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Illegal and Illegitimate Hydroelectric Project Reinitiated on Gualcarque River in Honduras

The Government of Honduras continues to permit and be complicit in the violation of the human rights of the Lenca People of Río Blanco and the nothern part of the Department of Intibucá, to support DESA’s second attempt to build the “Agua Zarca” hydroelectric project on the Gualcarque River – a natural heritage, cultural, economic and functional habitat of the Lenca people. This new attempt by DESA-Agua Zarca is based on the same illegal concession that violates the right to prior, free and informed consultation of the Lenca people, as well as [International Labor Organization] Convention 169, and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which declares this hydroelectric project since its inception, illegitimate and illegal.
This new attempt by DESA-Agua Zarca is based on the same illegal concession that violates the right to prior, free and informed consultation of the Lenca people, as well as [International Labor Organization] Convention 169, and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which declares this hydroelectric project since its inception, illegitimate and illegal.
 
We condemn those that support this project of death, thus making them violators of the historical, individual and collective rights of the Lenca People such as the Development Fund of the Netherlands FMO-Dutch Bank that provides financing of $15 million USD to the project; also the Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation Ltd. FINNFUND Finland for $5 million USD; the Central American Bank for Economic Integration with $24.4 million USD; Siemens and VoithHydro companies from Germany; Company of Castro (CASTILLO TORRES) Construction Cerros de Comayagua; the FICOHSA Bank; the Atala family business group, and the United States Government through USAID- Project Mercado [Market] and SERNA, which remain proponents of companies like DESA, and have refused to give information solicited by COPINH for more than 40 hydroelectric projects that affect and violate the rights of the Lenca people, including project Agua Zarca.
 
We recall that in 2010, the spurious National Congress of Honduras granted dozens of concessions for rivers throughout Honduras, which signifies the full privatization of common goods and nature. Among them, is the concession of the Gualcarque River initially granted to DESA for 20 years. We have demonstrated again and again in different ways, the barbarism and illegitimacy of this project; from the violation of national and international legislation to the forged signatures, repression and murder of several members of COPINH in this area for opposing DESA’s hydroelectric project.
 
Like in 2013, this project continues to maintain – now with much more support – a military and paramilitary structure disguised with security guards; the disposition of the National Police especially Operation Liberty [Libertad] commanded from Tegucigalpa, for which has been allocated public funds, logistics, communication, and police personnel; the Military Police; and the “TIGRES” organized, financed and trained by the United States. Not sufficing, DESA and the municipal office of San Francisco de Ojuera led by the National Party mayor, Mr. Raul Pineda, proceeded to hire 50 people activists of the National Party, employed by the municipality and the company, paying 200 lempiras a day [approximately $10 USD], plus food, and providing them with weapons – all with support from the municipality.
 
DESA and Agua Zarca have hired individuals as paramilitary guards, that are known to be responsible for crimes including assassinations, and who have constantly threatened community and national leaders, and companions of COPINH. These individuals are armed. These paramilitary guards have even been arrested for illegal possession of weapons as demonstrated in the arrest of one on December 28, 2015. Those arrested are sheltered by impunity and the influential power ofDESA and were released by a public prosecutor and judge from Intibucá, openly supported by favors and money gathered for this purpose to the head of security of DESA- PH Agua Zarca, Jorge Ávila, regardless of criminal history of murder in the case of Bernardo Perez. DESA-Agua Zarca is destroying the natural riverbed that is a sacred place for the Lenca people, destroying unique ecosystems, biodiversity, fauna, agricultural production, food and natural medicines, and forest that has been devastated by these companies.
 
Agua Zarca-DESA argues that they redesigned the project, however we want to denounce that PH Agua Zarca is set to be built with the water of the Gualcarque river that is Lenca territory, for which we have undertaken years of struggle in light of the threat of privatization.
 
