“En toda América Latina hay resistencia contra las represas” – Gustavo Castro, ecologista

Activista señala que desarrollo continuo de megaproyectos hidroeléctricos agrava el cambio climático.

Por Vinicio Chacón, Semanario Universidad (Costa Rica) | vinicio.chacon@ucr.ac.cr

Sep 21, 2016

Palabras claves: Berta Cáceres; COPINH; criminalización; hidroelectricidad; cambio climático; Protocolo de Kioto; tratados de libre comercio.

El ecologista mexicano Gustavo Castro ganó notoriedad por ser el único testigo del asesinato de la líder indígena y ambientalista hondureña Berta Cáceres, el pasado 2 de marzo [2016].

Castro es dirigente de la organización Otros Mundos – Amigos de la Tierra y con calma pero con contundencia abordó el asesinato y la increíble manipulación del caso que hizo el sistema judicial hondureño, buscando inculpar a activistas del Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (COPINH).

Desde esa organización, Cáceres lideró la lucha del pueblo indígena lenca contra el proyecto hidroeléctrico (PH) Agua Zarca, de la empresa desarrollos Energéticos S.A. (DESA).

De vista en Costa Rica para participar en el II Congreso Latinoamericano sobre Conflictos Ambientales (COLCA), Gustavo Castro conversó con UNIVERSIDAD en una entrevista coordinada a través de la Federación Conservacionista de Costa Rica (FECON).

¿Cómo despertó su conciencia ecologista?

-Fue un proceso de muchos años de pasar en la participación en cooperativas, trabajé mucho tiempo con refugiados guatemaltecos que habían venido de la guerra. El salto a la lucha ambiental se da en la década de los 90, cuando empiezan a llegar al país muchos proyectos de inversión después del Tratado de Libre Comercio de América del Norte (ALCA), favoreciendo obviamente a las transnacionales y al saqueo del país.

-Eran de la nación el petróleo, el gas, el uso del agua, la electricidad, etc. No es que no habían conflictos, pero cuando pasan a manos de las corporaciones, exigen todavía más condiciones favorables de inversión. Empiezan a modificarse la ley de Aguas y la ley Minera para entregar a las grandes empresas mineras la explotación del oro, de la plata, de minerales estratégicos del país; ahora con la reforma energética, también el petróleo y el gas. Esto de alguna manera empieza a impactar cada vez más el medio ambiente, ahí empieza una lucha con mayor fuerza en torno a la defensa de los territorios; pero también cuando empezamos a ver la deforestación que causa la infraestructura para favorecer las inversiones, no solamente en mi caso, sino también en comunidades campesinas e indígenas empieza a haber una consciencia más grande sobre el impacto ambiental.

¿Cuándo se empiezan a dar los contactos con el COPINH y Berta Cáceres?

-A Berta la conocí en 1999, cuando empezamos a convocar muchos procesos de resistencia, entre ellos la creación de la Convergencia de Movimientos de los Pueblos de las Américas, el Encuentro Hemisférico Contra la Militarización, o el encuentro contra el Plan Puebla Panamá. Organizábamos todos esos encuentros en Chiapas; después los replicábamos en Honduras. Se hizo toda una relación en torno a los procesos de resistencia en los que participábamos no solamente nosotros y el COPINH, sino toda la región en Mesoamérica. Había mucha afinidad en el proceso de construcción del movimiento con Berta y el COPINH desde hace más de quince años.

¿Cuál es la lección más importante que se puede extraer de la historia de Berta Cáceres?

-Se me hace muy difícil decir una sola cosa, porque era una persona muy compleja, en el sentido de que era muy rica, una persona muy coherente que tenía la capacidad de análisis estructural; también podía tener una interlocución muy fuerte tanto con académicos como con congresistas, y al mismo tiempo estaba en la movilización con la gente.

-Fue sumamente respetuosa y muy tenaz, era una mujer muy valiente, siempre estaba al frente de todas las manifestaciones del COPINH. Berta fue muy coherente en su análisis, su discurso y su actitud con los pueblos y con el movimiento.

-Con el asesinato de Berta, su personalidad renace en todos lados. Como decimos, Berta no murió, se multiplicó, su presencia es muy fuerte.

-Fue una persona muy feliz, era muy optimista pese a todas las adversidades, ya que recibió muchas amenazas e intentos de asesinato.

Luego de perpetrado el asesinato y de que los sicarios le dieran a usted por muerto también, ¿qué actitud tuvieron las autoridades?

-Creo que lo primero que sorprende es que hubiera un testigo, que no esperaban. Llegué un día antes a La Esperanza (donde vivía Cáceres), entonces creo que nadie más que el COPINH y Berta sabía que yo iba a estar ahí. Me parece que pretendían que fuese un asesinato limpio, donde ella estaría sola en su casa. Cuando se dan cuenta de que hay un testigo, tienen que modificar el escenario y empezar a inventar ya la forma cómo criminalizar al mismo COPINH. No lo logran, entonces buscan cómo criminalizarme a mí.

