January 16, 2019
Initially translated by ENCA member Rick Blower and adapted by Martin Mowforth.
Numerous entries in ‘The Violence of Development’ book and website have been critical of transnational corporations (TNCs) for their tactics of violence deployed against local people and communities who protest against the corporation’s ‘development’ being imposed upon them. These tactics can take the form of threats of violence, intimidation, criminalisation, defamation and even assassination. At times when we try to point out the use of such tactics by western corporations, we are accused of being extreme by people who cannot believe that western companies would be so blatantly immoral, illegal and criminal.
This particular article illustrates another tactic used by TNCs to create conflict and discord among local populations. It is essentially a case of ‘divide and rule’.
Key words: hydro-electric power plant; yellow jackets; local protest; poverty.
In 2015 the Honduran National Congress approved more than a dozen energy projects, including the Petacón River Hydro-electric Project. The approval took no account of the ability of the state to purchase the energy from the producing companies. In the case of the Petacón project, the company involved is PROGELSA (Promotora de Energia Limpia) which was awarded a 50 year lease on the project. At present the project is semi-paralysed due to protests by the local Lenca residents of the community of Reitoca.
The contract with the company stipulates that the project has to respect and maintain a regular flow of water in the original course of the river, but local people say that the river has already been deviated from its course when the company started to build. They claim that this has already affected their environment and their health.
On Wednesday 16th January 2019 a group of inhabitants from the community of Muluaca in the municipality of Lepaterique (in the Honduran department of Francisco Morazán) arrived in Reitoca (also in the department of Francisco Morazán) where the local Lenca people control the territory and have halted the construction of the hydroelectric project on the River Petacón.
The aim of the inhabitants of Lepaterique was to displace the inhabitants of Reitoca who are resisting the hydroelectric company in its attempts to build their project on the River Petacón.
It was evident that the inhabitants of Lepaterique were being backed by the company PROGELSA, since they were in possession of many supplies and all of them were dressed wearing ‘yellow jackets’ with ‘messages of peace’, the organisation of Madre Tierra [see notes below] pointed out in a communiqué.
Madre Tierra declared that it sees the tactics used by PROGELSA with sadness and as a display of cowardice. These tactics use conditions of poverty in which the community of Lepaterique live, to confront them against the peoples of Reitoca, brother against brother; whilst those who benefit from the conflict will always be the companies.
This attempt to divide and rule has failed, for now; but there are reports [from El Portal, 29 April 2019] of the Honduran National Police firing on some of the 300 protestors from Reitoca, injuring one, in a more recent incident. Both the police and military forces have been trying to dislodge the protestors.
- A related note: The Movimiento Madre Tierra (MMT) in Honduras is directed by Dr Juan Almendares, a well-known environmentalist and human rights advocate. The MMT is the official Honduran branch of Friends of the Earth International and supports the people of Reitoca as an heroic people’s stand against the privatisation of water.
- For more on MMT, see https://www.facebook.com/madretierrahn/ A 2010 interview with Dr Almendares was conducted by Martin Mowforth and appears in this website at: https://theviolenceofdevelopment.com/dr-juan-almendares/