Hondurans Demand Their Land to Live; Do City Folk See Land’s Role?
|November 21, 2013||Posted by Staff under Land Disputes|
Miriam Miranda is a leader of the Honduran Black Fraternal Organization (OFRANEH), which works with the 46 communities of the Afro-indigenous Garífuna of Honduras, to defend their territories, natural resources, identity, and rights. Miriam’s narrative below is from an interview with Beverly Bell.
We live on the Atlantic coast of Honduras. We are a mix of African descendants and indigenous peoples who came about more than 200 years ago in the island of San Vicente. Without our land, we cease to be a people. Our lands and identities are critical to our lives, our waters, our forests, our culture, our global commons, our territories.
If you map out the conflicts that are threatening our country, you’ll see they reflect exactly where transnational capital is trying to take more resources from indigenous peoples. Maybe you believe that president Mel Zelaya was ousted in a coup d’état [in 2009] because he was a leftist. No. It was because [those with wealth] wanted to take land and resources, which they are now doing.
In Honduras, they’re taking land that we were using to grow beans and rice so they can grow African palm for bio-fuel. The intention is to stop the production of food that humans need so they can produce fuel that cars need. The more food scarcity that exists, the more expensive food will become. The mono-cultivation of some of these crops [for bio-fuel] requires thousands of millions of acres of land. Food sovereignty is being threatened everywhere.
The Atlantic Coast of Honduras is the main narco-trafficking route. Almost 90% of the drugs that are going to the North pass through Honduras. We’re exactly in the way of the trafficking and we’re so vulnerable. Honduras has one of the highest levels of crime and violence [per capita] of any country that is not actually at war.
We live almost on the sea, right on the beach. It’s a blessing but recently it’s also become a curse, because of course all those with power want to have a place on the beach. The Honduran government has started on some tourism mega-projects. The displacement of communities and the loss of cultures that come with the development of tourism [is increasing].
We have created our own media, a community radio station for the Garífuna. In response to mass media trying to block the protection of our indigenous territories, we have created alliances with the four other community radios, and have started – together with COPINH [Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras] a Mesoamerica Network of Community Radio.
Everywhere throughout Honduras, like in all of Latin America, Africa, Asia, women, many of them elders, are at the forefront of the struggles for our rights, against racial discrimination, for the defense of our commons and our survival. We’re at the front not only with our bodies but also with our force, our ideas, our proposals. We don’t only birth children, but ideas and actions as well.
Ed. Notes: People disagreeing over who gets to use which land for which purpose is ongoing, as long as people move around, population grows, and technology advances. But is it fair for one side to always win such disputes? How could the competition be settled fairly and peacefully?
One key component is to make the two sides more equal. Right now, it’s like the New York Yankees vs. a Little League team — nothing fair about that at all. To make the debate fair, both sides need roughly equal power, and since political power comes from economic power, there can’t be such a huge gulf in the income and wealth of the two sides.
The way to close the gulf is not by redistribution from the haves to the have-nots but by predistribution, by distributing the worth of Earth before an elite or state can keep such natural value for themselves. That means residents would pay in to the public treasury land taxes or Land Dues equal to the annual rental value of their location — and sites vary widely in their value — and residents would get back shares of the recovered rents in equal amounts, no citizen getting any more than anyone else. It’s sort of like what Alaska does with oil revenue and Singapore with land revenue. Then, on such a level playing field, disputants could reach an agreement fair for both people and planet — besides raising the indigenous up out of poverty, into a more comfortable, equitable, and admirable life.