CANADIAN PORN KINGS, TOURISM “DEVELOPMENT” PROJECT, REPRESSION & THE VIOLATION OF INDIGENOUS-GARIFUNA RIGHTS IN HONDURAS
By Karen Spring, Rights Action, firstname.lastname@example.org
Canadian “Porn King” Randy Jorgensen’s tourism “development” projects are stirring up conflict and destroying afro-descendant Garifuna communities in Trujillo on the north coast of Honduras.
Jorgensen, president of the Canadian pornographic video store chain Adults Only Video (http://www.aovtv.com/, email@example.com, AOV, Suite 8, 2900 Argentia Rd, Mississauga, ON L5N 7X9, Canada), through his real estate development company Life Vision Properties (based in Trujillo, Honduras, http://www.lifevisiondevelopments.com/index.html), plans to convert a beautiful coastal area of Trujillo into a large scale tourism project that includes a series of vacation home developments and a cruise ship dock, displacing and destroying indigenous Garifuna communities.
Since 2008, the local Garifuna community organization, OFRANEH (Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras) has denounced that the “Porn King” and his Life Vision Properties are illegally purchasing land belonging and titled to Garifuna communities. (Since 1998, Rights Action has supported the community development, environmental defense and human rights work of OFRANEH)
The Garifuna are an indigenous people descendants of Arawak native Americans and escaped African slaves. For years, OFRANEH and the 46 Garifuna communities on the north coast of Honduras have been battling the very same “tourist development” interests that Randy Jorgensen promotes in Trujillo (1).
Communally owned land, an essential part of Garifuna culture, rights and community well-being, is constantly under threat by interests ranging from Honduran government officials, organized crime, international “development” institutions (Inter-American Development Bank) and foreign investors (like the Porn King). All of these have used various illegal, brutal and/or manipulative means to appropriate ancestral Garifuna lands, interested in exploiting it in the name of economic “development” and tourism, despite national and international law that obligates the full recognition and respect of indigenous collective land rights.
Also disturbing to Honduran communities is Jorgensen’s sordid legal history. Canada’s Macleans magazine reported in 2001 that Jorgensen had been “accused of making X-rated films with underage girls in his vacation home in Honduras” (2).
This is very worrying, considering his home in Trujillo, located within the Life Vision project confines, neighbours an orphanage, in a country with high levels of impunity and little political will to persecute wealthy locals and foreigners for their criminal activities.
CANADIAN PORN KING PILLAGING THE CARIBEAN COAST
Jorgensen and his Life Vision Development company have plans to build a series of gated communities marketed to Canadian and US citizens between the coastal towns of Trujillo and Betulia - Alta Vista, Campa Vista, Coroz Alta and New Palm Beach - and a cruise ship port called ‘Banana Coast’ in Trujillo, which is scheduled to begin construction in March 2011(3)
Jorgensen and his associates seem to benefit from every stage of the Trujillo coast “development”: they acquire the land, construct the vacation homes, promote the project and sell properties in Canada. Life Visions buys land and sells properties. Jorgensen’s construction company, Jaguar Construction, builds the homes.
The “Banana Coast” port is owned by the Trujillo Grande Authority (GTA), a consortium between Life Vision, the Municipality of Trujillo and Global Destinations Developments, a Miami tourism promotion company. Jorgensen sits on the GTA Board of Directors (4). The GTA consortium will facilitate the expected $15 million investment needed to construct the “Banana Coast” port.
On February 6, 2011 a Honduran newspaper reported that GTA signed an agreement with the last remaining Garifuna landholders who had refused to sell their lands, giving the “green light” to start construction. The agreement was reached with the assistance of a government commission that in included Ramon Lobo, the brother of ‘de facto’ President Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo.
TOURISM & REPRESSION
Pepe Lobo ordered thousands of Honduran troops to occupy the North Coast region, which includes Trujillo, in March 2010, where corruption in the administration of justice (following the June 2009 military coup that ousted the democratically elected government of President Zelaya, and opened the way for de facto regime leader Pepe Lobo to become President) ignited land conflicts which had been in the process of resolution. Other land conflict negotiations in the region have been marked by the detention, kidnapping and torture of campesino advisors, and dozens of campesinos have been killed.
The same area where Life Vision plans to build vacation homes has been heavily militarized by Honduran regime forces since the military coup. Just 20 minutes away from one of the Porn King’s proposed project sites, five campesinos were massacred on November 15th, 2010 by private security guards of large land owner Miguel Facusse.
