100 days since the forced disappearance of Honduran Garífuna leaders

The Afro-descendant and Indigenous Garifuna community of Honduras continues to demand the safe return of the five members of their community abducted by armed men dressed in police and military uniforms in July

October 27, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
“Garifuna lives also matter” reads the banner. Photo: OFRANEH/Twitter

October 26 marked the 100th day since the forced disappearance of five members of the Garifuna community. The five were kidnapped by heavily armed men dressed in police and military uniforms on July 18 in Triunfo de la Cruz, a small town on Honduras’ Caribbean coast. On the sad occasion, a group of people, mostly women, demonstrated in Triunfo de la Cruz to demand the safe return of the abducted members of their community.

Various national and international social movements, such as the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), the Sons and Daughters for Identity and Justice against Forgetfulness and Silence (HIJOS) Guatemala, among others, since July, have demanded their safe return and that the national government of Honduras investigate the case and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Hashtags such as #VivosSeLosLlevaron (#TheyWereTakenAlive), #VivosLosQueremos (#WeWantThemBackAlive), #ElEstadoEsResponsable (#TheStateIsResponsible),  #LasVidasGarifunasImportan (#GarifunaLivesMatter), #Garifuna (#Garifuna), etc. trended on social media networks.

Four of the five men abducted from their homes were part of the Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH) and had been working in defense of their ancestral land. The OFRANEH is a grassroots organization that works with the Afro-descendant and indigenous Garifuna community in Honduras in defense of their collective social, economic, cultural, and territorial rights. Since the disappearance of its members, OFRANEH has denounced the government’s lack of will to find the young men and clarify the facts, which has also increased the suspicion of the community about the ínvolvement of Honduran state in the crime.

In a statement published on the three months anniversary of the disappearance, the OFRANEH denounced the right-wing government of President Juan Orlando Hernández for presenting inconsistencies in the reports on the case before the Inter-American Human Rights Court (IAHRC). The organization rejected the national government’s disinformation campaign waged on social media with the aim of discrediting the disappeared by linking them to drug trafficking and “normalizing disappearances as another ocurrence in a country that is submerged in violence, a result of the current failed state and the gradual collapse of the justice system due to the lack of independence of power.” The organization denounced and condemned “the criminal and complicit silence of the State of Honduras” and called for international support to pressurize the government to stop the genocide of the Garifuna people who defend their ancestral territory from businessmen in the tourism sector and neocolonial projects.

Last week, on October 23, Miriam Miranda, the coordinator of the OFRANEH, through a tweet, denounced that seven officials of the national armed forces arrived in the community of Santa Fé, Colón department, on October 13, inquiring about the leader of the recovery of Wani Le’s ancestral territory, Nilfor Yosel Flores. Miranda warned that the organization and the community would hold the government responsible for what might happen to Flores.