A note about conservationists and Indigenous Peoples

By Martin Mowforth

The fact that areas inhabited by indigenous peoples are often deemed hugely important for conservation has been the focus of long-standing conflict and debate. It is estimated that 85% of designated protected areas in Central America are inhabited by indigenous peoples.[1]

Historically, the colonial paradigm for conservation involved the creation of parks and protected areas. In the endeavour to preserve ‘pristine’ nature or ‘wilderness’, indigenous people were excluded from conservation programmes and even forcibly evicted from the land.[2] It is now widely acknowledged that conservation programmes must involve the participation of the local people dependent on the areas under protection, but the feasibility of harmonising conservation and indigenous interests remains very much in dispute.

A project undertaken by National Geographic Society in 2002, superimposed a map of indigenous territories in Central America over a map with forest cover and marine ecosystems.[3] They found a striking correlation between indigenous habitation and the survival of natural ecosystems. That the subsistence lifestyles of indigenous peoples are less destructive to the environment than the industrialised economies of non-indigenous peoples is a reasonable assumption.

It is often noted that indigenous peoples have an inherent and sacred relationship with nature, a wealth of traditional knowledge, and natural resource management practices which they have been using for centuries to protect and preserve their lands.[4] Such claims about the stewardship role of indigenous peoples strongly support the possibility of collaboration with conservation organisations for maintaining biodiversity today. Mark Dowie contends that for both parties, maintaining a “healthy and diverse biosphere” is key.[5] Furthermore, the land and ecosystems that both conservationists and indigenous peoples are so keen to defend are seriously threatened by multiple and competing demands, including intensive agriculture, industrial forestry, and large scale development projects such as dams and mines.

An increasing awareness of indigenous peoples’ rights and the problems associated with the exclusionary conservation paradigm has led to attempts at more people-centred conservation programmes during the last 20 years. But, it has been suggested that there are inherent and irreconcilable differences in the agendas of indigenous people and conservationists. Whilst the former are primarily concerned for their economic wellbeing and protecting their land for their own use, the latter above all want to keep nature intact, prioritising protected areas and programmes grounded in rigorous biological and ecological science.[6]

The terms of involvement of local communities have been dictated by the conservation organisations, and indigenous peoples have continued to feel excluded, and some conservationists seem to have been incapable of coping with the social aspect of these types of projects.

Mac Chapin provided a damning critique of the three largest and dominant global conservation organisations – World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Conservation International (CI) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC).[7] He noted that their neglect of indigenous peoples in conservation programmes is partly due to their corporate and government funding and the conditions attached to it. He points out that indigenous resistance is often directed at projects executed by the organisations’ funding partners, who are also often perpetrators of environmental degradation.

Some hardline conversationists insist that any human presence will have a negative impact on biodiversity. Kent Redford suggested that ‘the noble ecological savage’ living in harmony with nature is an over-romanticised myth of indigenous people; that in reality they are prone to deplete or over-exploit their resources.[8]

There has been a recent resurgence of such a protectionist stance. Advocates of socially exclusive parks and protected areas insist that community based approaches to conservation do not offer adequate protection for endangered species and ecosystems. For example, John Oates argues that the compromise of agendas inherent in community based conservation programmes means that neither social nor conservation goals will be met.[9]

Others are more optimistic and see progress made in the uncertain relationship between indigenous peoples and conservationists. Mark Dowie comments that:

“Although tension persists, along with arrogance, ignorance and the conflicts they breed … I found, mostly in the field, a new generation of conservationists who realise that the very landscapes they seek to protect owe their high biodiversity to the practices of the people who have lived there, in some cases for thousands of years … Enlightened conservationists are beginning to accept the axiom that only by preserving cultural diversity can biological diversity be protected, and vice versa.”[10]

As Kent Redford and Michael Painter point out, achieving successful collaboration between indigenous people and conservationists is critical, and urgent: “while park advocates are arguing with indigenous peoples and their advo­cates about the proper role for people in conservation, the forest they both wish to preserve is being destroyed.”[11]

[1]   Alcorn, J.B. (1994) ‘Noble savage or noble state? Northern myths and southern realities in biodiversity conservation’. Ethnoecologica 2 (3): 6-19.

[2]   See Adams, W.M. (2004) Against Extinction: the story of conservation, Earthscan, London; also Monbiot, G. (1994) No man’s land: an investigative journey through Kenya and Tanzania, Picador, London.

[3]   National Geographic Society (2003). http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/02/0227_030227_indigenousmap.html (accessed 29 July 2009).

[4]   Mark Dowie (2009) Conservation Refugees: The hundred-year conflict between global conservation and native peoples, MIT Press, Cambridge.

[5]   Mark Dowie (2003) www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/jun/03/yosemite-conservation-indigenous-people (accessed 22 July 2009).

[6]   Mac Chapin (2004) ‘A challenge to conservationists’, World Watch Institute.

[7]   Ibid.

[8]   Redford, K. (1991) ‘The Ecologically Noble Savage’, Cultural Survival Quarterly 15 (1): 46-48.

[9]   Oates, J.F. (1999) Myth and Reality in the Rainforest: how conservation strategies are failing in West Africa, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles.

[10]   Op.cit. (Dowie).

[11]   Redford, K.H. and Painter, M. (2006) Natural alliances between conservationists and indigenous peoples. WCS Working Paper No.25, Wildlife Conservation Society, New York, USA.

The visit of Domingo Vásquez of the CCCND (Guatemala) to Europe, October 2018

November 2018

Information from Peace Brigades International and the Central Campesina Ch’orti ‘Nuevo Día’ (CCCND), summarised by Martin Mowforth.

Key words:  Indigenous and campesino groups in Guatemala; hydro-electric projects; mining projects; Maya Ch’orti community; criminalisation; assassinations of rights defenders.

Domingo Vásquez, a Maya Ch’orti human rights defender from Guatemala, spent the first half of October on a Europe-wide speaker tour as a guest of Peace Brigades International (PBI). Domingo is a member of the Central Campesina Ch’orti ‘Nuevo Día’ (CCCND) and a member of the Indigenous Council of the Maya Ch’orti community of Pelillo Negro, Jocotán in Chiquimula department.

Domingo’s visit follows that of Omar Jerónimo, also of the CCCND, in 2015. Their organisation supports community struggles to get recognition as indigenous communities and defends the ancestral Maya Ch’orti territory from hydro-electric and mining projects. Several hydro-electric plants are either planned or already under construction in the region. Omar and the struggles of the Maya Ch’orti against hydro-electric projects are also featured in the Interviews section of this website.

The recent security situation on the ground for CCCND members is extremely serious. So far this year 18 human rights defenders in Guatemala have been assassinated for the work that they carry out. Thirteen of these were land and environmental defenders. Many members of CCCND, including Domingo, face threats, attacks and criminalisation.

