Environmental Woes in Chachaguate, Honduras

A Special Report from our friends in Honduras:

Chachaguate 9-22-10

Rachael Townsend and Netillo Ratton

Chachaguate is an Island in the Caribian of Honduras, it is a part of
the department Las Islas de La Bahia. People have been living and
working on the island for over 50 years. They are part of an
indigenous community of people called the Garifunas. Many of the
inhabitants are from Nueva Armenia, a coastal community on the Northern
coast of Honduras. The people live and work with the ocean, and for
generations they have been sustainably fishing off the coast of the
islands. In 1994 the government of Honduras bought 12 of the 13
islands in the area from the people of Cayos Cochinos.

The 1963 land reform laws were passed protecting the rights of
Indigenous people to their land, but the government of Honduras was
able to buy the 12 islands for the purpose of “environmental
conservation” through a foundation created by the government called
Coral Ris a foundation made up of Garifunas. In reality, the government
has used the islands for international tourism and has done more harm
to the area than the people who sustainability fished the area for

The only island that the government was not able to buy was the island
of Chachaguate. In 2008 President Mel Zeleya gave 22 Garifuna
families the title to the island with support from the
organization OFRANEH, that fights for the rights of
the Garifiuna people. However, the Lobo government is not respecting the
title and are continuing to say that they are destroying the

In reality, the tourism created by the government has done more damage
to the area in 16 years than the Garifuna people have done in generations.  They do the most damage by bringing large boats filled with tourists. This has effected the way of life of the people of Chachaguate.  The large motors on these boats scare the fish away and  people
have to go farther and farther to fish.

For over 16 years, the people of Chachaguate have been involved in a
struggle with the government to keep their island. Right now the case
is in the International Court of Justice in Coasta Rica. The
struggle is not only a legal struggle for the people of Chachaguate,
but a psychological fight for their land. After the coup-de-tat on
the 28th of June, the coup government of Michallette used many
different types of intimidation and repression to try and remove the
people from the island.  This year the military surrounded the island
of Chachaquate to psychologically intimidate the people, throwing
trash in the ocean to further the point of the government that the
people had no respect for the environment.

The resistance continues today in the struggle to keep the Island of
Chachaguate. The government continues to search for people within the
community who are willing to sign over the title of the island, but
the people of Chachaquate are not for sale. As one lead organizers of
the resistance, Malakias Zuniga, said “We respect the rights and the
health of the environment. We defend the natural environment. We only
want to live in peace with and do the work that we have done for