5 Garifuna Leaders Kidnapped in Honduras
The men were abducted from their homes last weekend by heavily armed gunmen in police uniforms.
Protesters have taken to the streets of Honduras after five Garifuna men were kidnapped by unknown assailants this past weekend in the town Triunfo de la Cruz. According to witnesses, armed men arrived in Triunfo around 5 a.m. on Sunday in three vehicles and went house to house, forcing the men into the vehicles at gunpoint. Residents of Triunfo are now protesting, demanding that authorities do something and return the men home. The vehicles did not have license plates, which is a tactic used by both Honduran state security forces and criminal gangs.
One of the individuals abducted was 27-year-old Alberth Snider Centeno Thomas, a community activist who has advocated for the Honduran government to compensate the Garifuna people for stolen land. He has previously reported threats linked to his role defending territorial rights for the Garifuna. Also missing are Milton Joel Martínez Álvarez, Suami Aparicio Mejía, Junior Rafael Juarez Mejia, and a man named Mamba whose full name hasn't yet been confirmed.
Miriam Miranda, a Garifuna leader from the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras who has also faced death threats, has called for justice. “What happened on Saturday shows that powerful people who have illegally taken control of our territory are emboldened by the state’s contempt for the international court ruling," said Miranda. "Justice means prosecuting those who ordered this crime."
The abduction happened just weeks after the murder of Antonio Bernárdez, a Garifuna leader from the Punta Piedra community. According to the United Nations high commissioner for human rights in Honduras, at least five Garifuna leaders have been killed since September 2019. The Garifunas are descendants of an Afro-Indigenous population from St. Vincent, who were transported from their home by the British and abandoned on the Honduran coast in the late 18th century.
Many groups — including drug traffickers, palm oil companies, and tourism developers — have tried to claim the coastal lands where the Garifuna community lives. Honduras is known as one of the most dangerous places to be a land rights or environmental activist, with hundreds having been killed since 2009.