On July 18th, Snider Centeno, Suami Mejia, Milton Martinez and Gerardo Rochez all young Afro-Indigenous Garifuna land defenders and another person were forcibly disappeared from the town of Triunfo de la Cruz in Honduras. For more than a month the defenders’ community and organization, OFRANEH (Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras), have denounced and protested the disappearances, the continued attacks on the Garifuna communities and the government’s biased and incomplete investigation. International voices have also been raised in defense of the Indigenous land defenders, including protests by Garifuna organizations in the US.and other countries. The Inter-American Human Rights Court reiterated its previous ruling in favor of the Garifuna communities and insisted that the Honduran regime comply with the ruling, and the United Nations has called on the Honduran government to take urgent actions to find the men.
The Honduran regime has repressed and threatened the communities and the police force conducting the investigation into the kidnapping is the Bureau of Police Investigation known as the DPI (Spanish acronym), but the DPI itself is implicated in these forced disappearances since the armed kidnappers were wearing police issue bullet proof vests marked as DPI.
The community Triunfo de la Cruz is emblematic of the ongoing Garifuna 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 Garifuna people. In 2015 the Inter-American Human Rights Court (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 Garifuna were murdered. In June, 2020 Antonio Bernandez, a leader in the community of Punta Piedra was assassinated. Now, five more people, 4 of them Garifuna leaders, have been disappeared.
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.
The Honduras Solidarity Network stands in support of OFRANEH and the Garifuna communities in Honduras against the campaign by the Honduran regime and unscrupulous developers to displace the Garifuna and turn their territories into mono-culture agriculture, tourist resorts and extractive projects.
We Join the Garifuna Communities in Demanding:
- The return of the disappeared men alive.
- A serious and impartial investigation that does not include the DPI into the disappearance of the 5 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
We demand that the governments of the US and Canada end all support for the regime of Juan Orlando Hernandez and insist on compliance with the Inter-American Human RIghts Court ruling in favor of the Garifuna communities.