Honduras: Rio Blanco communities take action to defend rivers, territory, and life


At 5am on the first of April, the indigenous communities of Rio Blanco, Honduras, with coordination of COPINH (Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras), gathered on the main access road leading to the proposed “Agua Zarca” hydroelectric dam, blocking access to the construction that has already begun. On the second of April they issued an ultimatum to the company, demanding the immediate removal of construction equipment and permanent abandonment of the project.

The communities of Rio Blanco, as well as many communities down stream of the river Qualcarque, were not adequately consulted nor allowed to participate in the process leading to the project, as is international law. Only the mayor of the municipality and some well-compensated individuals of lesser affected communities ratified the project. The right of indigenous peoples to determine their own process of development is guaranteed by ILO convention 169. The construction and completion of this dam will cause widespread environmental destruction, flooding inhabited and utilized areas, restricting the access of water to many thousands of people in Rio Blanco and downstream, cause the degradation of pristine natural areas, produce huge quantities of greenhouse gases through the decomposition of submerged biomass, and cause water and land contamination as a result of the construction. Simply put, this dam is a death sentence to the indigenous communities that have lived here for generations.

This type of so called “green development” has been greatly accelerated after the 09′ coup, where ex-president Zelaya was disposed by the military and elite classes largely as a result of his proposed social and land reforms that favored landless and marginalized communities. Since the coup, the flood gates have opened to transnational and neo-liberal exploitation of natural resources (there have been around 360 development concessions, 30% of which are on indigenous lands). Within this neo-liberal framework, dam projects secure a dual purpose. SIEPAC (Central American Electrical Interconnection System)–part of the Mesoamerica Project (previously called Plan Pueblo-Panama)–connects the electrical grids of all Mesoamerica allowing cheap energy to be transported to the energy hungry USA. In addition, dams are necessary to redirect the enormous quantity of water needed for mining operations. For these reasons resistance to the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam (and dam projects in general) is extremely important because they open the door to exponentially worse environmental degradation and exploitation of indigenous cultures.

The amount of danger the communities of Rio Blanco face can not be understated. For example, the land reclamation action 3 years ago in Bajo Aguan has seen the murder of over 100 participants and counting. International solidarity plays an extremely important role in defending the human rights of those in defense of mother earth and indigenous culture. In addition to any form of solidarity action imaginable, the communities of Rio Blanco and COPINH are asking for email and twitter denouncements addressed to President Pepe “Lobo” (Twitter, facebook), Presedente de congreso national, minstro de serna and (INA) National Agocia Intitute.

Sample denouncement in Spanish
Exijo que respeten el derechos de los pueble indígenas Lencas del Sector Norte de Intibucá afiliados al COPINH que están en defensa de los bienes naturales y en contra de la represa agua zarca que afecta los comunidades y exijo la pronta abandono y salida de toda la maquinaria de las empresas Desa y Sinohiolro que son violentado el convenio 169.

Official statement (English and Spanish)

For more information

Additional Spanish article