In Honduras, fighting for the environment is a dangerous job. Two weeks after the murder of prominent activist Berta Cáceres, one of her colleagues has also become a victim of deadly violence. Nelson García, a member of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) that Cáceres founded was killed this week outside a relative’s home. In the wake of these two deaths, two European development banks headquartered in nations that believe strongly in human rights protections have finally decided to suspend funding of the Aqua Zarca hydroelectric project activists have been protesting for years.
García, 38, was reportedly shot and killed outside his mother-in-law’s home midday Tuesday, March 15. Following his murder, Netherlands Development Finance Co (FMO) issued a statement announcing its decision to “suspend all activities in Honduras, effective immediately. This means that we will not engage in new projects or commitments and that no disbursements will be made, including the Agua Zarca project.” The bank, which has already invested $15 million in the project, also said it will send a group, including its CEO and director for the Energy Sector, to Honduras in an effort to learn more about the impact of these projects on indigenous people.
The other European bank backing the project is FinnFund. Chief executive Jaakko Kangasniemi told Development Today that FinnFund will also be “suspending disbursements” to the Agua Zarca project, but the bank hasn’t announced any plans to get as directly involved with the investigation as FMO.
Although losing funding from these two European banks is likely to hinder the project’s progress, it won’t stop it in its tracks. Aqua Zarca’s primary source of funding is the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, which loaned $24.4 million to the company managing the project, Desarollos Energeticos S.A. Honduran non-government organizations have demanded clarification from the bank on its position on the project. The indigenous Lenca people have been fighting against the dam for nearly a decade because they say it will cut off river access that sustains their lives and communities.
Via Foreign Policy