Miriam Miranda Chamorrois the executive director of Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña/The Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH), an organization committed to protecting the civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights and interests of some 47 different Garífuna communities and protecting their land, territory and natural resources against exploitation.
The Garífuna are a mixed Afro-descendent and indigenous Carib and Arawak Indian population who have lived on the Pacific Coast of Honduras for around 200 years. The community has faced external threats to their land and resources for decades. However, these threats have intensified since the 2009 coup in Honduras, when the new government enacted legislation seeking to encourage extractive industrial investment in the country. The Garífuna are fighting various encroachments on their land due to transnational corporate resource exploitation, state infrastructure projects and tourism developments, as well as the negative impacts of drug trafficking across their territory. The community survives despite facing considerable discrimination, lack of access to education and healthcare and a continuing battle to overcome entrenched poverty.
Those engaged in activism on behalf of the Garífuna do so at great personal risk and find themselves constantly exposed to threats, harassment and violence from private and state actors. In 2011 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ordered that Honduras should establish precautionary measures to allow Miranda to continue her work unencumbered. Despite this order, she was abducted by an armed group in 2014 while working on Garífuna land in Vallecito, in the region of Colón. Fortunately, she was quickly released, although she continues to face risks as she carries out her work.
The Garífuna are also involved in human rights litigation to assert their land rights. In 2013 the Inter-American Commission submitted a case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights about the failure of the state to properly title Garífuna territory, arguing that this failure frustrates the community’s enjoyment of their land rights (The Case of the Garifuna Community of Triunfo de la Cruz vs. Honduras). The decision in this matter is still pending.
OFRANEH was a joint recipient of the 2015 Food Sovereignty Award awarded by the US Food Sovereignty Alliance.