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Chronology for Indigenous Peoples in Honduras

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Chronology for Indigenous Peoples in Honduras, 2004, available at: [accessed 28 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Date(s) Item
Sep 22, 1989 Exiled Nicaraguan Indian leaders reached an agreement with the Sandanista government to return to Managua by September 27th. The Nicaraguan government lifted its ban on the political organization of indigenous groups within its borders. These leaders were the first of over 35,000 refugees to return to Nicaragua.
Oct 8, 1989 Nicaraguan refugees (mainly Miskitos) protested against the Sandanista government's refusal to allow them to register for the February 1990 elections. Approximately 60 Nicaraguan Miskitos protested.
May 30, 1991 Thousands of peasants (mostly Indians) protested the agrarian land reform of Honduras by occupying 100,000 hectares of land. This protest was in response to the killings of Indians by farmers in Tela, Honduras in early May. In response to these killings (exact number is unknown), the government arrested the farmer, a member of the army, who was involved. This was part of a governmental program to halt rural violence within the country. Indians in Honduras were also reported to be appealing to environmental groups to gain land reserves along the Atlantic Coast. One such reserve was established, but without sufficient funding, in the region where Tawahka Indians reside.
Jul 25, 1991 President Callejas offered amnesty to over 300 peasant Indians who were jailed due to land dispute protests. This action was a sign of the government's attempt to redefine its human rights policies. It was seen as a response to criticism from Americas Watch and Amnesty International.
Mar 3, 1992 The Indian peasant organization, Consejo Coordinator de Organizaciones Campesinas, directed a wave of land occupations during 1992 in protest of land reforms. On March 3, it staged a protest against the agrarian reform project in Honduras, in which the group blocked highways primarily used for trade (no figures were reported on the number of Indians participating).
Mar 19, 1992 Honduras passed a bill in its Congress which ended its process of agrarian reform, begun in the early 1960s. This bill aimed at downsizing the Institute of National Agriculture (Instituto Nacional Agrario-INA). Indians protested this new legislation because they claimed that over 200,000 Indians remained homeless and landless.
Apr 20, 1992 A Chicago-based, multinational corporation, Stone Container Corporation, was denied access to the Honduran Miskito lands. The corporation attempted to start production in this region, which promised to provide 3,000 new jobs, yet also destroy 2.5 million acres of pine forest over a 40 year period. Six thousand Miskitos protested this deforestation plan in Tegucigalpa. Additionally, Rainforest Action Network campaigned for the closure of this project and aided in the mobilization of the Miskitos (Chicago Tribune, April 20, 1992).
Sep 1992 The leader of the Plan Grande Xicaque Tribe was killed and some of his family members murdered and tortured. The Federation of Xicaque Tribes of Yoro, which represents over 20,000 Xicaque Indians, reported that 18 of the tribe's leaders were murdered by government officials since the group began to organize in the late 1980s. Cultural Survival Quarterly also reported that homicide by gunshot was the most common form of death for Indian men from 20 to 40 years of age.
Jan 28, 1993 The Honduran government announced a $500 million social compensation program to offset the hardships of peasants affected by the March 1990 economic adjustment program. The program included road repair, new schools, hospitals, and health care centers. This program was aimed at indigenous regions, in addition to non-indigenous regions of Honduras.
Jun 3, 1994 The Honduran Congress passed legislation to downsize the military and to end obligatory military service. This military service was perceived by the Miskitos as a threat to their lives due to military and police tortures which they had reported.
