From April 2 to April 3 hundreds of indigenous Chortí blocked access to Copán archeological park, probably Honduras’ most important ancient Mayan site, to press demands for land. Tourism minister Ricardo Martínez said the protesters agreed to leave after the government offered to start negotiations on April 15. An estimated 400 European and US tourists visit Copán a day, each paying a $15 entrance fee.
The Chortí are demanding that the government grant them 14,700 hectares for cultivation in Copán and Ocotepeque departments, bordering Guatemala in western Honduras. In the past 12 years they have received about one third of the territory they are asking for. Maya Chortí National Council spokesperson Cristóbal Pineda said the Chortí were tired of waiting and were ready “to act…so that [the government] won’t go on deceiving us.” The government has signed a number of accords with the Chortí since 1995; the most recent, in May 2008, promised $1 million for land that year, of which only $800,000 has been paid out. The Chortí have carried out similar occupations five times since 1997.
There are seven indigenous peoples in Honduras, with a total of about 400,000 members living in 100 communities. The Chortí account for 52 of these communities. (El Universal, Mexico, April 5 from AP)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 5