officials, demanding the return of the forcibly disappeared Garífuna leaders, an end to the terror campaign to displace the communities, and the compliance with rulings by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in favor of the Garífuna in Honduras.
Stand with us in support of OFRANEH and the Garífuna communities in Honduras against the campaign by the Honduran regime and unscrupulous developers to displace the Garífuna people and turn their territories into mono-culture agriculture, tourist resorts and extractive projects.
We join the Garífuna communities in demanding:
-the return of the five disappeared men alive.
-a serious and impartial investigation that does not include the DPI (police) into the disappearance of the men from Triunfo de la Cruz.
- compliance with the orders of the Inter-American Human Rights Court for justice for Triunfo de la Cruz and Punta Piedra.
- an end to all attempts to displace Garifuna communities and all the violence and harassment against communities and organizations
The kidnapping and disappearance of these men is another attack against the Garífuna community and their struggle to protect their ancestral lands, and the rights of Afro-Indigenous and Indigenous people to live.
1- Click here to send your urgent message to these officials:
Lidia Estela Cardona Padilla, Procuradora General de Honduras
Ebal Díaz, Secretario de Estado en el Despacho de la Presidencia de Honduras
Karla Cueva, Secretaría de Derechos Humanos
Collen Hoey, Chargé d’Affaires, US Embassy in Tegucigalpa
James K. Hill, Ambassador, Embassy of Canada to Costa Rica, Honduras, and Nicaragua
2- Send your own letter. See a sample below
The community Triunfo de la Cruz is emblematic of the Garífuna people’s struggle to defend their territories against seizure by the government and both Honduran and international developers as well as organized crime with ties to both. All of them seek to exploit the coastal resources and displace the Garífuna people. In 2015 the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) ruled in favor of Triunfo de la Cruz and Punta Piedra communities against the Honduran government. The IACHR ordered the Honduran State to make reparations for the harm they committed against Garifuna communities, to return the stolen land, to end impunity for the crimes committed against these communities throughout the decades of the 80’s and 90’s. However, the government has ignored the court’s orders. In fact, violence and attempts to displace the Garifuna people have intensified. In 2019 alone, at least 19 Garífuna were murdered. In June, 2020 Antonio Bernárdez, a leader in the community of Punta Piedra was assassinated. Now, five more people, 4 of them Garifuna leaders, have been disappeared.
See IRTF’s Rapid Response Network letters:
Antonio Bernárdez: https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2020-07-24-000000
Disappeared Garífuna men: https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2020-07-20-000000
As pressure on the Honduran dictatorship over the forced disappearances has grown, a vicious smear campaign was launched against the disappeared men, and their communities and organization, using fake photo montages and social media to accuse the men of being part of organized crime. This tactic has been used time and time again by the Honduran narco government to cover up for the murders and disappearances of all the assassinated Garifuna activists, and to unjustly jail and harass community leaders. It is especially outrageous given that the de facto President of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez, has been named a co-conspirator by the New York prosecutors in the case of his brother Tony who was convicted of narcotics trafficking; prosecutors are pursuing charges against many others in his government circles.
C- Calls from the US, Europe, and the Inter-American Court on Human Rights demanding a search for the Garífuna men who were forcibly disappeared on July 18, 2020.
Despite an abundance of international solidarity actions, the response of the Honduran government has been less than adequate and unacceptable. So much so that the Inter-American Court on Human Rights issued a ruling against Honduras and demands immediate action.
IRTF Rapid Response Network writes (July 20) to government officials demanding and immediate search.
EU Parliamentarians condemn the Honduran government’s (July 24) persecution of Black, indigenous organizations.
US House leaders write to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (July 30) to “express our deep concern about the deterioration of human rights protections and the growing culture of impunity under the [Honduran] administration.”
Appearing before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee (July 30), Secretary of State Pompeo is asked by Sen Merkely why the US maintains this “cozy” relationship with Honduras, despite the State Department’s own report about killings, torture, detention, and violence against indigenous Hondurans—not to mention that the current president is implicated as a co-conspirator in widespread drug trafficking, money laundering, and human rights abuses.
In a letter to the president of Honduras, Prime Minister Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (Aug 1), who is also president of the CARICOM community of Caribbean nations, says: “this is an international human rights issue...[and]…the lawless and criminal campaign against the Garífuna people, and their leaders, in Honduras must stop.”
The Inter-American Court on Human Rights issues a ruling (Aug 7) requiring the Honduran government to take all necessary and adequate measures to determine the whereabouts of the five men disappeared on July 18 and adopt protection measures for the communities of Triunfo de la Cruz and Punta Piedra. The court also issues a deadline of Aug 24 for these measures.
D- More articles and analysis
In a Democracy Now! interview, “We Are in Danger Daily: Honduran Afro-Indigenous Garífuna Demand Return of Kidnapped Land Defenders,” (Aug 17) , Carla García, international relations coordinator at the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFANEH), describes how the five Garífuna men were kidnapped by heavily armed men wearing police uniforms, forcing them into three unmarked vehicles at gunpoint. This was the latest attack against the Garífuna community as they defend their territory from destructive projects fueled by foreign investors and the Honduran government.
