Garifuna People of Honduras launch land recovery campaign

OFRANEH | 23 August 2012
Stephen Bartlett
Coordinator for Education and Advocacy/Latin America Liaison
Agricultural Missions 
(502) 896-9171 
Garifuna People of Honduras Launch Land Recovery Campaign
Campaign Opposes Land Grabs of Traditional Territories in Honduras by Elites and Foreign Investors
NEW YORK, NY, AUGUST 23, 2012 – On August 27th, 300 leaders of the afro-indigenous Garifuna people and their allies will occupy, reclaim, and protect their land in the village of Vallecito, along the northern coast of Honduras. Vallecito is the largest contiguous landholding of the Garifuna people, who have land titles to almost 2,500 acres, but it is currently targeted by real estate developers for tourist developments. Over the last 18 years, 86% of the Garifuna people’s land has been grabbed by non-Garifuna persons.  OFRANEH, the Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras, is a widely respected Garifuna human rights organization launching this campaign to reclaim their land rights. 
Garifuna people are a unique afro-Caribbean ethnic group descended from indigenous Arawaks and escaped African slaves. The Garifuna of Honduras’ northern coast have been struggling for decades to protect their lands from predatory investors eyeing coastal lands for large-scale tourist projects, mega-hotels, and gated vacation communities. The so-called “Charter City” project—brainchild of NYU economist Paul Romer—which aims to create a sovereign, business-friendly city-state on the Northern coast, is one of the biggest threats. 
Following the coup of Manuel Zelaya in 2009, Honduras has been in a state of turmoil; land grabbing, assassination, and corruption have been frequent. In spite of this turmoil and the global rush on land, the Garifuna land recovery campaign will move forward.
Developers also directly threaten the biodiversity of the Garifuna’s lands, endangering the “food sovereignty” of the Garifunas—their ability to feed themselves—and worsening the effects of climate change. “The defense of the Garifuna territory from the voracious appetite of the entrepreneurs is an answer to the devastation created by blind capitalism and climate change,” said Garifuna leader Miriam Miranda. “It is also necessary to preserve the biodiversity of our fragile coastline, to make sure our communities are resilient and strong in the face of climate change.”
The Garifuna community of New York—the largest concentration of Garifunas outside Central America—also voiced support for the campaign. Carla Garcia of the Garifuna Solidarity Network stated, “It is vital for the Garifuna people, and all the people of North America, to show solidarity with this campaign, which is at its core, a campaign for local, meaningful democracy.”
A conference call with Carla Garcia in New York and Miriam Miranda from the occupation in Vallecito will take place on Wednesday, August 29 at 3 pm EST. For information on joining this call to learn about the campaign and OFRANEH, contact Stephen Bartlett of Agricultural Missions.
OFRANEH was founded in 1979 to represent and advocate for the interests of the Afro-Carib Garífuna minority in Honduras. OFRANEH works to protect the Garífuna community's capacity for self-determination through programs promoting their political, social, economic and cultural advancement.

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