DISAPPEARANCE OF THE GARIFUNA COMMUNITY OF RIO NEGRO & OTHERS UNDER THREAT
The Banana Coast cruise ship port will be built in the Garifuna community Rio Negro, just footsteps away from the home of one of six Garifuna men who for years refused to sell his lands. Under many pressures as the community disappears and as their neigbour’s houses are being bulldozed to the ground, residents of Rio Negro found it difficult to hold on.
An hour down the dirt road that connects Rio Negro to Trujillo, three other communities where many Garifuna and Pech (another indigenous people) families live, is the community of Guadalupe. On the western edge of Guadalupe, Jorgensen and Life Visions have begun selling land plots for their Alta Vista project after successfully selling a reported 200 lots in 90 days to Canadian families in their Campa Vista site located on the same dirt road closer to Trujillo.
Community representatives in Guadalupe report that “the Canadians” or testaferros (Honduran nationals that act on behalf of the Canadians and buy the land in their name) regularly pass through the community and have visited various individuals asking if they want to sell their land.
To date, 141 acres within the Guadalupe land title has been acquired by Life Vision Properties for their 292-acre Alta Vista project for a total price of 150,000 lempiras or $7,500 USD. Besides being in violation of Garifuna-indigenous community rights, these are extremely low prices considering Life Development Properties are advertising and selling their 0.4 acre-size lots in Canada starting at $30,000.
“PURCHASES” OF GARIFUNA LAND IN VIOLATION INTERNATIONAL LAW
What Jorgensen and Honduran authorities ignore is that individual land plots cannot legally be purchased within Garifuna communities, or owned or rented by someone outside of the Garifuna community itself.
International law is clear that “development” projects, such as those advanced by Life Vision Properties (with the assistance of the regime put into power by a military coup), cannot be implemented without the free, prior and informed consent of the affected indigenous (Garifuna) communities. As part of this legal requirement, States are obliged to recognize indigenous communal lands.
A Garifuna authority from a directly impacted community, who forms part OFRANEH, describes the lack of consultation and information that has been given to the communities about the projects:
“We have our own traditions, customs, but they [the Canadians] aren’t respecting our traditions as an ethnic group. We, as an organization, are in a process to rescue our culture and here [in Rio Negro], there is a process of cultural destruction going on. For example, the Canadians come here and buy up a huge amount of land that is part of our communities. Sociologically, development does not come from outside, it comes from within the community, is constructed locally and from the bottom-up.”
A “NATURE PARK” RESULTING IN MORE ENVIRONMENTAL DESTRUCTION
According to OFRANEH, many of the planned “tourist development” projects will be built in the buffer zones of protected areas of the Capiro and Calentura mountains and will cause deforestation and destruction in a zone that is highly vulnerable to natural disasters (5).
Despite the environmental destruction that its tourism apparently will promote, Life Vision advertises an “ecological” side to its ‘development.’ It will build a ‘Nature Park’ that’s primary mission is the “preservation and rehabilitation of Honduras’ native fauna.” Under the banner of conservation, these projects will contribute to environmental destruction, as OFRANEH has denounced before the Ministry of Ethnics and Ministry of the Environmental, the Honduran government bodies responsible for regulating such projects(6).
OFRANEH has denounced environmental damages and deforestation that will be caused by the Alta Vista project and the illegitimacy of the environmental license issued by the Honduran Secretary for the Environment and Natural Resources, SERNA, for the Alta Vista project during the final days of de-facto leader Roberto Micheletti and his regime that took power following the military coup that ousted President Zelaya (7).
Micheletti’s regime committed various acts of brutal repression against the anti-coup social movement and pro-democracy people’s movement that formed after the coup. The Micheletti regime has also been implicated in corruption scandals, including a Wikileaks’ memo written by US Ambassador in Honduras, Hugo Llorens, for various acts of corruption, including attempting to illegally grant concessions to an Italian company interested in a hydro-electric dam project in southern Honduras.
“CHARTER CITY”: GIVING A PIECE OF HONDURAS TO FOREIGN GOVERNMENTS & COMPANIES
In the last month, the Honduran Congress, controlled by the Pepe Lobo regime (“elected” in illegitimate elections after the June 28th, 2009 military coup), approved a law that would allow the creation of “Model Cities” within Honduran territory.
The Model City project, promoted by US economist Paul Romer, would allow for 33 km-squared city to be built within Honduran territory but governed by foreign governments or investors. The city would have its own justice system, constitution and private security forces that would not be subject to Honduran laws.
