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Jan 27, 1999

Garifuna picket Honduran Embassy

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In November the Honduran Embassy was the clearing house for relief supplies donated by Belizeans to victims of Hurricane Mitch. Today there was a different sort of storm brewing at the embassy as representatives of Belize’s Garinagu community expressed their disapproval of a proposal being considered by the Honduran government. News Five was there.

There was heavy security outside of the Honduran Embassy at the corner of Gabourel Lane and Hudson Street, as members of the National Garifuna Council and their supporters stood outside in a peaceful demonstration. They were protesting a bill being considered by the government of Honduras to remove all Garinagu living along the coast of Honduras.

The Garinagu say if their people are moved from the coast, not only will the Garifuna people living in Honduras have nowhere to go, but they will be stripped of their livelihood.

Julian Hernandez

“It will affect us very much because we will not live anywhere, where there is no sea because the sea is the way we live in Honduras. We do fishing and the government of Honduras I can say is trying to, I don’t know, they are trying to get us out of Honduras like they did us at St. Vincent at the time.”

Robert Mariano

“We are asking for equal rights, like any man. We have never been molested from any other race of people. Let us live peacefully with them and in tranquility; that’s all we ask.”

Luis Leiva

“We want to conserve our land because this is the only way we can survive in our life because we have to plant, we have to fish to make us sustain our children.”

According to Roy Cayetano, President of the National Garifuna Council, the council is concerned about the proposed amendments to one of the laws governing Honduras’ constitution. According to Article 107, only a Honduran National, by birth can own land in the cayes and up to forty miles inland. The Act has provided the Garifuna people, who have been living along the coast for more than two hundred years, with some security. However, Cayetano, says changes to the law are now necessary to attract foreign investors to the area.

Roy Cayetano, President, National Garifuna Council

“Now this amendment would open the doors for ownership by foreigners and the whole intention is to attract foreign investment. And we believe that the local people can be partners in development, that there are possibilities for joint ventures where we provide the land, and they provide the capital and we jointly own the business.”

Following the demonstration, Cayetano along with other members of the National Garifuna Council met with Oscar Bueso, the Honduran Ambassador to Belize. Through the assistance of an interpreter Bueso promised to convey the council’s concerns to his government.

Oscar Bueso, Honduran Ambassador to Belize

“I am the go between the government and the Garifuna cause. I represent the government of Honduras and they have the right to protest.

I will communicate to the government so that the concern of the people concerning the demonstration and refer to the petition that they asking for.”

Today’s peaceful protest march began at the Memorial Park.

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