Recently Omar has had to go into hiding because of the seriousness of the threats he has received. PBI has provided protective accompaniment to the CCCND since 2009. Omar said “We have reports that ex-military personnel and gangs have arrived in our area. There have been 52 death threats in the last three months, 22 people have been criminalised, two people have been thrown in prison and 27 have been attacked. Over 20 of us have a price on our head. I have been told mine is $100,000, but I can be killed for $100. Last month my car was sprayed with bullets. We have been warned that the assassinations will go on. We are all scared, but you should not let fear stop you working in the community.”

‘Canadian tourism mafia’ file trumped-up charges against Garífuna leader Miriam Miranda in Honduras’ corrupted legal system

Honduras Solidarity Network and Rights Action alert, November 17, 2017


Article reproduced here by kind permission of Grahame Russell of Rights Action and Karen Spring of the Honduras Solidarity Network.

Original posting by Rights Action at:


A member of the ‘Canadian tourism mafia’ along Honduras’ north coast, that includes Patrick Forseth and Randy “the porn king” Jorgensen, filed trumped-up charges against indigenous Garifuna leader Miriam Miranda and three other women, in Honduras’ corrupted legal system.

(Miriam Miranda, General Coordinator of OFRANEH demanding justice at a large protest outside of the Honduran Supreme Court in Tegucigalpa on the one-year anniversary of the assassination of Lenca indigenous activist, Berta Caceres of COPINH. Photo: Karen Spring)

The four must go to court, November 24, to respond to these “charges”.  They potentially face up to 2-3 years in jail, and now must spend time and resources (of the few they have) to defend themselves from these manipulative charges.

Canadian tourism investor Patrick Forseth, of the CARIVIDA Villas company, has falsely accused Miriam Miranda, the General Coordinator of the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH), and three other Garifuna women – Medeline David, Neny Heidy Avila, and Letty Bernardez – of slander and defamation.

Miriam Miranda is a leading Honduran Garífuna activist who has faced numerous threats and direct acts of repression for her courageous, articulate long-time work with OFRANEH and other Honduran groups and movements.

The reasons behind the malicious charges against these four Garífuna women are quite simple.  Forseth and CARIVIDA are involved in a major land dispute with the indigenous Garifuna community of Guadalupe in Trujillo Bay, located on the Caribbean coast of Honduras.  Forseth has used several very questionable legal maneuvers in the now (since the 2009 military coup) deeply corrupted Honduran legal system, to criminalize any indigenous Garífuna people involved in land, territory and human rights defence work, in order to further claims that CARIVIDA’s illegal land purchase in Guadalupe was valid.

One of the local woman being charged, Medeline David already faces charges of illegal possession of land as a result of her participation in a community-led land reclamation project to recuperate their own land – land in dispute with CARIVIDA.

Geovanny Bernardez, another OFRANEH leader and other Guadalupe community activists including leader, Celso Guillen, also face charges laid by the Honduran state and CARIVIDA as a result of the same land dispute.

The legal case against Miranda and the 3 women was presented on May 26, 2017 and the first court hearing is scheduled for November 24, 2017.  If found guilty, Miriam, Medeline, Neny, and Letty could face up to 2-3 years in prison.

This defamation accusation is a clear example of how wealthy North Americans use and take advantage of the impunity and corruption in Honduras’ post 2009 military coup political and legal systems to criminalize people that resist their economic interests and projects.

The land defence project in the Garífuna community of Guadalupe in Trujillo Bay. The area where many community members are camping out is the land that is claimed to be owned by Patrick Forseth. Forseth plans to build a resort and villa project on the land. (Photo Karen Spring)

As the General Coordinator of OFRANEH, Miranda is being directly targeted in an attempt to silence the resistance of Garifuna communities not only in Trujillo Bay, but in other land disputes across the coast of Honduras.

Forseth is the husband of the stepdaughter of Canadian businessman, Randy Jorgensen (“the Porn King”) who owns and operates several gated community projects in the same Trujillo Bay region.  Some of Jorgensen’s tourist projects are adjacent to the land that Forseth claims he owns and “legally purchased.”

Forseth, Jorgensen and other North Americans continue to take control of lands that are inside ancestral indigenous Garífuna titles, some of which date as far back as the 1860s. Jorgensen is facing charges of illegal possession of land for his project Campa Vista owned by his company, Life Vision Development.

Karen Spring, Honduras Solidarity Network, spring.kj@gmail.com
Grahame Russell, Rights Action, info@rightsaction.org


OFRANEH members denounced for defamation by Canadian tourism investors Patrick Daniel Forseth (Carivida Villas) and Randy Jorgensen (Life Vision Developments)

Lands To Die For: The Garifuna Struggle In Honduras
December 20, 2016, CCTV Americas
35 minute film about violent and corrupt challenges facing the Garífuna people, lead by the OFRANEH organisation, in the context of the violence and repression, impunity and corruption that characterise the Honduran military, economic and political elites and their international partners.

Miriam Miranda, OFRANEH leader, detained and threatened by Honduran police
On January 11, 2017, Miriam Miranda and three other members of OFRANEH (Fraternal Organisation of Black and Garífuna Peoples) – Luís Gutiérrez, Oscar Gaboa, Luís Miranda – were illegally detained and threatened by police at a roadside stop in La Ceiba, along Honduras’ north coast.

The Canadian porn king and the Caribbean paradise: Is a businessman taking advantage of lawlessness to scoop up land?
November 20, 2016, by Marina Jimenez

The U.S. and Canada Have Blood on Their Hands in Honduras
October 22, 2016, by Grahame Russell


Carivida Villas
(778) 242-8678
Carivida Club Café
Trujillo, Colón, Honduras

Life Vision Properties
90 Admiral Blvd. Mississauga, ON, Canada, L5T 2W1
1 (416) 900-6098

Ambassador Michael Gort, Embassy of Canada in Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua, Tel: (504) 2232-4551; Michael.gort@international.gc.ca; tglpa@international.gc.ca

More information

OFRANEH (Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña)
garifuna@ofraneh.org, www.ofraneh.org, http://www.ofraneh.wordpress.com





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Investors in Honduran dam opposed by murdered activist Berta Caceres are withdrawing funding

The Agua Zarca dam was one of hundreds of projects sanctioned after 2009 US and Canadian-backed military coup

by Nina Lakhani, 4 June 2017

International investors withdraw completely from Agua Zarca project. Dam was one of hundreds of projects sanctioned after 2009 military coup.

Members of Copinh, the organisation headed by Berta Cáceres before she was killed.
Photograph: Giles Clarke/Global Witness

The international funders behind the hydroelectric dam opposed by murdered Honduran environmentalist Berta Cáceres are withdrawing from the project, the Guardian can reveal.  Three financial institutions had pledged loans worth $44m for the Agua Zarca dam on the Gualcarque River, which is considered sacred by the Lenca people and which Cáceres campaigned against before her death.

