To: The Honorable Presidents
Barack Obama, United States of America
Juan Orlando Hernández, Republic of Honduras
Otto Perez Molina, Republic of Guatemala
Manuel Ortega, Republic of Nicaragua
To: The Honorable Prime Ministers
Ralph Gonsalves, St Vincent and the Grenadines
Dean Barrow, Belize.
Upon receipt of this letter, we hope you are achieving success in your delicate daily functions.
We the signatories below and organizing members of the Garifuna Nation in conjunction with United Garifuna Association Inc., respectfully write to you to make you aware of the grave situation faced the Garifuna people in Honduras during the last twenty years only to be escalated by the new President Juan Orlando Hernández. This has become a sentence to the extinction of our native Arawak, Caribbean and African culture, language and identity. We kindly ask your absolute solidarity and assist us in finding solutions to the delicate matter because in the countries you preside over, there are also settled Garifuna communities.
Our community has been declared Intangible Heritage of Humanity as proclaimed by UNESCO in 2001 and registered in 2008. The Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO ), The Declaration of the United Nations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted in September 2007, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights since its ratification in 1948 , are documents under which we have taken shelter and demanded our rights that have been completely ignored in Honduras .
The Garifuna are being dispossessed of our ancestral lands occupied since 217 years ago, so far no government in Honduras has been concerned about bringing development to our communities. Instead, we the Garifuna children have made our own efforts in maintain the growth of our communities.
The geographical location of the Garifuna communities, all settled on the Atlantic Coast of Honduras, has made us the helpless target of tourism investment, which has not taken into account our need for subsistence or our position as landowners. The investors have systematically colluded with the government of Honduras to strip us of our ancestral lands and we quote the case of Roatan in the Bay Islands; Triunfo de la Cruz, San Juan and Tornabé in Tela, Atlantida; Comunidad Cristales and Rio Negro in Trujillo, Colón; and Punta Piedra, Colón as clear examples of dispossession of our ancestral lands.
Our ancestral Garifuna name dates from pre-Columbian times, including our language and culture. The Garifuna name has been eliminated by government decree in Honduras, this action is part of a campaign to take away our ancestral land to promote the interest international tourism. In its path are 52 Garifuna communities located in the northern coast of the country.
During an assembly held in New York from April 11th to 13th 2014, the Garifuna Nation assembly voted unanimously to ratify our ancestral name as Garifuna only and categorically rejected the term Afro-descendant or others.
The Durban Declaration in 2001, adopted the term Afro-descendant to include every person of color in the African Diaspora. The United Nations has further declared 2015-2024 as international decade of Afro-descendants.
Former president of Honduras Porfirio Lobo main achievement was to set up a platform for his successor Juan Orlando Hernández to deliver the final blow against the Garifuna people by removing the name Garifuna from the textbooks, and replace it with Afro-Honduran and Afro-descendants, backed by Legislative Decree No. 330-2002 and Executive Order No. 09 appears - 2007.
The Garifuna people in the United States and the world are appalled by pattern of abuse their fellow Garifuna are subjected by the state of Honduras, their representatives and the betrayal of some private organizations that use resources acquired on behalf of the Garifuna people but failed to defend their human rights. The Garinagu have contributed to the Honduras since they were exiled from St Vincent to Honduras in 1797.
The Garifuna people have not requested a change of name from Garifuna to Afro-Honduran or Afro-descendant from the state of Honduras, so therefore "Garifuna" is our only name. The Garifuna communities of Cristales, Rio Negro, Guadalupe, Santa Fe have been stripped of their documents as legal entities, which serve to protect the lands belonging to our communities.
It is clearly stated in the government communiqué that, without these documents, the state of Honduras has the right to sell the victims’ properties, including their lands. Our ancestral lands will then be sold to foreigners for the construction of a cruise ship pier and the special development zone initially called model or charter cities projects as coined by Paul Romer, renowned American economist.
The problem mentioned above only represents a small part of the serious problems facing the 52 Garifuna communities settled in Honduras. We request that your good offices investigate and search for immediate solutions to prevent the disappearance of a living culture and possible genocide be committed against our Garifuna community. We thank you for your delicate attention to this matter and wait for answers.
United Garifuna Association Inc.
Jorge Castillo, Co-Chairman
Rubén Reyes, Co-Chairman
Mirta A. Castillo, Exec. Secretary
Sandra Colon, Asst. Exec. Secretary
Wellington Ramos, Dir. of Governmental Affairs
Joseph Guerrero, Dir. of Finance, Health, Arts & Entertainment
Carla García, Counselor
Organizacion Fraternal Negra Hondureña (OFRANEH), United Garifuna Association Inc. Brooklyn, NY, Garifuna Hope Foundation Inc. Los Angeles, CA. Hondureños Contra el SIDA Bronx NY. , Improving Minds Inc. Chicago Illinois, All people’s Foundation Inc. Chicago, Illinois, The Chotoyer Project Inc. Los Angeles, CA, Yurumein Garifuna Cultural Retrieval (YUGACURE) Queens, NY, Organizacion Negra Guatemala (ONEGUA), Asociacion Union Corozaleña (ASUNCOR), Garifuna Settlement Day Cultural Mass (GSDCM), Garinagu Lun Awanserui Chicago Illinois, Garifuna Veterans Of America, New York, Coalición Social Garifuna Hondureños En Texas Inc. (Cosogahet), Grupo Folklor Garifuna Wafagua, New York, Sociedad Hondureña Activa de New York, OPUSA (Organizaciones Patronales USA), Sociedad Hondureña activa de NY Trujillo, Sociedad Hondureña activa de NY, San Juan, Sociedad Hondureña Activa de NY La Ceiba, Mujeres Hondureñas Organizadas en New York MHONY Inc. Garifuna United Association, Virginia. Organizacion Cristales de Honduras. Garifunatv Page Bronx NY, Garifuna Council of Churches, New York. Gemelos de Honduras.
cc. Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki –Moon
Secretary General of the Organization of American States Jose Miguel Insulza
CARICOM Secretary General Irwin LaRocque
General Secretary Guy Ryder ILO
Human rights organizations around the world