|Vallecito Resists, Satuye Lives! The Garífuna Resistance to Honduras’ Charter Cities|
|Written by Tim Russo, with Research by Genevieve Roudane and COMPPA|
|Tuesday, 18 September 2012 18:02|
It is August 28th in Vallecito, Colon on the Atlantic coast of Honduras. Unceasingly heavy winds and rain pound a small encampment of 200 Garífuna families throughout the night. The families came from more than a dozen of the 46 garífuna communities that dot the Honduran coastline, in order to set up camp, staking claim to ancestral lands they mean to recover. Not tonight, nor any other since their arrival here on August 26th, do their worries stem from the violent rains or turbulent sea that Isaac has brought. No, Isaac is merely one of 20 or so hurricanes that could show its fury on the Garinagu[i] coast this year.
The Garífuna drums echo robustly and the people’s fervor rises with the tension in the camp as the tarps sound thunderously as they are jarred to and fro in the gale. It is impossible to distinguish the faint movement of people outside the main tent in the absence of the moon and her stars. Suddenly, out of the darkness that surrounds the encampment like an ocean fog that encroaches silently from afar, enveloping everything in its path, heavily armed men wielding sophisticated weaponry burst onto the scene unleashing a barrage of gunfire above the camp. They arrive mounted in pairs on motorcycles, an act in of itself illegal in Honduras[ii]. They move rapidly from one edge of the camp to the other, relentlessly firing a hairs shot above anything they encounter in their trail. They are uniformed, but not with official police or military uniforms, but well uniformed nonetheless.
“Yes!” insists Alfredo López, Vice-President of the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH), founder of the first Garífuna radio station, Faluma Bimetu (Sweet Coconut) and coordinator of the Garífuna Radio Network; they are “paramilitaries linked to drug trafficking and Reynaldo Villalobos, the man who has invaded five of the six associative businesses[iii] with over 700 hectares [1730 acres] of land” here in Vallecito. Still a doubt remains as to whether the mercenaries are actually Miguel Facusse’s, the“Palmero de la Muerte” or Palm Owner of Death, as he is known, whose vast extensions of African Palm plantations completely surround Vallecito, with exception of the beach. Regardless, says Alfredo, “against their weapons, our drums are all that we have,” as the drums sound with greater vigor through the camp, exhorting Isaac to unleash a fury of rain to dampen the mercenaries notorious taste for blood. They have already harassed the camp for three enduring nights.
There were no massacres nor was anyone injured last night but the message of the regional plantation owners is dead clear says Alfredo, “They are treating us like trespassers in our own home and instead of receiving help from the authorities, it seems that they are in collusion too.” Despite the fact that no one has slept a wink in three nights, the people here knew what they were getting into by setting up this camp. They came to participate in a non-violent action to recover ancestral garífuna lands that legally and legitimately belong to the garífuna people. They mean to pressure the National Agrarian Institute (INA) into properly surveying the 700 hectares pertaining to the 6 garífuna “associative businesses” [Empresa Ruguma, Saway, Saway Sufritiñu, Walumugu, Satuye, Sinduru Free], and demand that the state guarantee the necessary security conditions for the Garífuna to live and work on this land. The Garífuna, reiterates Alfredo, are no strangers to persecution nor to resistance, “We have been fighting for many years, hundreds of years, and we are not going to give up now because of the sordid interests of a government as irresponsible as Honduras.”
OFRANEH´s, Report on the Territorial Defense of Vallecito in Colon, indicates that “Historically, Vallecito belongs to the Garífuna people who, in response to pressure from the Spanish after 1804, began to move from the Trujillo bay to the Sico River” in search of fertile land for farming with access to the ocean for fishing, activities that form the backbone of the Garífuna culture. As a result of this displacement and their search for better living conditions, than to be exploited workers for the Spanish in Trujillo, at least 24 Garífuna communities began to emerge along the coastal region. Essentially, the garífuna begin to inhabit Vallecito 17 years prior to the Honduran independence from the Spanish Crown in 1821.
The current attempt by the garífuna, organized by OFRANEH and the Iseri Lidamari Movement, is not their first effort to recover their ancestral lands from the economic interests of the Honduran oligarchy or of the foreign interests that forced their displacement. Shortly after the garífuna arrived to Vallecito, the story is told, “around 1820, the Scottish pirate Gregor MacGregor ‘purchased’ the Serrania de Payas territory between Trujillo and the Sico River from Georges Frederick I, King of the Moskitia, allegedly in exchange for two bottles of Whiskey.” [iv] This was the first heist, a foreign attempt to appropriate, develop and sell without the peoples consent the Garífuna’s new lands.
In 1887, the first process to title Garífuna lands began near Puerto Cortez, now under the tutelage of the independent Honduran state. The relative peace for the Garífuna communities along the Honduran coast did not last long. The turn of the century proved to show the new face of colonization, manifested in the arrival of the Banana Republic, with its reinvigorated exploitation of natural resources and forced labor. Immense quantities of cultivable lands were turned over to three banana companies, the United Fruit Company (Chiquita), the Standard Fruit Company (Dole), and the Cuyamel Fruit Company. They received 1235 acres of land for every kilometer of rail they lay for trains in Honduras. By 1929, the United Fruit Company controlled the principal ports and approximately 741,000 acres or nearly a thousand square miles of fertile lands for the banana boom, including the majority of maritime access on the Atlantic coastline. [v]
The Honduran transition from Spanish colony to Banana Republic defined a new era of forced displacements and territorial resistance by the garífunas due to the pressures and expansionism of the banana companies who rabidly accumulated land and workers. This process provoked major state complicity in order to provide new land titles for the banana companies, ignoring the existing process that began to title land in favor of the garífuna at the end of the 19th century. Nevertheless, the banana plantations proved, in many cases, too large to completely control.
“In 1997, the Iseri Lidamari movement, accompanied by OFRANEH, met with the National Agrarian Institute (INA) to obtain land titles in the [Vallecito] territory for six “associative businesses”; as a result, they obtained legal documents that recognize 2,700 hectares of land as Garífuna property,” states OFRANEH’s Report on Territorial Defense in Vallecito, Colon. However, the same report indicates:
“Since that date, intruders have attempted to take over that territory. Miguel Facussé planted 100 hectares of African Palm in Ruguma, one of the six “associative businesses” but the Supreme Court (CSJ) ruled in favor of the Garífunas, annulling Facussé’s claims to that land. Despite this [ruling], in recent years the area has turned into a corridor for organized crime and drug trafficking, causing the number of residents in the area to diminish.”
According to Teofilo Colon Jr., a garífuna journalist and researcher in New York City, the creation of said corridor of organized crime and the usurpation of lands has provoked the following results, “In the last 18 years, 86% of Garífuna land has been seized by non-Garífunas.” [vi] The situation has become acute since the 1990’s, as the introduction of the war on drugs has intensified. OFRANEH highlights this in a communiqué:
“Since 2005, people associated with organized crime impose a reign of terror on the Limon- Punta Piedras corridor, forcing Garífunas living in Vallecito to reduce their presence and activities on land belonging to their “associative businesses”. Subsequently, foreigners arrive, taking over 900 of the 1600 hectares of Garífuna land recognized by the National Agrarian Institute (INA).” [vii]
Despite the persistent threats, the coup d’etat in 2009 and the corridor of terror created in the Vallecito region, in 2010 OFRANEH was able to secure a signed agreement with delegates of the INA where they committed to surveying the “associative businesses.” But according to Miranda, “the intruders [Facussé and Villalobo] denied entry to members of the INA and the Attorney General,” preventing them from opening the gates and re-measuring the fenced-in “associative businesses”, a necessary step towards repopulating their land.
In 2008, Miriam Miranda was unanimously elected president of OFRANEH by the general assembly of Garífuna communities. OFRANEH was founded in 1978 with the express mission to “represent and defend the interests of the Afro-Caribbean Garífuna minority in Honduras with a mandate to protect the capacities of the Garífuna community and their self-determination through programs promoting political, social, economic, and cultural development.” Miranda took over the presidency of OFRANEH shortly after the previous president, Gregoria Flores was forced to seek asylum in the United States, fearing the constant death threats she was receiving.
Unfortunately, Miranda states in the Vallecito report, “The President [Porfirio Lobo Sosa] considers Vallecito to be uninhabited.” This territory, defined as “uninhabited” or vacant is fundamental in order to understand the most worrisome threat to the garífuna at present, the arrival of so-called “Special Development Zones” (RED) or “Charter Cities.” OFRANEH has emphasized there has not been a threat as severe as the one posed to the Garífuna by Latin America´s first Charter City since the arrival of the banana companies a hundred years ago. What Miranda considers the beginnings of the “deterritorialization garífuna,”[viii] which “intensified in the 1990s due to real estate speculation fueled by tourist mega projects” on the Caribbean Coast. [ix]
The Arrival of Charter Cities to Honduras
The so-called, “Special Development Regions” (RED) or “Charter Cities” are the brainchild of Paul Romer. Romer is the son of former Colorado Governor Roy Romer. He is a recognized economist educated at the University of Chicago and currently teaches economics at the NYU Stern School for Economics. He has devoted the last years to designing and promoting “Charter Cities” while searching for uninhabited territories in close proximity to exploitable natural resources in a carefully profiled country (a country with an on-going major disaster) where he can sell his first “Charter City” in order to produce a new era of development for the world.
Concluding a May 2012 New York Times Magazine article titled “Who Wants to Buy Honduras?” the author, Adam Davidson coincides with Romer’s perspective writing, “It’s easy to criticize experimenting with the livelihoods of the poor, but having spent time in the chaotic slums of Honduras, Haiti, Jordan and Indonesia, I’ve found that the poor are already conducting daily experiments in how to make life better outside the formal economy. By and large, it isn’t working. We have to try some new things.” [x]
In effect, says Miriam Miranda in an interview with journalist Giorgio Trucchi, “In the name of development, Honduras is up for sale; this fact alone reflects a failed state that has yet to recover its institutional legitimacy following the  coup.” Indeed the goal of the May 5th and 6th 2011 conference in San Pedro Sula properly entitled, “Honduras, Open For Business” was to attract major foreign businesses to invest in Honduras, selling off crucial areas of interest. The mega expo, attracted the likes of corporate magnates such as Siemen Phillips, Mexican Carlos Slim (Fortune 500 World’s richest man), and 325 other corporate giants where they were pitched six primary areas for lucrative foreign investment by Honduras’ most powerful businessmen; Energy, Infrastructure, Maquiladora (sweatshops) and Transformation Services, Agro-Business, Forestry and Tourism, reassuring that “access to the most important markets in the world, with investment guarantees and clear rules, would be among the clear advantages that investors will have in Honduras.” [xi]
An article published in the conservative Honduran daily newspaper El Heraldo, offered a list of FAQ´s promoting “Charter Cities” in Honduras explaining that, “The REDs [Special Development Regions] will enjoy a high-degree of autonomy. The rules regarding health, education, justice, and security in the RED can be different from those in the rest of the country.” By definition, according to the Charter City’s official website in Honduras (www.red.hn), the RED will be practically an autonomous city-state inside of another state, with the express mission of producing economic profits in the name of development for the underdeveloped, as a means to combat poverty. Nevertheless, in order to launch and development a Charter City (RED) they first require an “A vacant piece of land, large enough for an entire city, voluntarily contributed by a host government.”[xii]
Contrary to the philosophy of the North American economist, the Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano wrote years ago that, “Underdevelopment is not a stage of development. It is its consequence.” Paraphrasing, poverty is not eradicated with economic developmental experiments designed to tenfold the wealth of transnational corporations, theoretically trickling down in the wake of their riches. Rather, the ferocious development schemes based on the savage extrapolation of natural resources, the forced relocation of traditional peoples and exploitation of forced labor contribute to and foment the exponential growth of disparities between the world’s wealthiest and poorest.
In order to launch the Charter City project in Honduras, Romer requires an “uninhabited” piece of land. For President Lobo and the Honduran Congress, this ambiguous concept already existed in Honduras when they began to “FastTrack” the necessary constitutional reforms in late 2010. Honduran prosecutors and lawyers have questioned said constitutional reforms. In October 2011, they submitted the first formal petition to the Honduran Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the legislative decree that created the Special Development Regions. They argue that the decree openly relinquishes or indefinitely leases national territory to foreign interests in order to create a “state within a state,” in turn, violating Honduras’ sovereignty.
OFRANEH has also emphasized Romer’s erroneous understanding of Honduras, illustrating the potential consequences of his theories, which are on the verge of being implemented. “Paul Romer’s propaganda talks about building Charter Cities in uninhabited places. Unfortunately, in Honduras they are trying to dispossess the Garífuna people of half of our territory in order to create the RED (Special Development Region). The level of disinformation and violence that exists in this country reveals that multiple human rights violations will be caused by the establishment of a neocolonial project in the 21st century.”[xiii]
Yet, the economic crisis already exists. More importantly the general lack of security and un-governability of Honduras has become ever more acute since the consolidation of the coup d'état on November 29, 2009 with the election of Porfirio Lobo Sosa as Honduras' President. Romer, who patented the phrase in 2004 “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste,”[xiv] found in Honduras the perfect lab to perform a field test of his vision. To promote the reduction of poverty, enhanced security and a stable economy in country where none of these elements exist is an immensely attractive proposal for legislators who will form the first line of potential investors and occupants of said "Charter City."
To date, Honduras continues to be the country with the highest per capita rate of homicides in the world. According to the United Nations 2011 report, there are an average of 82.1 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants a year in Honduras. We can compare this to Mexico with an average of 20 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants despite a high intensity war on drugs that has claimed at least 50,000 lives in the last 6 years, or New York City where the homicide rate in 2010 was 6.4 per 100,000.[xv] According to the Tegucigalpa based Committee for the Freedom of Speech, C-Libre, Honduras also holds the world record for the highest per capita rate of journalists that are violently killed. There have been 33 journalists assassinated in the last 10 years in Honduras, and 28 of them since the June 29, 2009 coup d'état.[xvi]
The recent visit to Honduras by the International Mission on the Verification of Human Rights Violations in the Bajo Aguan summarized in a public hearing that Honduras has become characterized as a country where there is a systematic killing of campesinos. They cite in their report that, specifically in the Bajo Aguan, Colon, there have been at least 50 campesinos assassinated with total impunity in the last two years by mercenaries that protect the interests of wealthy landowner Miguel Facussé, who has boosted his African Palm production and biofuels exportations.[xvii]
Simply put, the favorable conditions necessary for the implementation of a Charter City culminated quickly in Honduras following the 2009 coup d'état. On January 19th 2011 the Honduran National Congress approved the Law for Special Development Regions (RED).[xviii]
Honduran journalist Sandra Marybel Sánchez, who also raises the concerns of Hondurans that feel that the country’s sovereignty is being compromised, highlights the most important concessions made by the Honduran Congress to investors in order to implement the Charter Cities in an article she wrote:
1. They will be autonomous, will be legally incorporated, will have their own administrative system, they will emit their own rules (Laws) and they will have their own legal jurisdiction...composed of national or international experts.
2. They will be authorized to enter into international agreements and treaties related to trade and cooperation in matters within their competence.
3. They will be able to enter into agreements with national or international intelligence services to combat organized crime.
4. They will be authorized to have and operate their own police force, which may be strengthened by entering into bilateral agreements with other countries and regions.
5. The REDs will have their own budget, to fix the taxes/rates they will charge and to collect and manage their own taxes.
6. They will be able to establish their own migration and immigration policies and rules, and control whatever transportation system admitted within its area of control/jurisdiction. Sea and air craft/vessels will have assured access to the RED.[xix]
Echoing the observations made by Sandra Marybel Sanchéz, Jari Dixon, a lawyer and ex- federal prosecutor now with the Association of Judges for a State with Rights, argues that the RED (Charter City) violates a series of Honduran laws. “In the RED, autonomous powers serve as the executive, legislative, and judicial powers, which is completely unconstitutional. Moreover, by indefinitely handing over part of the national territory to foreigners, the sovereignty of the country is being violated,” stated Dixon.[xx]
On September 5th, Dixon, Sánchez and members of several Honduran social organizations were illegally detained at the Honduran Supreme Court as they attempted to submit a formal petition to the court questioning the constitutionality of the congressional modifications made to the constitution, creating the RED. While being held arbitrarily for several hours before being able to submit the petition, Dixon manifested, “this is the first example of what to expect with the Charter Cities. Here, a wall separates them from the rest of Honduran society, revealing exactly what the State loses when it auctions off the country: nothing less than its sovereignty.”[xxi]
Back in the Vallecito camp on August 30th, OFRANEH, now accompanied by members of the Espacio Refundacional[xxii] and human rights organizations hold a gathering called the Meeting of Cultural Resistance Against Charter Cities. Miriam Miranda asserts: “On several occasions, the Executive and Legislative Powers indicated that the first RED in Honduras will be located between the Trujillo Bay and the Sico River, an area that includes 24 Garífuna communities, which are considered the cultural sanctuary of the Garífuna people. Moreover, some have mentioned creating RED's in order to produce biofuels, presumably in the tropical forests of the Honduran Moskitia. There are major interests and tremendous potential in this area for the de facto powers in this country-- the economically powerful, the oligarchy that has hijacked this country.”
Doug Henwood, special editor at The Nation, asserts in an interview with Al Jazeera that:
“It's interesting how the charter cities concept unmasks the libertarian dream as deeply undemocratic.The compatibility of [Augusto] Pinochet and Milton Friedman offered plenty of hints, but this Honduran experiment looks like conclusive proof. First you need a coup. And then you need to set up a zone of freedom - but a special kind of freedom. Not the freedom of association, or of individual expression and development, but the freedom of maneuver for an economic elite to do as it pleases under a special kind of state protection. Milton's grandson, Patri Friedman, one of the charter city pioneers, has declared that democracy is 'unfortunately... ill-suited for a libertarian state.'”
The Honduran Charter Cities promise to create precisely this type of libertarian and laissez-faire state, attractive to investors that share a similar vision and dream about a city-state subject only to laws that guarantee, without restrictions, the absolute free flow of capital movement with zero interference.
On September 4th in Tegucigalpa, The Commission for the Promotion of Public-Private Alliance, COALIANZA, a commission created by the Honduran congress, signed a fifteen million dollar contract with an investment consortium headed by Michael Strong to begin construction on Honduras' first Model City. During the signing ceremony, Juan Orlando Hernández, president of the Honduran Congress proclaimed, “This is an extraordinary moment for our country, for this generation of Hondurans and for the generation of politicians, academics, and advisors who have decided to look to the future and not fear change.” Carlos Pineda, the president of COALIANZA, described the project as having “the potential to turn Honduras into an engine of wealth,” and a “mechanism for development typically belonging only to first world countries.”[xxiii]
Strong, founder and CEO of NGK, stated that “the future will remember this day as the day that Honduras began developing,” because “we believe this will be one of the most important transformations in the world, through which Honduras will end poverty by creating thousands of jobs.”[xxiv] Strong further emphasized that "this is a collaboration between a diverse group of investors, businesses and experts that aim to eliminate poverty through the creation of wealth in Honduras by means of Special Development Regions."[xxv] Although the details of the deal are unclear, apparently Canada and South Korea will be the initial investors in the project, which is expected to break ground in Puerto Castilla, on the Trujillo Bay.[xxvi]
There are many sketchy details about the US based consortium NGK, who have estimated that they could create as many as 200,000 jobs for Hondurans over the next couple of years.[xxvii] Even the mainstream media are confused about the name of the consortium; the AP, ABC, The Guardian and The Independent have cited the company as either "NGK" or "MGK." Even the highlighted article on the Honduran Congress’s website ran contradictory information about the consortium, citing "MGK" in the headline and title of the article while referring only to "NGK" in the body of the very same article. Extensive searches for information in regards to either name or any consortium run by Michael Strong return null, leading to a series of doubts as to whether Honduras has signed an 15 million dollar contract with a ghost company.
Furthermore, Paul Romer in his blog on www.chartercities.org wrote on September 7th, “Here at Charter Cities, we’ve received several requests for comment on recent press reports of an agreement with investors to develop the Honduran Special Development Regions (REDs). We learned of these agreements from the media and have no knowledge of their terms, so we’re unable to offer any comment about them.” Romer concludes by stating that members of the Transparency Commission (the supposed governing apparatus for the Charter City) have written to the Honduran President to clarify the situation.[xxviii] The Transparency Commission was named by the President Porfirio Lobo Sosa in December 2011 and includes Paul Romer, George Akerlof, a Nobel Laureate in Economy and Permanent Resident at the International Monetary Fund, Nancy Birdall, an ex Vice-President at the Inter American Development Bank, Boon-Hwee Ong, an ex-general in the Singapore Armed Forces, and Harry Strachan, the Director Emeritus at Bain & Company (founded by US Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and documented to have funneled El Salvadoran death squad funding during the 1980's Central American civil wars).[xxix]
Nonetheless, Strong maintains that “We will work closely with the governor of the Charter City to assure that the region is equipped with the best police force, the best jurisprudence, legal system and transparency. The main goal of our project is to create the foundation of a safe and prosperous community for Hondurans.”[xxx] Furthermore, it turns out that Strong is not just the CEO of the controversial NGK or MGK consortium, but also the CEO and co-founder of FLOW (Freedom Lights Our World) and "flow-idealism" an organization built on libertarian and Friedmanite economic philosophies and theories.
Strong, who considers himself a leftist, is closely connected to and funded by Whole Foods CEO and FLOW's other co-founder John Mackey. He goes so far as to relate the concept of "Free Cities" to an "anarcho-capitalist-paradise" that will be much more efficient in eradicating global poverty than the "euro-socialism" so feared by the "whackos" in the Tea Party.[xxxi] This is how Strong presented his philosophy and project to an elite group of global libertarians in April 2011 at an exclusive resort on Roatán, a Honduran Island in the Caribbean. Patri Friedman and Mexican Ricardo Valenzuela, CEO of Free Cities Lld were among the special guests. During his presentation in Roatán last year, titled “Marketing Free Cities as a Mainstream Solution to Global Poverty,” Strong repeated numerous times that one distinguishing factor between he and others that promote similar types of projects is that "We are on the side of the angels," supposedly emphasizing his humanistic, transcendental and new-ageist traits that represent his particular line of thought among the diverse tangents in the libertarian movement.[xxxii]
The Relocation, Resistance and Dance
Roatán is the island where the garífuna people first stepped on what is now Honduran soil, on April 12 1797. The Garífuna were banished to a tiny island, Baliceaux, following two ensuing wars that their leader Satuyé and his wife Barauda unleashed against the English in Saint Vincent, where they arrived from Africa shipwrecked but free of slavery in 1635. On Baliceaux, more than half of the 5000 Garífuna banished there died, before the remaining 2026 Garífuna were again relocated by the English and subsequently abandoned with minimal provisions for survival on Roatán in 1797.[xxxiii] Nevertheless, the Garífuna survived the relocations like so many times in their history, being torn from their native Africa in the chains of slavery, yet emerging from the coffers of the wrecked slave ships on the coasts of Saint Vincent as the only Africans to arrive to the Americas as free blacks. They were taken in and promptly mixed with the Arawak and Carib indigenous peoples to from the Garinagu or Garífuna people.
Now August 30th, 2012 in the Vallecito encampment, Miriam Miranda has the word and turns it towards the government, citing its complicity in authorizing Honduras' Charter Cities and the lack of human rights guarantees for pre-existing peoples such as the Garífuna. “Vallecito is the heart of the territory where they are promoting the creation and installation of Honduras' Charter City. So, we are not only up against the interests of organized crime; we’re up against the interests of a government that—without consulting us—makes decisions about our territory.”
Miranda's sentiment was echoed in early August 2012 when Frank LaRue, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, made an official visit to Honduras and submitting among others the following recommendation:
"I believe that establishing so-called development programs outside of the territorial authority of this country, such as the Charter Cities, which would displace populations and seek to create a legal system that is separate and autonomous of the State, are a violation of national sovereignty and the responsibility of the State to protect and promote the Human Rights of the population in its territory. I recommend that the Honduran Government extend an invitation to the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers to organize a mission that could assist in combating impunity and contribute positively in processes to combat impunity.”[xxxiv]
For Miriam Miranda, Alfredo López and the 200 families that arrived to Vallectio reclaiming their land for the garífuna people, the lack of response by the government has had a resonating impact. Miriam explains by cell phone, as the drums in the camp sound in the background:
“In this country, the government has no will to respond to the demands of our communities. The 'preventative measures' [already issued to Vallecito and other Garífuna communities by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights] don’t stop paramilitary attacks. It’s unbelievable! At this point we haven’t received any answer [from the governement]; it’s a very clear message that we are in a state of ingovernability, that we’re in a failed state, and it’s a very clear example of how the state responds because they’ve reacted to requests to protect Miguel Faccusé’s African Palm plantations by mobilizing the entire Honduran army! Yet in our case, it hasn’t even been possible for them to send four police officers to protect the process of issuing our land titles, the process of surveying Garífuna communities. We are in the middle of an undeclared war zone where highly armed groups are protecting their own interests—they control this territory. We’re asking for something very easy, something simple: that the state come and says, ‘Yes, we issued that land title to you in 1997 and we are reiterating that this is your land.’ Now we are up against the silence and complicity of the state, the government, these groups with power, and their plans; for us, this is very serious.”
On September 12th, Miranda, Dixon, and Sanchéz accompanied by members from various social, indigenous and popular movement organizations mobilized once more to the Honduran Supreme Court as well as to the Attorney General’s office. This time they submitted a formal lawsuit accusing President Porfirio Lobo Sosa and the 162 congressmen that signed the changes to the constitution, of “committing treason against the country and abuse of authority.” The next day, the Garífuna people in Vallecito accompanied by OFRANEH and the National Agrarian Institute broke through the “door of shame” that had previously prevented them from surveying their land. They promptly re-surveyed and measured the five Garífuna “associative businesses” in Vallecito achieving their first goal towards returning to their land in this region.
In a surprise turn of events, late on Saturday September 15th as Honduras celebrated its Independence Day with marches, the Attorney General’s office announced that they had determined “Charter Cities” to be illegal, unconstitutional and that the reforms that permit them represent a crime. Nonetheless, Daniela Ferrera, the Director of Prosecutors at the Attorney General’s office stated, “the Honduran Supreme Court does not have to emit a resolution in order for us to determine what constitutes a felony or whether a felony has been committed. There are resources available to both institutions for use, but it is important that all channels be exhausted, so, as long as the Court does not define the constitutionality or not of the decree, the Prosecutor’s office will have to wait” to proceed in taking legal actions against the responsible parties.[xxxv]
Isaac's rains have diminished; now the sun struggles to burst through the dense clouds and the heat permeates the camp. Alfredo comments through the unique and cynical smile of a man that spent seven years as a political prisoner, the Honduran State later receiving international condemnation of for his unjust imprisonment. "It seems that the mercenaries have lost their appetite or maybe they just ran out of bullets and decided to go home," said Alfredo. So here in Vallecito the drums sound the vigor of garífuna rhythms without the interference of automatic gunfire overhead, and now the rhythm of the Yancunú: Guanaragua, Maladi Yancuru or Dance of Masks is resonating through the camp. Yancunú is the maximum expression of Garífuna rebellion and territorial defense. It is the dance that was used by garífuna men during their 1773 rebellion in Saint Vincent.[xxxvi] They descended from their mountain hideouts disguised as women to a celebration the English soldiers were having, luring and seducing the soldiers with a spectacular dance before revealing their deadly machetes from beneath their skirts, to defeat the soldiers. The same machetes that defeated the English soldiers are the machetes that today continue to work the yucca, coconut, fishing and land in Vallecito. They pertain to the Garinagu people that once more defend their land against the new faces of material exploitation.
Comunicador@s Populares Por La Autonomía: www.comppa.org/wordpress
[xiv] “A Terrible Thing to Waste,” Jack Rosenthal, The New York Times Magazine. 31 julio 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/02/magazine/02FOB-onlanguage-t.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=%22paul%20romer%22&st=cse