Her murder last year triggered international outrage and piled pressure on the international backers to pull out of the project amid a campaign of intimidation against communities opposed to the dam. The Civil Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (Copinh) – the campaign group Cáceres co-founded – has long demanded that investors withdraw and make reparations for the human rights violations linked to the project.
Desarrollos Energéticos SA (Desa), the private company behind Agua Zarca, has two major shareholders: Potencia y Energia de Mesoamerica (Pemsa), a Panama-registered company whose president – former military intelligence officer Roberto Castillo – is also president of Desa. The other, Inversiones Las Jacaranda, is owned by the powerful Atala Zablah family, who are also on the Desa board.

Desa secured loans from Dutch bank FMO, Finnish finance company FinnFund and the Central American Bank of Economic Integration (Cabei).  Berta Cáceres wrote to FMO in 2013 after the murder of her colleague Tomás Garcia, asking them not to finance Agua Zarca amid violence against the community. Despite her plea, the loan was granted.  Cáceres was killed in March 2016 after receiving multiple death threats linked to her campaign, and just a few months after her name appeared on a military hitlist, a Guardian investigation found.

So far eight men have been charged with the murder including three with military ties, but the intellectual authors remain free.
FMO and FinnFund suspended their loans after police arrested a Desa employee in connection with the murder in May 2016.  But all three investors have now decided to withdraw completely from the Agua Zarca project. In identical statements FMO and FinnFund told the Guardian they “intend to exit as soon as possible. However, project financing being a complicated field, many aspects and issues have to be cleared from contractual and responsibility perspectives.”

The Cabei, the largest investor, has simply stopped loan payments rather than seek a formal break in contract.  “The bank is no longer funding the project. Nor is there any intention to further invest in the project. Each bank is going to have their own exit strategy. Our bank stopped all disbursements,” spokesman Juan Mourra said in a statement.
Desa received $17m – just under 40% – of the loans before payments were suspended. The loans have not been sold, the Guardian was told.

An investigation commissioned by FMO following Caceres’ murder largely blamed the violence on intra-community disputes and downplayed abuses by state and private security forces linked to the dam.

Francisco Javier Sanchez, a Copinh leader representing the Rio Blanco community said that thugs continue to harass those opposed to the dam. “We demand the [investors] withdraw from Agua Zarca and recognize the violence and serious human rights violations the project has caused [in the past] four years of repression. We have rejected a hydroelectric project on the sacred River Gualcarque,” he said.

The Agua Zarca dam was among hundreds of environmentally destructive projects sanctioned after the 2009 military coup d’etat without legally required community consultations.

At least 124 campaigners opposing mines, dams, logging and tourist resorts have been murdered since 2010, making Honduras the most deadly country in the world for environmental and land activists.

Such projects have been backed by prominent Honduran politicians, business figures and military officers, but many are bankrolled by international funders.

The above article was reproduced here with permission from Rights Action. Since 1998, Rights Action has been funding the community development, indigenous rights and environmental defense work of COPINH. 


COPINH (Honduras coordinator of indigenous and popular organizations)
#FueraDESA #1AñoSinJusticia #BertaVive #COPINHsigue
#justiciaparaberta #SoyCOPINH #bertavivecopinhsigue
listen to COPINH: http://a.stream.mayfirst.org:8000/guarajambala.mp3
web: copinh.org
blog: copinhonduras.blogspot.com
blog in English: http://copinhenglish.blogspot.com/
fb: Copinh Intibucá

“In all of Latin America there is resistance against dams” Gustavo Castro, ecologist

The activist points out that development of hydroelectric megaprojects continues to aggravate climate change.

By Vinicio Chacón, Semanario Universidad (Costa Rica), vinicio.chacon@ucr.ac.cr 

Sep 21st 2016. | Translated by Rick Blower

 Key words: Berta Cáceres; COPINH; criminalization; hydro-electricity; climate change; Kyoto Protocol; free trade treaties.

 The Mexican ecologist, Gustavo Castro, gained notoriety by being the sole witness to the assassination of Berta Caceres, the Honduran indigenous leader and environmentalist, on March 2nd [2016].

Castro is the leader of the organisation Other Worlds – Friends of the Earth and with calm but with forcefulness took on the Honduran judiciary, who, with incredible manipulation, sought to charge activists of the Civic Council of Popular Organisations and Indigenous Peoples of Honduras (COPINH) with the assassination.

From COPINH, Cáceres led the Lenca peoples’ fight against the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric Project (PH), a project of the company Desarrollos Energeticos S.A. (DESA).

In Costa Rica to participate in the II Latin American Congress on Environmental Conflicts (COLCA), Gustavo Castro spoke with Semanario Universidad in an interview coordinated through the Conservation Federation of Costa Rica (FECON).

What awakened your ecological conscience?

“It was a process of spending many years participating in co-operatives; I worked a lot with Guatemalan refugees who had come from the war. The jump to the fight for environmental causes came about in the nineties, when many investment projects came into the country after the North America Free Trade Agreement (NALCA), which obviously favoured the transnationals and the plunder of the country.

They were the country’s oil, gas, use of water, electricity, etc. It was not that there were no conflicts before, but when these pass into the hands of the corporations, they demand yet more favourable conditions for investment. They begin to modify the Water and the Mineral Laws, to hand over to the large mining companies the exploitation of gold, silver, strategic minerals of the country; now with the energy and also oil and gas reforms. This, in one way or another, begins to impact more and more on the environment, then begins a fight with more force about the defence of the territories; but also when we begin to see the deforestation that causes the infrastructure to favour the investments, not only in my case, but also in the peasant and indigenous communities you begin to have a greater awareness on the environmental impact.”

When did you begin to have contact with COPINH and Berta Caceres?

“I knew Berta in 1999, when we began to call for many processes of resistance, amongst them the creation of the Convergence of the Movement of the Peoples of the Americas, the Hemispheric Meeting against Militarisation, or the meeting against the Plan Puebla Panamá. We used to organise all of these meetings in Chiapas, later we repeated them in Honduras. A connection was made around the process of resistance in which we and COPINH not only took part but the whole region of Mesoamerica. There was much affinity in the process of putting together the movement with Berta and COPINH for more than 15 years.”

What is the most important lesson that you can take from the history of Berta Caceres?

“It is very difficult to name just one, because she was a very complex person, in the sense that she was very lovely, a very coherent person who had the capacity of structural analysis; also she could communicate strongly both with academics and members of congress, and at the same time she was involved in mobilization with the people.