All of this is a more extreme version of a “free trade zone” or “special administrative region.”
According to various Honduran newspapers and Government officials, Trujillo is considered a perfect location for a model city, from Puerto Castillo-Trujillo-Santa Fe to Betulia, the same land strip where Jorgensen and Life Vision Properties are “developing” tourism projects and displacing Garifuna communities. Some speculate Jorgensen’s cruise ship port, expected to be up and running by 2012, is an essential part of the proposed Model City government officials are proposing for Trujillo.
Many Honduran activists and grassroots organizations have denounced the Model City proposal calling it a form of neo-colonialism, comparing it to Henry Ford’s failed Fordlandia in Brazil, also questioning that the project may be a money-laundering scheme. Newspaper reports claim that unknown investors from the Cayman Islands have shown interest in the project. The Cayman Islands are infamous for secretive banking procedures that hide the identities and sources of income for individuals and corporations. Recently Wikileaks was given documents from Cayman Island banks that it has promised to expose in the coming months.
The connection between the Canadian real estate development interests and those promoting the Model City is not clear, though both seem to share intensions for the land located between Trujillo and Betulia on the north coast.
Unfortunately, Model Cities, Porn King Randy Jorgensen and Canadian property development projects, or all of the above, present the same threat to the Garifuna and campesinos communities living on the project site and near Trujillo. The projects bring displacement and illegal appropriation of Garifuna land essential for their survival, … in the name of “development”.
(Karen Spring works for Rights Action (www.rightsaction.org) and lives in Honduras. firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to re-publish this article, citing author and source.)
Translation of Article from Honduran newspaper, La Prensa.
"PORN KING", DEVELOPER OF PROJECTS IN TRUJILLO
[Translation for Rights Action by Rosalind Gill, RGill@glendon.yorku.ca]
In Canada, Randy Jorgensen is a leader in the pornography industry. In Honduras, he is CEO of the company that will build a new cruise ship terminal.
Until recently, Trujillo was the lost paradise of Honduras, a uniquely beautiful city waiting to be discovered by the outside world. Today, at last, Trujillo's dream has come true - a cruise ship terminal will be built in the city, allowing people from all over the world to experience the unforgettable beauty of the place. As well, there are plans for four housing projects that will allow tourists to own a quality house in Trujillo and come back to this paradise every year.
After years of being forgotten, suffering from the indifference of governments that never did anything to develop the area, Trujillo is becoming a mega-project centre. Looking at this promising situation, you can only hope that no "villains" appear on the scene, but unfortunately, a few first class villains have indeed turned up.
And Randy is our number one villain.
In fact, all the mega-projects in Trujillo are being developed by Randy Jorgensen.
The Grand Trujillo Authority Consortium is developing the Banana Coast Cruise Ship Terminal in the Río Negro neighbourhood; and the four housing projects for Canadian and American tourists are being developed by the Life Vision Properties Company.
In Honduras, Randy Jorgensen is known as CEO of both these companies, which are backed by Fast Track Capital, a Canadian investment group. But there is a lot more to Randy's story than that of the typical successful investor looking for new ways to make money in exotic countries.
Miriam Miranda, Director of OFRANEH (Honduran Black People's Fraternal Organization) provided us with some details about Jorgensen's life: "He is known as the "King of Porn", and has even had problems with the law. Here in Honduras, authorities have allowed him to go ahead and harm protected areas. We have been denouncing this for some time now but nobody has done anything because the only thing that counts here is money," said Miranda.
FOUNDER OF AOV (Adult Only Video)
There are innumerable web pages, mostly in English, that provide details on Jorgensen's activities. Randy Jorgensen was born in Canada, a country where he is known as the "King of Porn". He is the founder of Adult Only Video (AOV), Canada's biggest pornography retail chain.
"The only problem I have had in Honduras was with an ex-employee who was caught stealing and tried to make accusations against me to avoid facing charges but they turned out to be false allegations and she had no proof to present to the Court."
OFRANEH, a Garífuna organization, tried to accuse me of buying land illegally, but the case was not deemed valid by the Public Ministry," said Randy, who agreed to talk to the newspaper, LA PRENSA.
Sonia Parra revealed in the International Press Service that the Capiro and Calentura protected areas were at risk because of the housing projects being developed by Randy. As well, other serious matters concerning Jorgensen's activities have been raised.
On January 26, 2011, the bank holding his company's funds informed him that all his accounts would be closed and he was given limited time to withdraw his capital. "This cannot be because of money-laundering or drug-trafficking, because if that were the case, my funds would have frozen. All the letter says is that the law allows them to close an account if they see fit", said the Canadian businessman.