Jul 20, 1995 The Committee of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPIN) declared a hunger strike outside presidential headquarters, demanding a rapid response by the government to their economic, social and cultural demands. Some 2,000 indigenous people, most of them from the Lenca ethnic group, reached the capital in a "pilgrimage" calling for compliance with accords previously signed with the government. Those agreements, reached during a previous such march in June 1994, authorized of property titles, roads, schools and health centers, and respect for indigenous cultures. President Reina claimed that over ninety percent of the indigenous people's demands had already been met. (Inter Press Service 7/21/95)
Dec 13, 1995 The Honduran Popular Movement for Justice organized a demonstration of an estimated 500 rural inhabitants to demand justice for minority groups and Indian communities during a summit of Central American Presidents in San Pedro Sula. The protesters shouted slogans and beat on drums as they marched toward the site of the summit, until a Honduran police sniper allegedly shot seven of the protestors. The army claimed that some of the protestors had done the shooting themselves in an effort to gain sympathy. (United Press International 12/13/95)
Mar 6, 1996 The United States Department of State Annual Report on Human Rights noted that Honduras had persistent problems with discrimination against indigenous people and "the inability of the judicial system to provide prisoners awaiting trial with swift and impartial justice," among other things. (Baltimore Sun 3/7/96)
Aug 8, 1996 Salvador Zuniga of COPIN, on national radio, accused the Salvadoran army and police of making incursions into Honduran territory and threatening, and in one case shooting at, indigenous villagers along the border. (British Broadcasting Corporation 8/10/96)
Nov 1996 The special prosecutor for ethnic minorities, Eduardo Villanueva, publicly denounced landowners whom he said were engaged in the 'mass extermination' of the Tawahka people in the departments of Olancho and Gracias a Dios. A rancher, a former judge, and two former government officials had been implicated in several murders of Tawahka protesting the seizure of some 700 areas of protected forest land. (Latin American Newsletters 11/7/96)
Dec 30, 1996 A group of gunmen invaded a meeting of Tawahka Indians and tried to force them to reveal the location of their council of elders. They refused. The Tawahkas occupied an area of 233 hectares in the center of the Mosquitia, the area with Honduras' largest tree cover, which they sought to protect as a nature preserve. With only 916 members, they also constituted the smallest indigenous group in Honduras. (Inter Press Service 1/14/97)
Mar 28, 1997 The Tawahkas formally appealed to international organizations, in particular the United Nations, to help them defend their land. In addition to the threat of the government openly selling the land on which they resided - but to which they had no legal title - the group was now being forced out of their homes by arsonists. (Deutsche Presse-Agentur 3/28/97)
Apr 13, 1997 Candido Amador, secretary general of the Honduran council for the development of indigenous ethnic groups (Cahdea), was stabbed six times and shot once in the western town of Copan Ruinas. Cahdea worked to secure deeds for the land traditionally owned by indigenous people. Indigenous groups believed large landowners were responsible for the death. (Deutsche Presse-Agentur 4/14/97)
Apr 23, 1997 Honduran authorities accused members of the Zapatista National Liberation Army - the Mexican Mayan rebel group - and Nicaraguan political groups of "infiltrating" the Chortis, who had sought their help in their struggle for land rights and improved living conditions. (The Guardian [London] 4/23/97)
Apr 27, 1997 The Confederation of Autochtonous Peoples of Honduras alleged that wealthy landowners were responsible for the murder of a Chortis activist in Copan Ruinas. (Deutsche Presse-Agentur 4/28/97)
May 1997 Jorge Manueles, a Lenka activist who was mobilizing the community of El Pelon de San Juan against encroachments from outsiders, was killed. The mostly-Lenka region of Intibuca, where Manueles was killed, was one of the poorest parts of Honduras. (Latin American Newsletters 6/10/97)
May 5, 1997 Some 2,000 Honduras Indians from the Lencas and Chortis tribes marched into Tegucigalpa to demand that authorities bring to justice the killers who murdered two Indian activists in April, threatening not to leave until the murderers had been punished. (Deutsche Presse-Agentur 5/5/97)
May 12 - 14, 1997 After a week of protesting in front of the government house against the murders of their leaders, the 2,000 - 3,000 Indians were evicted by security forces and moved to a sports arena. 108 of the protestors had begun a hunger strike to demand increased indigenous rights. In an attempt to end the protest, the government had offered to hand over 2,000 of the 20,000 hectares of land demanded by the protestors, and to conduct a census of the indigenous people of the western region of Copan, in order to grant land titles to the Chortis. The Chortis said that was not enough. The Honduran government finally resolved the standoff by granting the Chortis 4,000 hectares, less than a third of what they claimed. (Latin American Newsletters 5/13/97 & 5/20/97 and Inter Press Service 5/13/97)
Jul 17, 1997 A delegation of the Confederation of Autochtonous Peoples of Honduras (Compah) filed a suit with the International Labor Organization (ILO) in Costa Rica against the Honduran government for its failure to comply with Covenant 169, which guaranteed access for native people to opportunities for comprehensive development. Compah also announced plans to lodge a complaint against the Reina administration for its violation of a commitment to deliver 9,000 hectares of land to the Lenca and Chorti ethnic groups. The government's Agrarian Institute, claimed that the government could only grant 1,500 of the 9,000 promised hectares because of legal problems. (Inter Press Service 7/17/97)
