Racism in Honduras: New Attack on Garifuna Leader in Masca

On the evening of Saturday, December 28, Mrs. Ignacia Piota Martinez, a Garifuna from the community of Masca, was attacked by a mestizo and sustained seven gunshot wounds. She was immediately taken to Puerto Cortés and later to San Pedro Sula where she is in stable condition.

Ignacia, 70 years old, was the sister of the deceased Mirna Suazo Martinez, who was President of the Masca Board of Trustees. She was murdered on September 9, in addition to the attempted murder of Paulina Alvarez on December 12 and the murder of Oscar Francisco Guerrero Centeno on October 10, which is an indicator of the enormous violence directed against the remnants of the Garifuna population in the community of Masca.

The unusual spate of murders that have been taking place against the Garifuna people in recent months has one common denominator: the sowing of terror with the aim of instigating the emigration that has accelerated in recent years. To contain the economic debacle and territorial pressures promoted by organized crime, those who use terror as a weapon are using it for territorial control.

Honduras is currently stuck in a cycle of violence. 70 massacres and 3700 homicides occurred during the year 2019 and with approximately 50 thousand deaths in the last decade. Although the indicators apparently show a decrease in violence, it is evident that violence has been measured, with the purpose of generating a feeling and belief that violence has been “controlled”.

After the 2009 coup d’état, the northern coast of Honduras became a territory controlled by organized crime, operating from the municipalities, courts, property registry, among others.

One of the fatal ingredients in the strategy of dispossession that has been refined in this decade is racism, which is embedded in Honduranness, which is not eliminated by decrees and laws. That racism is highly embedded within the justice system, which, despite having attended multiple training sessions of the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the judiciary, has not made any effort to assimilate the conventions and treaties that stipulate the rights that we indigenous and tribal peoples possess. As a result, we have seen countless cases of territorial dispossessions arising from judgements that do not recognize our ancestral rights.

The case of the community of Masca is particular in view of the enormous aggressiveness that has been unleashed against the Garifuna people, and to date – months after the murder of Mirna Suazo – there are no known results of the investigation by the authorities into this case, which has the Garifuna population on edge, as we had previously managed to stay away from the violence that has been destroying the social fabric of our country in the last decade.

We urge the authorities to carry out a thorough investigation of the facts, while demanding the protection of the leaders of this community, who seem to have become targets of war.

Given in the City of La Ceiba on the 3rd day of January, 2020

Honduran Black Fraternal Organization, OFRANEH

Translation by Internationalist 360°