SUPPORT FOR JORGENSEN'S PROJECTS
Final approval for the cruise port was given at the time when the country was experiencing political turmoil. Luis Alonso López was Mayor in the former municipal administration of Trujillo. On December 10, 2009, this administration declared that the cruise port was a necessary public utility for Río Negro. Final authorization for the project was granted just five days before Porfirio Lobo became President. The official announcement was published in the January 22, 2010 of La Gaceta (official Government publication).
This edition of La Gaceta provoked a controversy known as the "Gacetazo", because on that day, two versions of the bulletin were printed, only one of which included the decree authorizing the highly disputed concession for the Nacome dam.
The environmental permit for the construction of the Alta Vista Beach project, a tourist housing development, was granted on January 25, two days before the termination of the former Government.
The Life Vision Properties blog states that President Porfirio Lobo invited Jorgensen to meet him at the Christopher Columbus Hotel in Trujillo on November 27, 2010. The meeting was attended by a number of civil servants, including Ramón Lobo, the President's brother and advisor.
According to the company blog, details of Randy's tourist projects were discussed at the meeting. In the end, Lobo instructed his ministers and José Laínez, the Mayor of Trujillo, to do their best to ensure that the projects be implemented as quickly as possible.
OPINIONS OF COMMUNITY MEMBERS
After a life of economic difficulty, unemployment, low opportunity and urban stagnation, inhabitants of Trujillo are not really interested in the identity of those who will carry out the development projects. The only thing they are concerned about is that the development does go ahead. These programmes bring hope for improvement in their quality of life - a change this humble city has long awaited.
However, some people, like Miriam Miranda, cannot understand why the future of Trujillo's tourism would be put in the hands of a porn industry magnate.
DETAILS OF THE AGREEMENT
According to Randy Jorgensen, the profit share is fair and everything was carried out according to the law. "Our investment group receives 50% of profit, the Municipality of Trujillo receives 20%, community members of Río Negro will receive 10% and the remaining 20% will be available for possible new investors", said the Canadian. Jorgensen also said that they expect the land part of the project to be ready by 2012, while the maritime part will take 18 months.
Randy revealed that he has received bids from three companies for the construction and supervision of the terminal. The companies are not from Trujillo because the area cannot offer services at that level.
Jorgensen also said that the investment group he represents did not choose Trujillo by chance - the decision was based on tourist studies carried out by the Honduran government several years ago. He pointed out that the city should prepare itself for the big change that is coming. For Jorgensen, a highlight of the contract is the possibility that in 20 years, the Municipality will have the opportunity to buy the rights that belong to Canadian investors at this point.
Protests or no protests, on March 11, ground will be broken to begin construction on the cruise Terminal. President Lobo is expected to attend the event.
"My company did not produce or make the films, we just sold them."
Some people in Honduras are scandalized by him while others see him as a model of a visionary business man, but no one is indifferent to him. Randy Jorgensen founded Adult Only Video (AOV) in Saskatoon, Canada, a country where the porn industry is legal.
"The company is a chain of retail stores, not a production or film company. From 1980 to 1990, I worked with several provincial and federal film boards in Canada to create viable standards for the adult video industry, so that an illegal market would not develop," said Randy.
In only seven years, his retail business went from being a small local store to a business with 500 employees, according to the Canadian magazine, MacLean's. "MacLean's did a report on me and my company in 1993. It was they who gave me the name "King of Porn". The article was very favourable and gave a positive evaluation of my work to create fair standards to ensure that the industry remains regulated and legal", said Jorgensen.
According to business magazines, the porn business is so profitable that it remained stable, even during the recession. "The name "King of Porn" does not bother me, what does bother me is when they base their opinion on rumours or half-truths", said the Canadian.
Because of the growth of pornography in Canadian culture, Canadian authorities have had to keep revising and modifying laws governing videos and explicit content material and they have had difficulty defining with precision the different situations that can arise in these productions. There is no way of counting the number of users of pornography but the profits are an indicator of the money that can be made with this type of material.
Finally, Randy spoke of his wishes for Honduras. "This is one of the poorest countries in the Western hemisphere and it has a high level of illiteracy. Tourism is the fastest way to fight these problems. I would like to see the introduction of a general education system and the creation of an economy that will give the youth of Honduras a fair chance at life so that they will not have to leave Honduras to improve their lot. For the past four years, I have worked to make the Trujillo Bay project a reality", said Jorgensen.