OFRANEH and other organizations will mobilize against the reform of the Prior, Free and Informed Consultation Law that aims to give away natural resources to national and foreign investors.
In the early morning of June 6, community leader Malvin Norales, defender of the ancestral territories of the Garifuna community of Puerto Castilla, coordinator of Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña (OFRANEH), was detained. Thanks to the rapid mobilization, denunciation and national and international pressure by organizations that defend the rights of the people and territories, Norales was released that same night. Now he is being protected by his friends out of fear that the Honduran repressive forces detain him again.
Norales was detained during a routine check at a police post, because a criminal case against him that had been closed in 2015 was reopened. He is being accused of “usurping” a five-block land used by company INTERMARES since 1996, after it being assigned by the National Port Authority (ENP), where supposedly INTERMARES planned to build a fish meal processing plant.
In May, 2014, in response to the situation of overpopulation in Puerto Castilla, the members of the community decided to recover the vacant lands, but they were violently evicted by officers of the Security Ministry.
The pressure to build “model cities” (ZEDE) on these lands results in the persecution of Garifuna defenders. The unexpected detention of Norales, accused of usurpation, points to the “resurgence of an intimidation campaign aimed at neutralizing the possible reactions against the building of the ZEDE”, stated OFRANEH.
“Model cities have been promoted by Lobo-Hernández administrations aiming to create new forms of governance, to create States-Cities with independence over legal and security matters”, they explained, so that it is possible to establish “extractive projects, fracking, gas processing plants, hydroelectric and oil projects” there, denounced Miriam Miranda, OFRANEH leader, in an interview with Real World Radio. “The US is campaigning for fracking in Honduras”, she added.
Miranda highlighted the struggle by Malvin Norales as a defender of the territory and said that his detention is linked to the attempts by the Honduran State and transnational corporations to get rid of the defenders of the people who fight against extractive projects and democracy in their country: “The Honduran State is criminalizing defenders of the territories to cause fear and paralyze the people”, she stated.
Moreover, the Garifuna leader also said that OFRANEH, together with other indigenous organizations have declared an alert to mobilize against the new version of the Free, Prior and Informed Consultation Law that the Honduran government is preparing in order to comply with Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO), which aims to protect indigenous people. The reform was not consulted or approved by the people.
Miranda stated that they are living under a Police State: “In Honduras we have a militarized society, a dictatorship sustained by the police, the army and a media bias”.