Text: Marcia Perdomo
Editing: Emy Padilla
Photographs: Fernando Destephen
Videos: Jorge Burgos
Graphics: Guillermo Burgos
Tegucigalpa - A new year, a new caravan made up of more than 7 thousand Hondurans who left the country in mid-January suffocated by corruption and poverty, while international cooperation and financing agencies inject millionaire sums of dollars into private capital extractivist projects that create socio-environmental conflicts in communities in this Central American country.
After the coup in 2009, the doors were opened to the concession of water resources through the General Water Law and with it the approval of a series of renewable energy contracts whose "innocuous" nature is reserved only on paper for those that were drawn up but that have resulted in the criminalization of the communities that depend on and defend these rivers.
One of these conceived schemes is the Jilamito Hydroelectric Project, located in the municipality of Arizona, in the department of Atlántida in northern Honduras, a region rich in biodiversity that has three national parks, two wildlife refuges and a botanical garden. In fact, the Jilamito hydroelectric plant is located within the buffer zone of the Texiguat Wildlife Reserve and the Jilamito River micro-basin, which was declared in 1997 under Agreement CH-004-97.
With a population of 24,819 inhabitants according to estimates made by the National Institute of Statistics in 2018 - Arizona is threatened, its residents denounce, by the interests of businessmen, the State and international financial institutions. According to the inhabitants of the municipality, the political sector has distributed its rivers to businessmen who with international financing threaten their right of access to water.
The department of Atlántida is not a stranger to distributions that obey foreign corporate interests. At the beginning of the last century, specifically in 1912, the State of Honduras ceded said territory for the cultivation of bananas, displacing indigenous peoples. In fact, the name of the Arizona municipality corresponds to the designation given by the North Americans who administered the banana fields and who used to refer to them with the names of the states of the North American country.
WHO FINANCES THE JILAMITO HYDROELECTRIC PROJECT?
At the beginning of December 2020, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) through its business promotion branch IDB Invest [known until 2017 as the Inter-American Investment Corporation] announced that it will finance the construction of the Jilamito hydroelectric project in Honduras through US$ 20.25 million dollar loan.
The IDB assured that this financing reaffirms IDB Group's commitment to the economic development of Honduras and that it was part of an investment package to support the country in facing the crisis triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic and the damage caused by hurricanes Eta and Iota. How the project will help tackle the crisis triggered by the pandemic and natural phenomena is unclear.
The IDB also fails to mention in the information disseminated through its web portal that the organized communities of the municipality of Arizona, Atlántida, oppose the project and have declared the territory free of extractivism or that in mid-March 2020 they condemned the visit of the consultants of the international financial organization, whom they accused of serving as intermediaries of the interests of extractive companies and projects that were harmful to their lives and their environments.
Added to the IDB loan is financing from the United States International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), for US$ 35,750 million. This loan would be part of a financing for US$ 1 billion in investments for the private sector over a period of three years in Honduras, announced on July 21, 2020 by the executive director of the DFC, Adam Boehler.
Boehler affirmed during the announcement of this financing [$1 billion] that it complements a memorandum of understanding signed that same day between the governments of the United States and Honduras to establish a framework for bilateral cooperation in support of the America Crece initiative.
In his speech Boehler said that "the DFC is proud to support the Honduran people during this time of need throughout the world." Furthermore, he added, “We appreciate the commitment of the Government of Honduras to improve the business climate to facilitate investment and we look forward to advancing our common goals through collaboration with the private sector. Public-private partnerships are fundamental to the strength of Honduras as a country and to the goals of América Crece.”
The DFC, formerly known as the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), was renamed during the administration of US President Donald Trump. With the new name, it was accompanied by the initiative Growth in the Americas or América Crece, which according to the State Department aims to “create an environment conducive to private sector investment in energy and infrastructure that is transparent, competitive and consistent with the best international practices.”
América Crece has critics, who see in it a new Plan Puebla Panama, with all the arbitrariness that led to the defense for the land. At the beginning of October 2020, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) published the article América Crece: Washington's new investment push in Latin America, in which it states that this initiative aims to counteract China's investment in the region; however, they warn that it lacks transparency when it comes to disclosing details about which projects are receiving financing.
In the case of Honduras, the exact amount of DFC investment in the Jilamito Hydroelectric Project is known from the information provided by the IDB on its website.
WHY FINANCE CONFLICT GENERATING PROJECTS UNDER A VEIL OF COOPERATION AND DEVELOPMENT?
To understand the interests behind extractivist