Assassination Attempt In Honduras Linked to Canadian Tourism Businesses
December 4, 2015
On Friday, November 27th, Garifuna community leader Vidal Leiva was shot three times in Trujillo, Honduras. Leiva survived and is in stable condition but has nevertheless sustained serious injuries to his liver and one of his lungs. Canada-US solidarity organisation Rights Action is collecting emergency funds to support Leiva’s treatement and recovery (click here to donate, a long-time donor will match all donations in December).
Vidal Leiva is the president of the Land Defense Committee of the Garifuna Community of Río Negro y Cristales, which is located in the municipality of Trujillo on Honduras’ Caribbean coast. The community’s ancenstral lands, in theory protected by both Honduran and international law, have been grabbed by various investors over the years, most notably Canadian tourism developers, one of whom – Randy Jorgensen – recently had to appear in court to face charges of illegal land purchases and land usurpation.
OFRANEH, the Black Fraternal Organisation of Honduras, which is helping organise Grifuna communities like Río Negro y Cristales, links Leiva’s shooting to Jorgensen (see full statement here, in Spanish). Joel Ruiz, aka “Cayo”, known by locals to be Jorgensen’s “henchman”, was seen taking pictures of people and leaders who had gathered outside the courthouse to protest during Jorgensen’s court appearance. Jorgensen has also been very friendly with politicians linked to the regime brought to power by the military coup in 2009. Since the trial, members of the Land Defense Committee have recieved anonymous death threats and Leiva’s shooting was carried out one block away from a military outpost.
Despite the climate of fear created by threats and now this shooting, the communities vow to keep on fighting in defense of their ancestral territory, whether the threats are coming from Randy Jorgensen or others like him.
- Canadian Porn King on Trial, video report about Randy Jorgensen’s first appearance in court on November 13th 2015.
- ZEDEs: Neocolonialism and Land Grabbing in Honduras, where Jorgensen’s tourism developments are framed within the larger context of the ‘model cities’ project that’s increasing the stakes and adding duel to the fire wherever latent social conflicts exist. This is particularly relevant in this case because successful Garifuna defense of territory would not only jeopardise Jorgensen’s personal investments or just those of a handful of other Canadian developers, it would jeopardise the planned Trujillo ‘model city’, which would include a chain of beachfront hotels, an airport, an expanded commercial port, and wind and hydro energy generation. In other words, there’s a lot of potential investors who are gunning against the Garifuna.