“She was extremely respected and very tenacious, a very brave woman, always at the front of all COPINH demonstrations. Berta was very coherent in her analysis, her speeches and her attitude with the people and with the movement.

“With Berta’s assassination her personality was reborn on all fronts. As we say, Berta did not die, she multiplied, her presence is very strong.

“She was a happy person, she was very optimistic in spite of all of the adversity, even though she received many threats and assassination attempts.”

After the assassination was carried out and the hitmen took you for dead as well, what was the attitude of the authorities?

“I believe that what first took them by surprise was that there was a witness, they did not expect that. I arrived a day earlier at La Esperanza, (where Berta lived), so I think that only COPINH and Berta knew that I was going to be there. I believe that it was intended to be a ‘clean’ assassination, where Berta would be alone in her home. When they realised that there was a witness, they had to modify the scene of the crime and begin to make up a way to criminalize and implicate COPINH. They failed, so they begin to look at how to criminalize me.

“The authorities were unable to present to Berta’s family a credible version of events leading to the assassination, COPINH, the national community or the international community, when there was so much background information and the origin of the problem was very clear.

“For this reason they somehow tried to detain me in an illegal way in the country in order to find a way to impute me. In the end those who ended up being sacrificed are the manager of the company, the army and the hitmen. We know that they are not the only ones who are involved.

“The deal that they gave me was like a record card, as an object of proof, violating my human rights but also many judicial procedures. Everyone knows why, in the press, it emerged how the crime scene was altered. In those first days there were very many irregularities in the investigative process.”

Even when they produced an artist’s impression, the artist drew another person.

“I didn’t know that while I was in the Public Ministry, they had detained a member of COPINH on whom they were intent on placing the blame. Effectively, whilst I had not slept, was wounded, and with all this tension, they took me to the person who produced the ‘artist’ portrait. I told him that it was not like that, he erased the image and began to draw the same thing.

“They told me on various occasions that I could leave. I was obviously willing to help in all the proceedings, even though they had left me not having eaten, no sleep, without a blanket even if I had wanted one; anyway I went on supporting, left in my bloodied clothing. One way in which they tried to implicate me is that they stole my suitcase, which I left in Berta’s house, there was obviously the possibility to plant whatever thing which could implicate me – to date they have not returned it to me.

“They did not carry out any process of justice even though I appeared before the fiscal, the Public Ministry, the lawyer of the Honduran Commission of Human Rights, everyone is witness to me requesting a copy of my ministerial declaration, yet they wouldn’t let me have it – the copy of my declaration before the judge, and they did not give it to me; I asked that they return my suitcase, the same response. It was a total cynical violation of the Procedural Code, the Penal Code, and human rights.

“There wasn’t even a formality in the recognition of the faces. In the beginning they showed me photographs and videos of COPINH as if to say that the person responsible for the assassination was there.

“Many irregularities occurred in this process and so the government ruled that all of these ministerial formalities be kept secret.

“In the case of the state kidnapping at the airport, they took me back again for more meetings. Later, I stayed at the Mexican Embassy’s house for a month, up until the last day, without them giving an explanation as to why they wanted me, without even giving me a copy of the judge’s resolution which decreed the prohibition of my being allowed to leave the country, and before the insistence of the lawyer in the face of such judicial anomalies, such irregularity, the judge suspended the right of my lawyer to practice.”

Subsequently the authorities connected officials from the company DESA and the military institution with the murder, but you have said that it goes further?

“I did not say that, the press said it, COPINH said it, the family said it, there was even an attack against a journalist who explained a lot about the relationship and links between the judges and politicians in the problem.”

You have argued that to consider hydroelectric energy as clean is a ‘stupid idea’, which is a direct hook to the jaws of the proud Costa Ricans who produce energy in this way.

“It is not only Costa Rica, but the whole of Latin America, which for decades has always associated hydro electric as a clean development.

“If in Costa Rica they do not know it, they might know there is an impressive resistance in the whole of Latin America – the number of people who have been displaced and assassinated, who have not had an experience of adequate resettlement or redress. Even the same World Commission on Dams, which financed the World Bank, in the year 2000 published a report where they say that 60% of the basins in the world have been dammed, that 30% of fresh water fish have been killed as a result of the dams which generate 5% of greenhouse gases, that more than 50,000 large dams have been built in the world, that these countries remain extremely indebted to the World Bank, that 30% of the dams in the world have not generated the energy that they were meant to, that 80 million people have been displaced in the world at the same time flooding villages and towns. This is what the evidence tells us in the world, in all of Latin America, in Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay, Panamá and in Mexico there is resistance against the dams.

“Since this report the social movement against the dams said “we have to disarticulate that discourse”, a discourse in which hydro-electricity is the same as clean energy, when it has generated all these disasters, including the disappearance of mangrove swamps and whole basins as a result of the construction of dams.

“With the Kyoto Agreement they returned again with the intention to reposition the dams as a form of clean energy, in the sense that the countries of the North, in their attempt to reduce their output of greenhouse gases, are looking to replace it with an investment in clean energy. So, if I have to reduce 10 tons of CO2 from the Northern countries, I can’t do it; better I build a dam that according to me will eliminate these 10 tons, it can be saved with clean energy.

“The effects of the dams in the world are a disaster. So how do we generate another paradigm for clean energy? This is the big problem; but not building, blocking more basins, displacing more communities, that favours the construction companies of dams throughout the world. There are other ways and mechanisms to generate clean energy. Even in Europe and the United States they are dismantling dams. But if we have to build dams in the South with the idea that it is clean, sustainable and green energy, it is actually the dirtiest energy that has generated all these socio-environmental impacts.”

Is the ecological mentality and this new paradigm to produce energy that you mention losing the pulse against the ideology of extraction, of which the construction of dams is part?

“I believe rather that much of the resistance is strengthening. It has even managed to stop many hydro-electric projects in Brazil, Mexico and many other places.

“The big challenge that we have is how the same communities build alternative forms of development. I went to COPINH as a guest so that we could reflect on other models and mechanisms of generating clean energy, autonomous, community-led, serving the communities, not flooding the COPINH territories for special economic zones, for mining projects. For example, the leaching of gold can use, depending on the size of the mine, some 2 to 3 million tons of water every hour. They need dams and large quantities of energy.

“The use of energy and water is required for monoculture, for industrial parks, for model cities, even for large tourist centres, large hotels, for the automotive industry; and in the end, the people are those who pay the price of this so-called development.”

At what point in all of this process is it driven by Free Trade Agreements? Is it realistic to hope that these countries will denounce these agreements and make room for a new paradigm of energy generation?

“It is a challenge. The responsibility is not only for indigenous populations and peasants to be alert to and resist this. Certainly the commercial Free Trade Agreements accelerate this process and not only the agreements, but the so-called Kyoto Protocol too.

