HONDURAN COUP AUTHORS POISED TO PILLAGE INDIGENOUS TERRITORY AND NATIONAL ENERGY COMPANY
by Annie Bird, Rights Action co-director, October 13, 2010
Honduran indigenous communities resist illegal concession of rivers for dams while the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) violates its charter and international law in supporting the projects
FORTY ONE DAM CONCESSIONS THREATEN INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES
On the “Day of Indigenous Resistance”, indigenous communities across Honduras demanded respect for their fundamental rights, affirming the government’s obligation to obtain their free, prior and informed consent when implementing projects that affect their communities.
Honduran communities and many nations in the Hemisphere do not recognize the legitimacy of the current government, imposed following the June 28, 2009 military coup and then the November 27, 2009 illegitimate election.
Despite the precarious situation of the Honduras regime and state, in international law, on September 2nd and 3rd laws were passed that conceded use Honduran rivers to private corporations for the construction of 41 hydroelectric dams.
Many of these dams would affect indigenous communities. While none of these communities have been consulted, as international law prescribes, many communities, both indigenous and not, have declared their express opposition to the projects in community assemblies, the maximum traditional indigenous authority, and in municipal referendums.
THE CALL TO THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES AND BLACKS
The complete disregard for indigenous rights by the military coup authors was demonstrated earlier this year by the Honduran National Council of Private Enterprise (COHEP) in its call on the ‘de facto’ regime to withdraw from the International Labor Organization’s Covenant 169, a key instrument in initially establishing a framework for the recognition of indigenous rights.
Indigenous peoples from across Honduras met on October 3 in Garifuna territory to articulate a response to the assault to which they are being subjected, and convoked a national Constituent Assembly of Indigenous Peoples and Blacks. Protection of national resources and the full recognition of the territorial rights of indigenous people are issues at the heart of the call to draft a new constitution for Honduras.
Protection of national resources is also what is most feared by transnational corporate interests and what has generated the tremendous and persistent mainstream media distortion of the reasons for the call for a new constitution and the motives behind the coup, focusing on the red herring of changes in term limit restriction.
As recently as October 7, even the Huffington Post ran an article by a Council on Foreign Relations fellow focused on the change in term limits. The current and sixteenth constitution was adopted in 1982 during a military dictatorship.
IDB VIOLATES LAW; CO-16 FINANCING FOR METHANE GENERATING LARGE DAMS
The Inter-american Development Bank (IDB), in violation of its own Charter, has resumed funding in Honduras despite Honduras’ ongoing suspension from the Organization of American States. To compound its violation of international law, the IDB has approved funding for a technical assistance grant to undertake initial project feasibility studies for the Gualcarque and Mixure dams, both in Lenca territory and both having been expressly rejected on multiple occasions in both community assemblies and municipal referendums.
The ‘de facto’ regime is planning to make use of funds obtained through financial mechanisms established by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change for construction of three large dams on the Patuca River despite studies that demonstrate that large dam reservoirs, especially in tropical regions, emit significant methane emissions.
WORLD BANK HELPS COUP AUTHORS PILLAGE THE ENERGY COMPANY
The push for the construction of dams is occurring as the World Bank and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration fund programs oriented toward the privatization of the Honduras National Electrical Energy Company, ENEE. Though national energy companies across the region had been privatized through similar World Bank promoted programs, Hondurans had strongly defended their national energy company and small consumers received energy for a fraction of the cost as in privatized neighboring countries.
A process of segmenting sectors of ENEE began in 1999. The meter reading services were contracted out to a Honduran financial services corporation owned by Arturo Corrales, currently the de facto Minister of Planning and International Cooperation. Corrales was a key actor in the military coup.
Privatization of the national energy and telephone companies seem to be high on the agenda of the coup government. General Romeo Vasquez Velasquez, the military officer who carried out the coup, was named head of the national telephone company, and talk of privatization has already begun. Washington lobbyist and former State Department official Otto Reich, who was a key voice justifying the coup in Honduras, has worked extensively with telephone and energy corporations.
ENEE’s labor union protested on October 6, demanding that the privatization process be stopped and the already privatized sectors of the energy company be nationalized. In August ENEE’s union denounced in a press conference that the de facto administration was not enforcing payment for electricity and thus not paying thermal generators money owed in an effort to bankrupt the company as a pretext to allow financial corporations to take it over and privatize it.
Ousted President Manuel Zelaya had rigorously enforced payment of massive outstanding debts by large consumers, restoring financial viability to the State corporation and providing sufficient funds to finance subsidies for low income, small consumers. Though this generated widespread popular support, corporations that consumed large quantities of energy were angered. It was denounced by the Union that during the coup the ENEE headquarters were occupied and millions of dollars in debt were erased from the system.
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HOW TO SUPPORT HONDURAS’ PRO-DEMOCRACY, ANTI-MILITARY COUP REGIME MOVEMENT
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