At 08.30am on the morning of 4 October, 2019, Garífuna community leader Abad Miguel Guity was standing outside his house in the community of Nueva Era in the west of La Ceiba, Honduras, when three gunmen pulled up on motor bikes and opened fire, killing him instantly. They then escaped without any difficulty.
Guity was a leader of the Garifuna community in Nueva Era which is one of the most violent parts of the city. He was well known and respected for his work defending the rights of the Garífuna community. The Garifuna, who number about 300,000 in Honduras, are an ethnic group of mixed African and indigenous heritage.
The Garífuna communities face similar conflicts: gradual, systematic loss of their lands, coveted by private individuals, ladino peasants, companies, to expand areas cultivated with African palm, even in the buffer zone, and to develop private tourism projects, which have repercussions on subsistence activities such as farming and fishing.
Some Garífuna mayors have agreed in the past to sell communal lands to individuals, nationals and foreigners, including beaches. Some of these companies have then seized more land than they actually bought.
In 2015, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights found the Honduran State guilty of violating the human rights of the Garífunas and their communities, by handing over their territories to businessmen for commercial exploitation. The court ordered the state to implement a number of reparations, including the delimitation, demarcation and titling of traditional lands. To date Honduras has failed to implement this order.
The stigmatisation of Garífuna leaders is ongoing. In 2021, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, said in a statement: “Honduras must stop misusing criminal law to persecute human rights defenders and to stigmatise the Garifuna community.”