Help stop the Agua Zarca Dam

Photo: The Council of Canadians has participated in rallies in Toronto and Ottawa demanding justice for Berta Cáceres.

Less than two weeks after the murder of Berta Cáceres on March 3, another member of her organization has been killed. Nelson Garcia was murdered on March 15 when Honduran military police removed about 150 families from land they had occupied for the last two years. We condemn this killing and demand justice for the people of Honduras.

Justice includes stopping the construction of the Agua Zarca dam.

The New York Times explains, "The Agua Zarca Dam [would be situated on] the Gualcarque River, which is sacred to the Lenca people. ...Since 2013, Ms. Cáceres’s organization, the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras [COPINH], has protested to try to stop the dam’s construction. Under international law, indigenous groups must be consulted on projects that affect their lands, but the Lenca say they were not consulted about the dam. They maintain that the 22MW hydroelectric project, which would create a 300-meter long reservoir and divert 3 kilometers of the river, will jeopardize their water resources and their livelihood."

That article also notes, "For over a year, the organization maintained a blockade to prevent access to the site despite attempts by security officials to evict protesters. In July 2013, a Honduran soldier fatally shot Tomás García, another leader of Ms. Cáceres’s organization, during a peaceful protest. The protest prompted the Chinese company Sinohydro, which had the contract to build the dam, to withdraw from the project. The Honduran company behind the dam, Desarrollos Energéticos S.A., continued with the project, however, and Honduran business leaders took up the cause against Ms. Cáceres."

Telesur adds, "The International Finance Corporation, part of the World Bank, also withdrew from the project as a result of the mobilizations, expressing concerns over potential violations of human rights. However, other foreign bodies keep contributing to the project, including the German corporations Simens and Voith Hydro, while the Dutch development bank FMO and the Finnish government via Finnfund, deplored Caceres."

And International Rivers highlights, "Berta's murder did not happen in a vacuum: The dam builder, Desarrollos Energéticos SA (DESA), has close contacts with the Honduran military, and orchestrated a campaign of intimidation against Berta and her comrades. Three other COPINH activists have been killed for their resistance against Agua Zarca. ...These conflicts did not deter FMO and Finnfund from approving loans of $15 million and $5 million respectively for Agua Zarca in 2014. The two financial institutions have consistently defended the project in their public announcements."

On Feb. 23, less than two weeks before Berta's assassination, COPINH encouraged people to contact the following entities to demand that they withdraw their support from the dam:
- FMO-Holland: Anna van Saksenlaan 71, 2593 HW Den Haag, The Netherlands, Telephone: +31 70 314 9696
- Finnfund- Finlandia: Finnish Fund For Industrial Cooperation Ltd. (FINNFUND), Uudenmaankatu 16 B, P.O. Box 391, FI-00121 Helsinki, Finland; www.finnfund.fi; Telephone +358 9 348 434; fax +358 9 3484 3346
- USAID Honduras: James Watson, tel. 00504-236-9320; USAID Washington, DC: Julie Ciccarone, Email: jciccarone@usaid.gov

There are also numerous petition campaigns calling on the various development banks and businesses to withdraw from the project. To sign the International Rivers petition go to Justice for Berta Cáceres: Pull Out of Agua Zarca Dam! and for the Oxfam petition go to Berta's Fight: Stop the Agua Zarca Dam Project.

DESA resumed construction on the dam in the fall of 2015. The dam is reportedly about 15 per cent built at this point.

The Council of Canadians opposes the construction of the Agua Zarca Dam and calls on the Honduran government to respect the Honduran government to respect the right of the Lenca people to free, prior and informed consent. We have also signed an open letter along with more than 80 other groups calling on the Canadian government to unequivocally condemn the murder of Cáceres.

Further reading
Council of Canadians condemns the murder of Berta Cáceres (March 4, 2016)