“The Free Trade Agreements open the doors to investments: if before there were not 10 industrial parks, now there are and they require water and energy; if before there was not a European, Japanese, North American automotive industry in our country, now there are 3, 4, 5, and they require water and large quantities of energy. If before there were no monoculture plantations and now there are, like Monsanto in zones which require large quantities of water, so now there are. If before there were no mining projects requiring large quantities of water and energy, today there are.

“Free Trade Agreements accelerate the need for water and energy, which is why they speed up investment in all of these types of mega-projects that require these inputs.”

Is the Paris Accord on the same lines as the Kyoto Protocol?

“Yes, at the end of the day they do not touch the root of the problem and they keep on seeing how to carry on giving excuses, as happened with the Kyoto Protocol: 15 years after its approval, after the urgency is announced, and they accept a reduction of 5% in greenhouse gases not after those 15 years, but 15 years further on – that is absurd.

“Then, that 5% I am not even going to reduce; I am going to look at how I can compensate for it. I continue producing tons of CO2, but I can buy the Costa Rican jungle, the environment services, which may breathe 10 tons. So the contamination balances out to zero: here I produce 10, there I breathe 10; I buy breath and we give carbon credits or elegantly a green economy.

“The same is happening in all of the Conferences of the Parties to the Framework Convention of the United Nations on Climate Change (COP) that there have been. It’s not been anything other than keeping on postponing and postponing without getting to the heart of the problem.”

What is at the heart of the problem?

“We have to change the paradigm of the system; we have to stop it at the source of climate change and that does not mean only this atrocious capitalism, but also the pollution generated by the most developed countries: between 60% and 66% of greenhouse gases that affect warming of the planet.

“We have to stop it and, as Berta said, there’s no time left. She said a lovely phrase: “wake up humanity”. I believe that the problem is systemic, it is planetary and we have to become aware of the necessity to change this paradigm of development.”

©2015 Semanario Universidad. Derechos reservados. Hecho por 5e Creative Labs, Two y Pandú y Semanario Universidad.

Reproduced here by kind permission of Vinicio Chacón.

Threats to and assassinations of COPINH members, 2016

COPINH is the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras. It was founded in 1993 and its headquarters are in the town of La Esperanza, Intibucá, Honduras.


  • 2009 military coup.
  • November 2009 elections were so fraudulent that even the US no longer acknowledges them.
  • 2013 elections brought us President Juan Orlando Hernández (JOH) in another fraudulent election.
  • 2011-2014: the highest intentional homicide rate (per 100,000 population) in the world outside a war zone.
  • Berta Oliva (Coordinator of COFADEH, the Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras) describes Honduras as ‘a failed state run by the mafia’.
  • Since the 2009 coup in Honduras, 59 Honduran journalists have been assassinated.

COPINH, 2016

screen-shot-2016-12-28-at-08-41-49On 3rd March 2016, at about 1 am – 2 am, two men broke into Berta’s house and shot her dead having first shot and left for dead her Mexican colleague, Gustavo Castro. Berta was the Coordinator of COPINH and had been awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015.
On 15th March, Nelson García was assassinated shortly after he had been witnessing, recording and advising on the Río Chiquito eviction. The eviction of the campesino families had been carried out by 100 security forces in a violent manner. Nelson was killed later the same day.
screen-shot-2016-12-28-at-08-41-49-1On 3rd May, Felix Molina, a radio journalist who had reported critically on the Honduran government and who had featured COPINH in some of his reporting, suffered two murder attempts on the same day. He was wounded, but survived.
screen-shot-2016-12-28-at-08-41-50In early July, the body of Lesbia Janeth Urquía Urquía was found on a rubbish dump. Lesbia had been a COPINH member and had been working to stop an HEP project in La Paz department.
screen-shot-2016-12-28-at-08-41-50-1On 13th July, the office of Victor Fernández was raided. Victor is the lawyer for the family of Berta Cáceres.
On 28th September, the court case records relating to the trial of the alleged murderers of Berta Cáceres were stolen when assailants carjacked the vehicle belonging to Appellate Court Judge Maria Luisa Ramos in Tegucigalpa, the nation’s capital.
screen-shot-2016-12-28-at-08-41-55On 10th October, gunmen opened fire on the car of Tomas Gómez Membreño, COPINH Coordinator, as he was driving home from COPINH’s office in La Esperanza.
Also on 10th October, gunmen opened fire on the house of Alexander García Sorto, an elected COPINH community leader in Llano Grande community, whilst he and his family members were asleep.


The Lenca peoples’ struggle against hydro-electric projects in Intibucá, Honduras

The reader is referred to Chapter 4 of this website for news of the award of the Goldman Environmental Prize to Berta Cáceres for her leadership of COPINH’s struggle against hydro-electric power projects in Honduras, and in particular for a link to a video clip of her acceptance speech.

Se refiere el lector/la lectora a Capítula 4 de esta página web para noticias del otorgamiento del Premio Goldman a Berta Cáceres para su liderazgo de la lucha de COPINH contra proyectos hidroeléctricos en Honduras, y especialmente para ver el vínculo al video de su discurso de aceptación.

Jehry Rivera murder trial

Contributed by Jiri Spendlingwimmer, Costa Rican anthropologist.

Translated by Liz Richmond, who contributed extra material.

In March this year we added to The Violence of Development website a report of the assassination of Jehry Rivera Rivera, an indigenous land defender in Costa Rica. We recently received news of the case from Jiri Spendlingwimmer, an anthropologist and resident of the village of Longo Maï in southern Costa Rica. We are grateful to Jiri and to Liz Richmond for extra information and for the translation.

Jehry Rivera was assassinated by several shots from a firearm on 24 February 2020 in the indigenous territory of Térraba, Buenos Aires, in the southern zone of Costa Rica. The previous night 150 to 200 non-indigenous farmers had organised and formed a mob to surround the town of Térraba, burned land, insulted, harassed and attacked a group of indigenous people who had recovered their ancestral territory. The following table summarises the acts of violence against indigenous people in the southern zone of Costa Rica around the town of Buenos Aires.

Given the incapacity and bias of the Courts of Justice of Buenos Aires, the judicial process for the murder of Jehry Rivera was assigned to a prosecutor in the capital, San José. It is expected that at some point a trial will be held. Today, however, there are no accused, nor a date for the start of the trial. The same impunity was evident regarding the murder of human rights defender and indigenous leader Sergio Rojas in Bribri de Salitre territory, assassinated in March 2019 – https://theviolenceofdevelopment.com/costa-rican-indigenous-rights-defender-murdered/ and https://theviolenceofdevelopment.com/following-murder-of-indigenous-leader-costa-rican-government-and-indigenous-groups-hold-talks/

Escalation of violence against indigenous land reclaimers

The Ditsö group in Costa Rica is a NGO that seeks to defend indigenous and campesino communities and to protect natural resources. Ditsö reports that between February and March 2020 there has been an escalation in violence against land rights defenders in four indigenous territories: Térraba, China Kichá, Salitre and Cabagra. The Cabécares indigenous people of China Kichá have suffered violent incidents including death threats, mob assaults, detonations of firearms, invasions in recovered land, fires, road blockades, physical assaults and chemical attack.

