Labor & Workforce

Ailing divers say Honduras fails to deliver promised benefits

By Anny Castro

Puerto Lempira, Honduras, Sep 23 (EFE)- Indigenous lobster divers who developed debilitating medical conditions from venturing into deep waters without the necessary equipment or precaution say that the Honduran government has failed to fully comply with a 2021 court ruling mandating compensation.

“There is no support,” the leader of the Association of Injured Divers of Mosquitia, Erasmo Granuel, told Efe while seated in a wheelchair in the doorway of his humble wooden dwelling.

He said that more than 3,000 divers in Mosquitia, which sits on the Caribbean coast, are disabled after years of going below depths of 40 m (131 ft) in pursuit of lobster, edible snails and sea cucumbers.

Those divers “have nothing, not even a cent,” the Miskito leader said.

The majority of the 100,000-plus residents in the six municipalities making up the Mosquitia region subsist by fishing, selling lobster and snails to wholesalers for 95 lempiras ($3.85) a pound.

Thirteen months ago, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled in favor of 42 members of the Miskito community who sued Honduras over the state’s failure to regulate, supervise and oversee the practice of dangerous activities by the firms that control the deep diving lobster fishing industry.

The suit was filed in 2003 and only 10 of the original plaintiffs are still alive.

One of the survivors is Emsly Emus Rivas, 78, who has been in a wheelchair since 1984 due to injuries he suffered during an episode of decompression. He can’t afford the cost – anywhere from $142 to $304 per session – for treatment in a hyperbaric chamber.

Another, Evelito Londres, has nearly total hearing loss as a result of decompression syndrome.

Londres and Ral Balderramos, who has trouble walking, are two of the divers who have received housing and monetary compensation from the Honduran government under the August 2021 court ruling.

The lawmaker who represents the area in the Honduran congress, Erika Urtecho, is asking the government to provide the hospital in Puerto Lempira with additional hyperbaric chambers to accommodate the large number of injured divers.

The state has not done as much as it should to comply with the court ruling, Urtecho said, while adding that she is hopeful the administration of President Xiomara Castro, who took office earlier this year, “will be complying fully.”

“Those men who in their time were hurt are leaving children and wives without sustenance because they can’t return to work,” the legislator said.

“But we must not think only of those 42 (plaintiffs), the number of injured divers is much bigger and continues to grow,” Urtecho said. EFE ac/dr

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