Jul 22, 1997 Hundreds of indigenous people as well as members of other ethnic groups marched in the capital to demand that the government comply with its earlier agreements, especially the 22-point agreement President Reina signed in March. The group was upset that Reina had not distributed a promised 6,250 acres in two-and-a-half months in Western Honduras, nor found the killers of two indigenous leaders. The government said it had difficulties with landowners unwilling to sell plots. (United Press International 7/22/97)
Jul 28, 1997 Sixteen members of the Lenca and Chorti communities sought asylum in the Costa Rican embassy, claiming persecution by the government and large landowners whom they claimed had hired Guatemalan hit men to attack them. The Costa Rican government denied their application on August 4, saying their applications lacked merit. The Indians claimed they were violently removed, though the governments said they were escorted out without violence. The group moved their protest to the area in front of the National Congress, where they launched a hunger strike. (Inter Press Service 7/28/97, Xinhua News Agency 8/4/97 and Boston Globe 8/5/97)
Aug 17, 1997 Fourteen Indians of the Chorti and Lenca tribes ended a 2-week-old hunger strike over the weekend after President Carlos Roberto Reina agreed to transfer land and investigate the deaths of 42 Indian leaders over the last decade. The agreements repeated earlier presidential pledges. Officials transferred an initial 3,000 acres of the promised 25,000 in Copan and Ocotepeque on the first day, along with $60,000 in housing and agricultural aid. About 300 people remained in Tegucigalpa in support of the hunger strikers, threatening to stay until the government fulfilled the entire agreement. (Washington Times 8/19/97)
Oct 12, 1997 About 300 indigenous protestors marked the 505th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' discovery of the New World by smashing a statue of the explorer in the Honduran capital. Rally organizer Salvador Zuniga called the protest to draw attention to the fact that Columbus was responsible for the death of "70 million indigenous people and the most disgraceful plundering." The two leaders of the incident, Zuniga and Candido Martinez, were charged with vandalism and turned themselves in after three weeks in hiding. They promptly began a hunger strike demanding their release. They were threatened with up to six years in prison for the incident. (Agence France Presse 10/12/97 and Inter Press Service 11/13/97)
Apr 12, 1998 Since Jan. 1, 1998, at least ten public figures who worked with the indigenous peoples of Honduras or to eliminate government corruption had been the targets of assassination attempts. (Deutsche Presse-Agentur 4/12/98)
Jul 20, 1998 COPIN launched a trial against Christopher Columbus for genocide, slavery, and the rape of indigenous people, which began on the anniversary of the death of Chief Lempira, an indigenous leader who was betrayed and killed by the Spanish while negotiating peace and the withdrawal of the conquistadors. The trial was scheduled to end on October 12, Columbus Day. (Inter Press Service 7/20/98)
Oct 1998 Hurricane Mitch stalled over Honduras, wiping out entire communities. In addition to the death and destruction, the hurricane posed an additional threat to the Garifuna and some other indigenous tribes, who feared that the destruction of their homes would weaken their already tenuous claims to the land. (New York Newsday 3/8/99)
Oct 12, 1998 On Columbus Day, indigenous people in Honduras concluded their trial of Christopher Columbus, finding him guilty of genocide, spreading European disease, and of stealing gold, silver, spices and sacred artifacts. About 1,000 people in native dress blocked access to Mayan ruins for over a week, demanding land and a percentage of the tax revenue from Copan to be used for native associations. (Arizona Republic 10/13/98 and Inter Press Service 10/20/98)
Oct 20, 1998 Several Lenca camped outside the Vatican embassy in Honduras - and four began a hunger strike - to draw attention to their pllight and to the fact that the government had still not lived up to the promises it made the year before (see 5/12/97). In response, the Papal Nuncio announced that while he did not specifically support the indigenous claims, he felt that the government should not put off negotiations with the protestors. (Inter Press Service 10/20/98)
Nov 30, 1998 During a special night session, Congress voted to repeal Article 107 of the Constitution. This article had forbidden the sale of coastal lands to foreign interests. While it primarily affected the Garifunas, other coastal indigenous peoples were also threatened by this act. (Institute for Public Affairs 1/10/00)
Jan 25, 1999 Several hundred Indians and garifunas - led by former foreign minister Fernando Martinez - protested outside congress against a proposed constitutional amendment that they feared would deprive them of their traditional communal lands by allowing foreigners to buy coastal properties. (Latin American Newsletters 2/23/99)
May 2, 1999 The special prosecutor for ethnic rights sought arrest warrants for 10 Honduran landowners accused of killing at least 42 Indian leaders over the past 12 years in land disputes. ([Raleigh, NC] News and Observer 5/2/99)
Oct 12, 1999 A group of 5,000 indigenous and black people demonstrated outside the presidential palace on Columbus Day to block the sale of coastal land to foreigners, to gain the right to titles for their land, to secure the release of imprisoned peasant activists, and to demand the solution of about a dozen murders of indigenous people reputedly killed by landowners. Police broke up the demonstration using tear gas, batons, and rubber bullets, injuring at least six. (Inter Press Service 10/12/99)
Sep 4, 2000 Indigenous Hondurans fighting for land rights took over the Mayan ruins in Copan. They accused the government in Tegucigalpa of depriving them of land they had been promised. (Deutsche Presse-Agentur 9/4/00)

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