To illustrate the fact that these are not just recent tensions and incidents, it is worth recalling that in 2013 Jehry suffered a brutal attack for lodging a complaint regarding illegal felling of trees and deforestation in their territory – https://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/complicity-and-silence-taking-land-indigenous-peoples-costa-rica

The Costa Rican State, which is at the centre of national and international criticism, has had to make greater effort to try to settle the historical debt with the indigenous peoples and resolve the conflict. In China Kichá, in May 2020, direct intervention was necessary by the Deputy Minister of Public Security Eduardo Solano to guarantee the removal of livestock from a reclaimed farm and to calm the situation.

Indígenas salen al paso de declaraciones de Carlos Alvarado en la COP-26

Con referencia a nuestro resumen de las noticias y los temas pertinentes a COP-26 – véase el artículo previo cargado en noviembre 2021 – el 5 de noviembre el periódico costarricense Semanario Universidad incluyó un artículo por Vinicio Chacón sobre las diferencias entre el discurso del Presidente Costaricense Carlos Alvarado a la conferencia COP-26 y la realidad experimentado por los Pueblos Indígenos en ese país. Estamos muy agradecido a Vinicio por su autorización de incluir el artículo y su traducción en nuestro sitio web La Violencia del Desarrollo.

 Por Vinicio Chacón | vinicio.chacon@ucr.ac.cr

 5 noviembre, 2021   Semanario Universidad, San José, Costa Rica 

Recordaron agresiones sufridas, los asesinatos y muchos de los incumplimientos a sus derechos territoriales, tras discurso del mandatario en cumbre mundial.

“El Presidente dice que reconoce que cuidamos los bosques; no deberían haber muertos por defender la tierra, ni siquiera deberíamos estar en esta lucha”, dijo un activista identificado como Lesner, recuperador Bribri del clan Tuádiwak, en el territorio de Salitre.

Sus fuertes palabras fueron divulgadas por la Coordinadora de Lucha Sur Sur (CLSS) en un comunicado con el que salió al paso de las manifestaciones hechas por el presidente Carlos Alvarado en Glasgow, Escocia, en el marco de la cumbre mundial de cambio climático COP-26.

Durante la realización de un foro denominado “Bosques y Uso del Suelo” que se realizó el pasado lunes, Alvarado manifestó que “los mayores guardianes del bosque y la tierra son los Pueblos Indígenas”, al tiempo que resaltó el Programa de Pago por Servicios Ambientales (PSA) como un mecanismo para la conservación de bosques.

Al respecto, las organizaciones indígenas y campesinas que integran la CLSS expresaron un inconformidad con lo dicho por Alvarado, en primer lugar porque el Estado “no ha sido capaz, ni ha tenido la voluntad política para garantizar la vida e integridad personal de los Pueblos Originarios” y al respecto recordó “los asesinatos por razones políticas de Sergio Rojas Ortiz, Uniwak del Pueblo Bribri de Salitre el 18 de marzo de 2019 y de Jerhy Rivera Rivera del Pueblo Brörán de Térraba el 24 de febrero de 2020”.

En efecto, dos asesinatos en menos de un año de “hermanos que fueron asesinados defendiendo sus territorios y Pueblos”.

Al mismo tiempo, la organización recordó que el Informe de agresiones y violaciones a los Derechos Humanos contra los pueblos originarios en la Zona Sur de Costa Rica, publicado por la misma CLSS, denunció que durante 2020 se dieron 14 amenazas de muerte contra activistas de los Pueblos Originarios de la Zona Sur del país, así como dos defensores de los derechos humanos de estos Pueblos.

Ello es sólo una pequeña pero significativa parte de los 86 incidentes documentados en ese Informe y que se mantienen en la impunidad.


Deuda pendiente

Con gravedad, la CLSS subrayó que en los territorios indígenas de la zona Sur se mantiene una ocupación ilegal según detalla de un 40% de esos territorios por parte de personas no indígenas, que en algunos casos alcanza el un 75%.

Precisamente respecto al tema de saneamiento territorial, la CLSS resalta que el Plan de Recuperación de Territorios Indígenas (PRTI) que inició el gobierno en 2017, no se ha materializado en la devolución efectiva de “ni un solo terreno”, a excepción de dos fincas de Salitre que ya habían sido recuperados por los propios indígenas pero que “contrario a lo que este Pueblo solicitaba”, fueron entregados a la Asociación de Desarrollo Indígena.

Cabe recordar que estas asociaciones de desarrollo son instancias impuestas a los pueblos indígenas por el Estado, pero no se corresponden con sus tradiciones culturales o históricas, mientras que la organización de autogobierno que reconocen en el caso de ese territorio Bribri es el Concejo Ditsö Iriria Ajkönuk Wakpa.

La CLSS también denunció que el Estado ha sido incapaz de devolver los terrenos priorizados por las organizaciones propias de varios Pueblos Originarios, específicamente ocho en Salitre, 13 en Cabagra y 17 en Térraba. Además, durante 2020 y 2021 se han dado tres resoluciones judiciales que ordenan el desalojo de personas del pueblo Cabécar de China Kichá y una del pueblo Brörán de Térraba, que apeladas oportunamente, pero que tres de ellas aún representan “un peligro y una amenaza de desalojo judicial”.

Con gravedad, la CLSS se refirió al PSA y destacó la omisión de Alvarado de que esos pagos son gestionados y administrados por las mencionadas asociaciones de desarrollo indígena, que como se dijo, no se consideran organizaciones propias, sino más bien impuestas por el Estado en estas comunidades.

“Tampoco señala Alvarado los muchos casos en los que se encuentra denunciadas y en procesos judiciales, algunas de estas ADI, no todas, por el manejo irregular de los fondos provenientes de PSA y la poca participación real de las comunidades y propietarios de estos bosques, en las decisiones y beneficios económicos”, apunta el comunicado.

Una mujer recuperadora en la localidad de Crun Shurin, en el territorio Térraba del pueblo Brörán, no identificada en el documento divulgado, observó que ser “guardianes de los bosques”, como dijo Alvarado, “nos ha costado dos asesinatos de defensores de nuestros derechos como Pueblos Originarios, muchas personas más no podemos ni siquiera dormir tranquilas con nuestras familias por las amenazas de los terratenientes; somos guardianes pero tenemos a los poderes del Estado en contra de nuestros derechos”.

