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A group of Garifuna people who were travelling to Nueva Armenia community, in Atlantida department, Honduras, was attacked with gunshots on January 26 by hitmen hired by local landowner Alberto René Martínez.
Real World Radio interviewed Jessica Garcia, member of the executive group of the Honduran Black Fraternal Organization (OFRANEH) who was part of the group that was attacked. “They shot at us, supposedly with the order to kill any black person that came near the area. And they also placed “private property” signs in the lands, our lands”.
According to Jessica, the police had issued arrest warrants against five Garifuna leaders, including her. The attack almost results in the death of Jesus Flores Satuye, who was shot in the leg and a bullet grazed his head.
The hitmen then called the preventive police force. In addition, the Garifuna people warned the Environment Attorney´s Office and the Ethnic Groups Attorney´s Office, who went to the place together with military police officers. Both police forces arrived at the same time, which made it possible, according to the Garifuna leader, to prevent the leaders from being arbitrarily arrested by the Preventive Police.
The reoccupied territory of Nueva Armenia is part of what was an area inhabited by Garifuna people until 1920s. Back then, the Honduran government granted these good-quality lands in concession to US transnational corporation Standard Fruit Company (now Dole Food Company).
After eighty years of exploitation, the transnational company abandoned the lands, and instead of returning them to Garifuna communities, the State granted them to palm oil monoculture plantations. The Garifuna communities, surrounded in different parts of the Honduran territory by palm monocultures, decided to recover part of these lands in a peaceful way.
Since then, they have been harassed, threatened and attacked, and had their homes and crops destroyed. Jessica is denouncing complicity between the Preventive Police Forces and Alberto Rene Martinez. “We´ve become enemies of the State for wanting to recover what ancestrally belongs to us”, she concluded.
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