Alfredo Lopez, a Honduran Garifuna community leader in Portland, Oregon
Alfredo is a leader of the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras, and an activist for indigenous rights for the Garífuna people, and works to end community displacement caused by internationally financed development projects. He is in Portland with Witness for Peace, and in the US as part of the Caravan for Peace, Life, and Justice which has traveled through Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and El Salvador advocating for an end to the drug wars. www.globalexchange.org.
Alfredo spoke eloquently about the Tela Bay "mega tourist project" in his home community funded by the World Bank. "It is our beach and our livelihood - we don't want the kind of big tourist hotel development that our government and the World Bank are bringing to us. Our community will be destroyed - our way of life, our culture, our language, our spirituality. To be garifuna is to fish and to swim and to live by the sea."
For more information about this project, check out-http://www.tourism-watch.de/en/content/resistance-tela-bay-honduras and http://www.upstreamjournal.org/2009/11/oppression-or-opportunity-tourism-project-in-honduras-sparks-conflict/
Alfredo urged us to talk with our Members of Congress about how the Alliance for Prosperity aid is being used in Honduras as well as Guatemala and El Salvador. This is the aid package that the US Congress approved in December, 2015 - for further information, go to www.wola.org and www.ghrc-usa.org.
The aid is not going to local communities but to large multinationals. His words struck a chord with me as this is the same message that I heard in Guatemala in February, 2016. The grassroots groups are not receiving the funds but only large multinationals and in some cases, even the drug traffickers turned businessmen themselves, according to Alfredo.
ACTIONS: Follow WOLA's Central America Aid Monitor, http://www.wola.org/news/wola_launches_central_america_aid_monitor. Educate yourself about how the aid rewards large extractive industries seeking to destroy the environment through mining as well as mega tourism projects such as Tela Bay. Insist that international law be respected - the right of indigenous communities to be consulted on any project - both Honduras and Guatemala are signators to the UN law.
Always, ask the question: Why are people migrating? What are the causes? People are fleeing Honduras and Guatemala due to violence, poverty and corruption. We can insist that the U.S. government monitor the funds and publish transparent records of who gets these monies and how effective is their use - does it benefit the people?
My life has been about crossing borders and cultures and building bridges across the boundaries that normally divide. Have you crossed any borders in your life?