Por ello, asevero que “no se vale que el mundo escuche estas mentiras del presidente Carlos Alvarado, ya que nuestras luchas son muy desiguales y nosotras como mujeres indígenas sufrimos toda clase de atropellos por seguir acompañando y conservando a nuestra madre tierra para evitar que las empresas transnacionales con sus proyectos extractivos la sigan matando”.

“Nuestra lucha continuará por defender nuestras tierras que son un todo: Bosques, Agua, Aire, Espiritualidad, Cultura y Autonomía; aunque nos tengan amenazadas y aunque el Presidente Alvarado mienta en los foros internacionales”, añadió.

Por su parte, Lesner también plantó cara al Presidente y dijo “no somos guardianes de nuestras tierras, nosotros somos parte de la tierra y la cuidamos de forma innata, natural. Ella nos cuida y nosotros la cuidamos, para nosotros el bosque es un ser vivo como cualquier otro elemento que compone esta tierra”.

Añadió que “no necesitamos dinero para cuidar nuestros bosques y tierras, porque a la hora de que se ofrece dinero por cuidar nuestros bosques y tierra, se pierde el sentido de vivir en equilibrio y se cuida solo por dinero. Nuestra cosmogonía dice como debemos vivir con nuestro bosque y tierra, el hacerlo pagado distorsiona esa forma de hacerlo.”


Indigenous communities in Panama succeed in holding World Bank to account

We are grateful to the Centre for International Environmental Law (CIEL ) for making their relevant press release available. We have used CIEL’s material before and are pleased to be able to do so again on account of their reliability. “CIEL uses the power of law to protect the environment, promote human rights, and ensure a just and sustainable society.”

www.ciel.org , July 2023

Key words: Panama; Indigenous communities; free, prior and informed consent (FPIC); World Bank; Fourth electrical transmission line; Ngäbe-Buglé comarca.

In a historic investigation published on 16 June [2023], the independent accountability mechanism of the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO), found that the IFC failed to act in accordance with its own sustainability policy when helping to structure and tender a public-private partnership for the financing, construction, and operation of Panama’s Fourth Electrical Transmission Line project.

The investigation concluded that, as a consequence, free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC)[1] processes have not been carried out properly with the Indigenous Peoples in the region who could be affected. The CAO’s findings also recognise that Indigenous communities located outside of the officially recognized territory of the Ngäbe-Buglé Comarca have been excluded from FPIC processes altogether.

The IFC has been advising Panama’s state-owned electrical transmission company, ETESA, during the initial phases of the Fourth Line project before construction begins. According to the CAO, the IFC failed to provide adequate guidance regarding the need to engage with stakeholders before ETESA began a preliminary FPIC process, despite known contextual risks that could make it difficult to carry out proper consultations with Indigenous communities in the region. Similarly, the IFC’s guidance about designing the primary FPIC process left significant gaps regarding how to ensure an inclusive and culturally appropriate FPIC process. The investigation found that the IFC’s reliance on ETESA’s assurances regarding the adequacy of its FPIC processes was a key factor that led to these shortcomings.

In response to the CAO’s findings and recommendations, the IFC Board of Directors approved the IFC’s Management Action Plan to address these shortcomings. The plan was approved after the IFC added commitments to advise ETESA on an ongoing basis about the measures required to ensure that all Indigenous communities that could be affected by the project are identified and properly included in mandatory FPIC processes. In addition, the IFC agreed to provide guidance regarding the project’s environmental and social impact assessment, including the expertise and resources needed to conduct proper FPIC processes. The IFC also agreed to take steps to ensure that contextual risks are considered in similar projects going forward.

The case will now enter a monitoring phase, during which the IFC will report every six months to the CAO and the IFC Board of Directors regarding the actions it has taken to fulfill the commitments made to address the shortcomings identified in the CAO’s investigation report.

Feliciano Santos, a representative of Indigenous Ngäbe, Buglé, and Campesino communities and coordinator of the Movement for the Defense of the Territories and Ecosystems of Bocas del Toro (MODETEAB), stated:

When we submitted our complaint about the Fourth Line project to the CAO in 2018, we hoped that the CAO would recognize the legitimacy of our concerns and emphasize the need for the IFC to take action to ensure that our rights as Indigenous Peoples are respected in this project.  Now, four years later, the CAO has done just that.

We welcome the CAO’s findings and the actions that the IFC has committed to take in response. We reiterate that the IFC’s role is particularly important in light of ETESA’s previous failures to carry out adequate consultations — let alone proper FPIC processes — with communities affected by its projects, including the Third Electrical Transmission Line. 

While the hard work of ensuring full respect for our rights in practice still lies ahead, the outcome of this investigation reinforces the centrality of FPIC for development actors and paves the way for the IFC to play a constructive role in assisting ETESA in carrying out robust FPIC processes with our Indigenous communities. This is essential not only to meet the IFC’s own standards, but also to safeguard our Indigenous communities, our cultural heritage, our lands, and our resources in the face of the Fourth Line project.

Sarah Dorman, an attorney with the Centre for International Environmental Law (CIEL), stated:

This is just the second case to be completed under the CAO’s new policy, which provides new guarantees for consulting with complainants about the commitments and actions that should be taken in response to CAO findings. This case shows that these accountability processes can work, especially when the concerns and insights of affected community members are taken seriously and incorporated in action plans at early, pre-construction stages of development projects — before irreparable harm might be done.

Just as importantly, the findings in this case represent a milestone for ensuring that Indigenous Peoples’ rights are respected in the context of projects supported by the IFC — not just in policy, but in practice. Through this investigation, the CAO confirmed that respect for Indigenous Peoples’ right to free, prior, and informed consent is a prerequisite for sustainable development. And it sets the critical precedent that development finance actors cannot shirk their responsibilities to Indigenous Peoples with impunity.

[1]  Note regarding FPIC: The right of Indigenous Peoples to free, prior, and informed consent allows Indigenous Peoples to give or withhold their consent for projects that would affect them or their territories. FPIC is now a well-established right: Not only is it enshrined in numerous regional and international instruments related to Indigenous Peoples, but it has also been incorporated into the environmental and social policies of development banks such as the IFC.

Garifuna Rights Defender Receiving Death Threats in Honduras

December 2022

From Rights Action, The Violence of Development website has received the information below about death threats to Alfredo Lopez, a leader of the Garifuna community in Triunfo de la Cruz, northern Honduras. These are extremely serious. It was from Triunfo de la Cruz that the four young Garifuna leaders were disappeared over two years ago, and they have never been found since and their disappearance has never been seriously investigated by the Honduran police.

