A recent comment from "Ace of Spades" was so interesting that I thought it should be moved to the front page so all the readers would see it. The comment was on my article "Pictures around Tela" and the subsequent conversation in the comments section. In the comments, I mentioned Los Micos Beach & Golf Resort project and linked to an Upside Down World article, The Tourism Industry and Repression in Honduras.
Just a little background first: Apparently the government has appropriated land held by the Garífunas for 200 years in order to develop this grand tourist project, also called the Tela Bay Project, which will personally benefit several members of the former and current government, some of Honduras' elite, and foreign investors.
Garífuna leaders have been threatened by government officials, falsely imprisoned, and murdered over this issue. Houses containing property deeds have burnt down and the Garífuna deeds registered in the municipalidad have mysteriously disappeared. Intergroup conflicts between the Garífuna factions also have been reported, possibly directed by government officials.
The land in question is in the buffer zone of the supposedly protected area of Jeanette Kawas National Park (Punta Sal) so there are environmental as well as human rights issues involved.
Jeanette Kawas was a prominent Honduran environmentalist who fought the powerful African Palm growers cooperative and others to have areas around Tela given protected status. Punta Sal was designated a National Park in 1994. Jeanette Kawas was murdered in 1995. Her murder has never been solved.
Los Micos is expected to have at least two hotels with thousands of rooms, a world-class golf course, an equestrian center, condos, etc. and is being touted as a 'sustainable tourism' project of 800 to 1,300 acres. Little information on the status of the project has been reported in the local newspapers for almost a year now and apparently no steps have been taken to begin the project development.
Here is Ace's comment:
In reference to the Garífuna repression article, I know very much of this matter due to personal experiences with companies like PROMOTUR, run by Jaime Rosenthal. I am a Honduran student currently living in the United States, my life has been rather financially difficult and still is, due to an expropriation of my land starring the man mentioned above.
I am deeply ashamed by my corrupt nepotistic government, the lack of integrity and or pride by my fellow Hondurans who seem to follow and celebrate these blood-sucking politicians. (President Manuel Zelaya -Illegal Logging Ties) These snakes not only affect the Garífuna community, they affect hungry millions each day. (70%+ poverty rate!!!)
My greatest passion in life is to bring JUSTICE to a cronyist country that doesn't know the meaning of such. And yes, I get enraged and passionate when I read articles like these. They are not new to me, the government will develop this project wherever the land is free (National Parks, Garífuna owned etc.) and put the remainder of the money in their pockets, because they can.
That is the sad truth of Latin American countries, steal from those who have a voice but can't be heard. It is just heartbreaking to watch scenes such as for Hurricane Mitch, all donations were being auctioned to the highest bidder right on the port. People still are trying to recover since 1998, and things haven't changed much nine years later.
I refer to myself as the Ace of Spades through a tradition that comes from the French Revolution where the lowest number card (the One) was placed above the King to represent the victory of the common man over the monarchy. You will definitely hear about me in the near future. Your support will be greatly appreciated!
Ace of Spades screen name linked to this article, a long, informative article by Sandra Cuffe on Global Exchange. It's well worth reading, even though I wish the author or editor had used some paragraphs! Is Ace of Spades Sandra Cuffe? Is Sandra Cuffe in La Ceiba? Based on the history of violence surround this project, Ace is wise to use a screen name.
Photo: Parque Nacional Jeanette Kawas, courtesy Hondubirding
There is lots of information on the internet about the Tela Bay project, much of it negative by human rights and environmental organizations. One Tela resident said that once Hondurans start using chemical fertilizers and insecticides on the golf course, you can say goodbye to the Micos Lagoon. He expects an environmental disaster.
Here are some samples from a Google search:
HONDURAS: Garifuna people resisting on-slaught of global tourism business from Rights Action.org
Garífuna Community Leader in Honduras Threatened with Death from Human Rights first
The World Conservation Union reviewed the environmental impact study done for Los Micos Beach & Golf Resort. Their review of the study (in Spanish) was scathing! They reported that "the documentation was incomplete and the second revised study still contains deficiencies, contradictions, and inconsistencies. In spite of the volume, the study submitted was very disorganized and doesn't even establish the environmental effect of this project for many reasons." Their review goes on to outline the many reasons.
In one article (sorry, I don't have the link anymore), I was astounded to read that one official, responding to a question about the effect of the project on the Garífunas, said that the Garífunas would benefit, too, because they would still be able to come and "dance for the tourists." This type of arrogance is just mind boggling and sounds like something that would have been said of slaves 160 years ago.
While a large, successful, upscale resort would be good for the Honduran economy − more jobs, albeit mostly low paying − why must any advancement in this country come at the expense of human rights and the environment?
Keep in touch, Ace. We want to hear more.