Employees and ex-employees of DESA-Agua Zarca and company BLUE ENERGY have taken over and destroyed the Cangel River, that is of equal importance as the Gualcarque river and also born in the Puca Opalaca mountain range. The destruction has produced an action of disrespect and threat to the COPINH delegation that was accompanied on November 7, 2015 by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and accompanying international delegation; Special Representative Ms. Taulis Corpuz who was detained for a few minutes during her visit.
 
Like in 2013, the municipal office of Intibucá served as a front man [testaferro] for DESA-Agua Zarca, and is now the mayor of San Francisco de Ojuera, to who we made clear during his visit to the community of Río Blanco, the Lenca people’s rejection of the project to ruin the Gualcarque river, its functions and ecosystems. In this meeting, mayor Raul Pineda and his team were greeted with respect and kindness, but when indigenous representatives mobilized to San Francisco de Ojuera on November 30, 2015 to the municipal offices, we were greeted by the Municipal office, its employees and organized groups of the National party with threats, machetes, guns, accusations and racial abuse, and contempt and hatred of the women and leaders of COPINH for being indigenous and rebellious. Reaching a point of ridiculousness, they made deep trenches in the main road to prevent the passage of the buses in which we were driving, using machinery that DESA-Agua Zarca provided.
 
A permanent threat to life, physical and emotional integrity exists towards the struggling population of Río Blanco and even against solidarity efforts, accompaniers, human rights observers, journalists, and national and international activists.
 
We denounce that DESA not only aims to monopolize and destroy the Gualcarque River but now also a connected river, the Guinse river with a series of dams that affect San Francisco de Opalaca, Intibucá and Santa Bárbara.
 
We strongly reject the dirty, cynical campaign to defame and discredit COPINH’s historical struggle, that equally seeks to criminalize our organization. This campaign which attempts to separate DESAas executor of PH Agua Zarca, becomes a tool of humiliation for communities that are given ‘trophies’ like royalties and disguishing from the people, true development with sovereignty, a dignified future, and life. This is being done with the complicity of the U.S. Agency of International Development (USAID)’s Project Market [Mercado] MARKET Project, under a smokescreen of “development, employment, clean energy and social responsibility.”
 
DESA with a militaristic logic and military “intelligence”, with strategies that seek to break the will of the Lenca People; divide; and impose fear using all types of repressive strategies, seek to make the national and international public opinion believe that what is occuring is simply a “dispute” between poor people, and continues to deny the rights and existence of the Lenca People, minimizingCOPINH, by using “educated” and “respectful” words with advertisements and manipulative publicity and media campaigns to raise its profile and perpetrate their goal of obtaining millions of Lempiras in profits.
 
COPINH reaffirms its right as a Lenca organization that positions itself in favor of decolonization, peace with justice, and the fight against privatization and looting, and reaffirms its legacy of dignity and rebellion of [the indigenous hero] Lempira and its emancipatory deeds, fighting for the self-determination and sovereignty of all people.
 
COPINH calls for national and international solidarity to take action to help curb and denounce these acts and policies of aggression and strategies by companies to privatize common goods and nature, and systematically violate the rights of Lenca people.
 
We encourage you to communicate these complaints to the following:
 
FMO-Netherlands: Anna van Saksenlaan 71, 2593 HW Den Haag, Netherlands
Phone: +31 70 314 9696
 
FInnfund- Finland: FINNISH FUND FOR INDUSTRIAL COOPERATION LTD. (FINNFUND)
Uudenmaankatu 16 B P.O. Box 391 FI-00121 Helsinki, Finlandwww.finnfund.fi
tel. +358 9348434
fax +358 9 3484 3346
 
USAID Honduras: James Watson, tel. 011-504-2236-9320                           
USAID Washington, DC: Julie Ciccarone, Email: jciccarone@usaid.gov
 
Connect with COPINH:
Web:  www.copinh.org
Blog:  copinhonduras.blogspot.com
Facebook:     Copinh Intibucá
Twitter: @COPINHHONDURAS

Cross-posted from COPINH. Originally posted on Wednesday, February 24, 2016.