Alfredo was interviewed in 2010 by The Violence of Development website in the radio station, Faluma Bimetu, not long after it had been burned down by opponents of Indigenous rights who were also part of the gangsterism of the Honduran government from 2009 until the Honduran election last November (2021). His 2010 interview appears in this website at: https://theviolenceofdevelopment.com/alfredo-lopez/

Rights Action has translated the Criterio article about the death threats to Alfredo and their introduction and the translation are given below.


Alfredo, speaking with a Rights Action delegation, May 2013, in front of Garifuna lands illegally captured by powerful African palm producers. PC: Camila Rich

In the 1990s, Alfredo spent over 6 years as a political prisoner in Honduran jails for his work and activism in defence of Garifuna land and human rights, threatened by corrupt, violent for-export African palm producers and international tourism operators.

Today, he is still defending Garifuna land and rights, still at great risk.

“The origin of the problems that the Garífuna people face in Honduras lies in the government’s disrespect for their communal territory and the State’s failure to comply with the Triunfo de la Cruz and Punta Piedra rulings. This has allowed third parties to appropriate the lands.”

This last incident in which López Álvarez was threatened is a clear example of the lack of action on the part of the Honduran State.”



Garifuna Leader Faces Death Threats if he Does Not Leave Triunfo de la Cruz Community

By Marcia Perdomo, marciaperdomo@criterio.hn
October 27, 2022

Tegucigalpa – The Honduran Black Fraternal Organisation (Ofraneh) denounced the death threat against the representative of the Triunfo de la Cruz Land Defense Committee, Alfredo López Álvarez, if he does not leave the community and cease the struggle for the restitution of the rights of the Garífuna people.

The statement was made during the session ‘Non-compliance with the judgments of the IACHR Court: the Garífuna case of Honduras’ during the second day of the Central America Donors Forum 2022 (CADF) held in Tegucigalpa, capital of Honduras.

Criterio.hn spoke with López Álvarez, who pointed out that things are going from bad to worse, because previously threats were not made directly. They even established a deadline of 24 hours for him to leave the community because the third parties of Playa Escondida believe that the community does not deserve to be there.


“I don’t owe anything to anyone, nor do I live off anyone, I am very independent. I don’t have to leave my house,” he affirmed.

López Álvarez won a case against the State of Honduras before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) in February 2006 after his right to personal liberty, right to personal integrity and right to judicial guarantees and judicial protection were violated, following an arbitrary illegal detention, which ended up resulting in his imprisonment in a detention centre for 6 years and 4 months.

 The vulnerability of the Garífuna people

The origin of the problems that the Garífuna people face in Honduras lies in the government’s disrespect for their communal territory and the State’s failure to comply with the Triunfo de la Cruz and Punta Piedra rulings. This has allowed third parties to appropriate the lands.

This last incident in which López Álvarez was threatened is a clear example of the lack of action on the part of the Honduran State.

[Álvarez] shared that the origin of the threat comes from the fact that the community opened a cemetery, after the previous cemetery had reached capacity. The new cemetery is within the ancestral territory of the community of Triunfo de la Cruz, Tela, in the Honduran Caribbean, but was seized by the residents of Playa Escondida.

“Playa Escondida is where all the invading politicians live, who have houses to go for walks and vacations,” and even Colombians, who believe they own the community, said López Álvarez.


The state of Honduras must urgently intervene

According to Edy Tábora, lawyer of the Bufete Justicia para los Pueblos and representative of Ofraneh, the State of Honduras has a responsibility to intervene to restore the territory to the Garífuna community, especially because this land has been taken by people with a lot of power in Honduras and abroad, with the objective of implementing hydroelectric, mining, and mega-tourist projects.

Edy Tábora, Justice for the Peoples Law Firm

This lack of government action is costing the lives of Garífunas who have been murdered for demanding land restitution and land titling, not only in Triunfo de la Cruz in Tela, Atlántida, and Punta Piedra in Iriona, Colón, but also in the rest of the communities along the Honduran Caribbean coast.

Tábora remarked that the State has the obligation to clean up the territory and prevent further acts of violence against the Garífuna people. One of the concrete acts that the State can carry out is to put a stop to the criminalization of the Garífuna.

In addition, he said that the State must guarantee their safety and prevent the repetition of regrettable events such as the forced disappearance of the four Garifuna of Triunfo de la Cruz, and actions such as those denounced by Alfredo Lopez, who took the State to the Inter-American Court, won the case and now receives threats to leave his community in 24 hours.

“This is an urgent, serious situation and the State must react immediately,” concluded the legal professional


Army and Police Move to Evict Indigenous Communities in Baja Verapaz

Guatemala Human Rights Commission (ghrcusa)

November 25, 2022

During the night of November 24, according to reports, numerous soldiers, police officers, and heavily armed civilian men are making incursions into the Q’eqchi and Poqomchi communities in the Sierra de las Minas, Baja Verapaz.

Already, for five days now, numerous contingents of soldiers and police officers have been occupying and controlling communities in the area. In the face of the armed and intimidating force of the military, members of the communities of Pancoc and Monjón fled their homes. Members of the army and the National Civil Police then entered and occupied the homes of community members, consumed their foods, killed and consumed their animals, and reportedly seriously injured more than one community member.

We are deeply concerned that more illegal and arbitrary evictions, including of the Dos Fuentes and Washington communities, will follow. These communities received protective orders from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in October 2020. Their rights must be respected. The Guatemalan government agreed to protect the rights to life and personal integrity of the Poqomchi’ Mayan families of the Washington and Dos Fuentes communities; use culturally appropriate measures to improve their living conditions, nutrition, and access to water; prevent acts of violence by third parties; and investigate the attacks that led to the granting of protective measures.

Instead, your government took action that put Indigenous communities at greater risk, in 2021 creating the Observatory on Property Rights and a special Prosecutors Office for the Crime of Usurpation—usurpation being a charge often levelled against Indigenous communities claiming their ancestral lands. Two months ago, the Guatemalan army inaugurated its first new military brigade in ten years, based in Baja Verapaz.

The entire Sierra de Las Minas area is now militarized, and as a result of the heavy presence of soldiers and police officers, members of Indigenous communities have not been able to freely circulate to carry out essential tasks of daily life.

Your government has systematically and repeatedly violated  basic standards that evictions must meet under international law. Various Poqomchi’ and Q’eqchi communities now fearfully await illegal and arbitrary forced eviction.

We urge the Guatemalan government to:

  • guarantee community members’ rights to life, liberty, and physical safety;
  • cancel eviction orders that violate human rights and international standards, and place Indigenous communities, including families with children, in grave danger;
  • immediately demilitarize the Sierra de Las Minas area and guarantee the safety and free movement of members of these threatened Indigenous communities;

comply with all obligations in the IACHR precautionary measures for the communities of Dos Fuentes and Washington, as well as obligations of the Guatemalan Constitution and international treaties adopted by Guatemala related to demilitarization and Indigenous rights.