In his article for The Daily Beast, “Minority Group Fears ‘Genocide’ in Trump-Backed Honduras,” (Aug 10) Jeremy Kryt tells how Honduras’ neoliberal policies—policies that cater to transnational corporations at the expense of local residents like the Garifuna—also foster or enable factors like displacement, mass poverty, and the presence of organized crime, all of which actually drive the wave of Honduran migrants headed north toward the U.S.
In an article published on the Radio Progreso website (Aug 10), the Jesuit-sponsored Reflection Research and Communication Team in Honduras concludes that the kidnapping of the Garífuna leaders [on July 18] and the vulnerability that surrounds the Triunfo de la Cruz Garifuna community “is the product of structural violence promoted by the State that is expressed in threats, death, cultural and territorial dispossession.”
In the America Magazine article “Indigenous men in Honduras are being abducted. Are the police to blame?” (Aug 5) journalist Jackie McVicar explains how racism and a history of violence against human rights and environmental defenders in Honduras make the Garífuna people a vulnerable target. Over the course of decades, large scale economic projects (e.g., tourism, palm oil plantations) have led to land grabs taking away their pristine Caribbean beaches and a loss of fertile farmland that the Garífuna people had used for subsistence farming.
In “Honduras: Five ‘Disappeare’ in Triunfo and the Expulsion of the Garifuna People, “ (July 27) OFRANEH (Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras) outlines several threats to the Garífuna communities of the Atlantic coast: 1- the government’s Model Cities (ZDEs) legislation that encourages land grabs of communal Garífuna territories; 2- the lack of prior consultation with communities before economic development projects are started (this is a violation of international law); 3- tourism industry; 4- industrial agriculture (palm oil), 5- climate change, 6- coastal erosion, 7- State violence as weapon of social control, 8- assassinations of community leaders, 9- exodus of young people , many fleeing to the US.
In her article in The Guardian, “Fears growing for five indigenous Garifuna men abducted in Honduras,” (July 23) journalist Nina Lakhani quotes Jenny Ramona Herrera Álvarez, a community spokeswoman in Triunfo de la Cruz: “We are under constant threat by those who want our land and natural resources.”
E- Sample letter you can send to your US representative and US senators
Please email or call you Congressional reps and senators, urging them to contact the State Department and echo the call that is in that letter (July 30) from congressional leaders. A script is pasted below. Find your congressperson and senators at https://www.house.gov/ and https://www.senate.gov/ . If you have trouble with calls to their D.C. offices because no one is there, you can try their home district offices (see their website).
Click here to send your message to Congress now, or use the sample below to write your own letter.
Dear Representative ___/Senator____:
As your constituent, I am asking you to call the State Department and U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras about the abduction and forced disappearance of five men from the Garífuna community of Triunfo de la Cruz: Milton Joel Martínez Álvarez, Suami Aparicio Mejía García, Gerardo Misael Trochez Calix, Alber Sentana Thomas, and Snider Centeno
I am aware that some US House members ( including the chair of House Foreign Affairs, and chair and vice-chair of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee ) have already contacted Secretary of State Pompeo. We need you to echo their urgent call to pressure the Honduran government to find these men and to end the pattern of impunity for human rights in their country. I am connected with the InterReligious Task Force in Cleveland, a member of the Honduras Solidarity Network, which has already alerted Honduran officials about the need to immediately investigate this incident and return these men to their communities unharmed, but too much time has passed without result, and I am gravely concerned about their safety.
On the morning of Saturday, July 18 at approximately 6 am, these men were kidnapped and disappeared by a group of men wearing bullet proof vests and believed to be police. The men's vests had police investigative unit insignia (DPI by its Spanish acronym) on them, although the men arrived in unmarked cars.
Snider Centeno is the president of the elected community council in Triunfo de la Cruz. He and his community won a case heard in the Inter-American Court on Human Rights in 2015 against the Honduran state for property rights violations and failure to consult the Afro-indigenous community about tourism developments on their land. However, the Honduran state has not respected the ruling and continues to encroach on Garifuna ancestral lands, to which the Garifuna have title, for the purpose of developing beachfront properties for tourists, including the lands belonging to Triunfo de la Cruz. The community has continued to vocally oppose the Honduran state’s illegal allocation of their lands to development corporations without consultation of the community. We are concerned that the disappearance of this Garifuna leader is in retaliation for this opposition.
Snider Centeno, Aparicio Mejía García and Milton Joel Martínez Álvarez are members of the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH), the Garífuna organization working to protect Garífuna economic, social and cultural rights. OFRANEH has been involved in legal suits and non-violent protests against the Honduran state for its violation of Garifuna rights. We believe they may also have been disappeared because of their membership in OFRANEH.
Since the kidnappings, Honduran police have harassed the communities protesting the disappearances and in Triunfo de la Cruz at least one vehicle with unidentified armed men was seen last night driving circulating in town which is an act of intimidation.
On May 7, 2020, the State Department certified Honduras on its efforts to providing effective and accountable law enforcement and security for its citizens among other human rights-related issues. I have serious doubts about these efforts. This particular incident, one among many other attacks, kidnappings, and assassinations carried out against civilians by Honduran security forces, highlights the continuing insecurity faced by individuals expressing opposition to the government and land defenders in Honduras.
Please communicate with utmost urgency to the State Department and Embassy that they must urge Honduran officials to find these men and return them to their community. Time is of the essence—many of those who “disappear” in Honduras are later found dead.
Click here to send your message now.
F- More information
https://twitter.com/ofraneh (Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras)