In recent years, the Garífuna community of Triunfo de la Cruz, in Tela Municipality, Atlántida Department, has been increasingly the focus of attention for property developers of various kinds. With its Caribbean coast location, it is impossible to deny its tourist potential, and this is the main reason that these companies have become interested in this area. During this time, the Triunfo de la Cruz community managed to obtain title deeds of full ownership to their ancestral lands. Despite these legal guarantees, safeguarding the communal nature of their land tenure, the Municipality of Tela announced in 1993 that it was extending the official boundaries of the city into the territory of the Triunfo de la Cruz community, thereby creating legal ambiguity. The resulting overlap in the legal provisions relating to this area allowed various transactions to take place (land sales and all that they entail) within the community boundaries, and by its own members.
Since then, the conflict within the Triunfo de la Cruz community has reached an extreme pitch. The Triunfo de la Cruz Pro-Improvement Community Council (Patronato Pro-Mejoramiento de la Comunidad de Triunfo de la Cruz ) and CODETT (Comité de Defensa de Tierras Triunfeñas – Defence Committee for Triunfo Land) have denounced the ‘persecution of leaders, threats, murders, imprisonment, etc’. Meanwhile, having exhausted all legal remedies within the State of Honduras, the Community referred the issue of the land disputes to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), where it was adopted as Case 12,548. In 2006, the IACHR issued a request to the Honduran government, asking it “to adopt the necessary measures to protect the right to ownership of said lands and to prevent or suspend the implementation of any judicial or administrative action that could affect the rights derived from the beneficiary community’s ancestral property, until such time as the bodies of the Inter-American system adopt a final decision with respect to [the] Case”. However, Alfredo López, community leader and member of the Community Council, points out that these measures and recommendations have not prevented land being sold in the community, nor property development, such as the building of houses and boundary walls.
On Tuesday 2 August, members of the Triunfo de la Cruz community, responding to the call from the Community Council and the local community radio station, Coco Dulce (or Faluma Bimetu), once again decided to take the defence of their ancestral lands into their own hands. This time, the focus was a wall that had been under construction since December 2010 on a property known as Marbella. According to López, this land, an area of about 80 blocks, bordering the beach, was originally sold illegally by Tela municipality to businessmen from IDETRISA (Inversiones y Desarrollo El Triunfo SA – El Triunfo Investments and Development Ltd) “for a development known as Club Marbella, without any record of authorisation by the Honduran Tourism Institute or the purchasers being Garífunas”. Years later, although the development had failed, the ‘owners’, in an effort to sell their parcels of land, began to surround the area with a concrete wall, blocking the way to community members and thus their access to an area where they grow yucca and other Garífuna staple foods.
PROAH (The Honduras Accompaniment Project) was present during this activity and no incidents were reported. The Community Council had made a formal request to the local authorities to demolish the wall, giving them a week to do so, arguing that it was illegal. Even so, Alfredo López fears that there will be reprisals in the forthcoming days and weeks.
For more information, see the public statement by the Triunfo de la Cruz Pro-Improvement Community Council, on 2 August 2011 (below), and the article by Defensores en Línea (Human Rights Defenders On-Line) (in Spanish only) at: http://www.defensoresenlinea.com/cms/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1528:construccion-de-muro-en-triunfo-de-la-cruz-viola-medidas-cautelares-dictadas-por-la-cidh&catid=54:den&Itemid=171
TRIUNFO DE LA CRUZ GARÍFUNA
PRO-IMPROVEMENT COMMUNITY COUNCIL
Tela, Atlántida, Honduras
The Pro-Improvement Community Council of the Triunfo de la Cruz Garífuna community, by means of this statement, informs the general public:
That, since 1993, the Triunfo de la Cruz community has suffered innumerable abuses by the municipal and national authorities in the wake of the extension of the city boundaries of Tela municipality by the municipal authorities, without any prior consultation, and despite the community’s opposition. Since then, CODETT (Defence Committee for Triunfo Land) and the Community Council have been lodging formal complaints about the abuse of authority by the municipality of Tela, led by Mr David Sacaro, as well as those politicians sowing continual divisiveness within society by imposing parallel community councils which support their interests, their ultimate objective being the systematic dispossession and disappearance of our people through the illegal sale of land and thus the loss of our territory, regardless of our title deeds of full ownership, and of the fact that it involves usurpation, violation of ILO Convention 169 and other international treaties, and the persecution of our leaders, in the form of threats, murders and imprisonment, etc.
In the light of the failure both of the national justice system and local and national authorities to respond to and address our official complaints and demands, the community has been forced to refer the State of Honduras to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which issued precautionary measures, in force since 2006, which have been continually violated by the very authorities which should be observing them. Therefore, our anxiety has only increased with the illegal sale of land which, being authorised by the parallel council created within the community by the municipality – a council currently led by the intimidating brothers, Martínez y Braulio Martínez – means that the authorities have failed to take action against the parties reported to them. The Club Marbella development (by Idetrisa) is one such case, where a concrete wall is being built around land which is community property, with total disregard for the project and crops of the women’s group. Such is the population’s alarm that we are issuing an EMERGENCY ALERT due the accelerated loss of our land, the closure of its beaches and the destruction of natural barriers such as cocoa plum and coconut trees, grapes, and nance trees.
THEREFORE, at the General Assembly on Friday 29 July, it was decided that the community should take more concrete action, and on Tuesday the community began to demolish the wall within its property and open up access to the land once more, given that no authority had been able to halt the wall’s construction. We are calling on the Inter-American Commission to issue a resolution on Case 12,548 as a matter of urgency, because we are not going to continue waiting for the disappearance of our Garífuna heritage, and we hold the State of Honduras and its accomplices responsible for anything that may happen to our leaders.
Done in Triunfo de la Cruz, municipality of Tela, Atlántida, on 2 August, 2011.
Public statement by the Patronato Pro-Mejoramiento Comunidad Garífuna de Triunfo de la Cruz, 2 August 2011.
 Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Report No 29/06, petition 906-03, Admissibility, Garífuna Community of “Triunfo De La Cruz” and its Members, Honduras, 14 March 2006, available on line: http://www.cidh.oas.org/annualrep/2006eng/HONDURAS.906.03eng.htm
 Organisation of American States, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Rapporteurship on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Protection System, Precautionary Measures. Available on line: http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/indigenous/protection/precautionary.asp
 Ibid. IACHR, Report 29/06. P.4.