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Afro-Descendant & Indigenous: News & Updates

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On behalf of IRTF’s Rapid Response Network (RRN) members, we wrote six letters this month to heads of state and other high-level officials in Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico, urging their swift action in response to human rights abuses occurring in their countries.  We join with civil society groups in Latin America to: (1) protect people living under threat, (2) demand investigations into human rights crimes, (3) bring human rights criminals to justice.

IRTF’s Rapid Response Network (RRN) volunteers write six letters in response to urgent human rights cases each month. We send copies of these letters to US ambassadors, embassy human rights officers, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, regional representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and desk officers at the US State Department. To read the letters, see https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn , or ask us to mail you hard copies.

News Article

Send a letter to authorities in Honduras in support of Garífuna communities’ demands for justice and defense of their territories.  Sounding drums, maracas, and other instruments, dozens of Garífuna community members of OFRANEH (The Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras) demonstrated on August 9 in front of the main headquarters of the Public Ministry in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa.

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In 2012, the Inter-American Court for Human Rights (IACHR) ruled that the Guatemalan state was responsible for crimes associated with the Military Diary and ordered the state to determine who committed them, locate the victims’ remains, provide psychological support to families, and provide reparations. In spite of this, the national investigation of the case stalled for years The details outlined in the Military Diary have been corroborated by testimonies from both survivors and relatives of the victims. The family members have been demanding justice ever since their loved ones were illegally detained. The families are calling for international solidarity to push forward this case for justice and reparations.

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The parsimony of the waves of the Caribbean Sea that bathe this paradise contrasts with the context of violence and dispossession experienced by the Garífuna communities. Between the years of 2012 and 2022, they have reported 105 attacks against their members and in the last seven years alone, 25 defenders of the Garífuna territories have been assassinated. According to the Honduran Black Fraternal Organization (OFRANEH), this situation worsened after in 2015 the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) ruled in favor of this Garífuna community and held the State of Honduras responsible for violating the ancestral and collective right to territory of its inhabitants.

News Article

While the US and Colombia are different, the need to reckon with structural racism and its effects on the basic, civil, economic, socio-political rights of ethnic minorities are not dissimilar. The obstacles faced by Afro-descendant and Indigenous persons in both nations share root causes and challenges. Ethnic communities have a strong history of leadership, resistance, resilience, organization, and activism in both countries. Also, the drug and military policies in the US and Colombia that disproportionately negatively affect ethnic communities are interlinked.

News Article

The Garífuna indigenous group of Honduras demanded Tuesday an investigation into the disappearance of five of its members in July 2020 in the Caribbean Triunfo de la Cruz community. “We are here to demand justice and to investigate the disappearance of our five brothers from Triunfo de la Cruz two years ago,” said one protester. The missing people, who are suspected to have been kidnapped in the early hours of July 18, 2020 by armed men wearing vests bearing the logo of the Police Investigation Directorate, are Milton Joel Martínez, Suami Aparicio Mejía, Gerardo Misael Trochez, Albert Snaider Centeno and Júnior Chávez, the latter president of the board of trustees of the Triunfo de la Cruz community and a member of the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras.

News Article

Some time in the 17th century, a vessel carrying enslaved people from the west coast of Africa ran aground near the Caribbean island of St Vincent, close enough to shore that the survivors swam to land, disposed of their captors and settled alongside the Indigenous Carib-Arawak people, who already offered a safe haven to runaway slaves from other islands. The Afro-Indigenous culture that resulted came to be known as ‘Garifuna’ (meaning ‘Black Carib’). Their language derives from that of the Arawak, a people whose pre-Colombian origin is in the Orinoco River basin in Venezuela. Ralph Gonsalves, the prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines since 2001, had been visiting the village of Orinoco in Nicaragua, where some two thousand Garifuna now live. Orinoco is in a remote part of the Caribbean coast, accessible only by boat, and nearly 2500 km from St Vincent. The Garifuna diaspora is a consequence of the brutal treatment they received from the British when they were eventually colonised.

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