-No pudieron presentarle a la familia, al COPINH y tampoco a la comunidad nacional e internacional una versión creíble, cuando había tantos antecedentes y estaba tan claro el origen del problema.

-Es por ello que de alguna manera intentan retenerme de manera ilegal en el país para buscar la forma en cómo imputarme. Al final a los que acaban sacrificando es al gerente de la empresa, al ejército y a los sicarios. Sabemos que no son los únicos que están involucrados.

-El trato que me daban era como de una ficha, como de objeto de prueba, violando mis derechos humanos pero también muchos procedimientos judiciales. Todo el mundo sabe porque en la prensa salió cómo se alteró la escena del crimen. En todos esos primeros días hubo muchísimas irregularidades en el proceso de investigación.

Incluso cuando hace el retrato hablado, el artista dibuja a otra persona.

-Yo no sabía que mientras estaba en el Ministerio Público, habían detenido a un miembro del COPINH a quien intentaban culpar. Efectivamente, mientras yo estaba sin dormir, herido y con toda esa tensión, me traen a la persona que hace el retrato hablado. Yo le decía que así no era, lo borraba y volvía a dibujar lo mismo.

-Me dijeron en varias ocasiones que me podía ir. Yo obviamente estaba dispuesto a ayudar en todas las diligencias, aunque me tuvieran sin comer, sin dormir, sin una frazada si quiera; de cualquier manera yo iba apoyando, dejé mi ropa ensangrentada. Una forma como intentaron imputarme es que me robaron la maleta, que dejé en la casa de Berta, había obviamente la posibilidad de sembrar cualquier cosa que me pudiera inculpar – hasta la fecha no me la han entregado.

-No hicieron ninguna cadena de custodia aunque yo lo reclamé ante a fiscal, el Ministerio Público, la abogada de la Comisión de Derechos Humanos de Honduras, todo el mundo es testigo de que pedía copia de mi declaración ministerial y no me la daban – la copia de mi declaración ante la juez, y no me la daban; pedía que me regresaran mi maleta, igual. Era un cinismo de violación total al Código Procesal, al Código Penal, a los derechos humanos.

-Incluso no había una formalidad en el reconocimiento de las caras. Me pusieron al principio fotografías y videos del COPINH para que dijera si ahí estaba el culpable del asesinato.

-Se dan muchas irregularidades en este proceso y por ello el gobierno decreta que todas esas diligencias ministeriales se mantienen en secreto.

-En el caso del secuestro de Estado en el aeropuerto, me regresan otra vez a que hiciera más careos. Luego estuve en la casa del Embajador de México un mes, hasta el último día, sin que me dieran ninguna explicación de para qué me querían, sin que me entregaran incluso copia de la resolución de la juez donde decretaba mi prohibición de salir del país, y ante la insistencia de la abogada ante tal anomalía jurídica, tal ilegalidad, la juez suspende a mi abogada de su ejercicio profesional.

Posteriormente las autoridades relacionaron a funcionarios de la empresa DESA  y de la institucionalidad militar con el asesinato, pero usted ha dicho que va más allá?

-No lo digo yo, lo dice la prensa, lo dice COPINH, lo dice la familia, incluso hubo un atentado contra un periodista que explicó muchas de las relaciones y vinculaciones de jueces y de políticos en el problema.

Ha afirmado que considerar la energía hidroeléctrica como limpia es una “estúpida idea”, lo cual es un gancho directo a la quijada del orgullo costarricense de producir energía de esa manera.

-No solamente en Costa Rica, sino en toda América Latina, que por décadas asoció siempre las hidroeléctricas con el  desarrollo limpio.

-Si en Costa Rica no lo saben, que sepan que hay una resistencia impresionante en toda América Latina, de cantidad de pueblos que han sido desplazados y asesinados, que no ha habido una experiencia de reubicación adecuada ni tampoco de indemnización. Incluso la misma Comisión Mundial de Represas que financió el Banco Mundial, en el 2000 sacó un informe donde dicen que el 60% de las cuencas del planeta han sido represadas, que el 30% de los peces de agua dulce se han extinguido por causa de las presas que generan el 5% de los gases de efecto invernadero, que se han construido más de 50.000 grandes represas en el mundo, que los países quedaron sumamente endeudados con el Banco Mundial, que el 30%  de las represas en el mundo no han generado la energía que debían generar, que desplazaron a 80 millones de personas en todo el mundo inundando pueblos y ciudad. Eso lo dice toda la evidencia en el mundo y en toda América Latina, en Chile, en Argentina, en Colombia, en Uruguay, en Panamá y en México hay resistencia contra las represas.

-A partir de ese informe el movimiento social contra las represas dijo “tenemos que desarticular ese discurso”, un discurso en donde hidroelectricidad es igual a energía limpia, cuando ha generado todos esos desastres, incluso desaparecido manglares, han desaparecido cuencas enteras por la construcción de represas.

-Con el Protocolo de Kioto vuelven  otra vez a intentar reposicionar a las represas como energía limpia, en el sentido de que los países del Norte, para intentar reducir los gases de efecto invernadero, buscan suplirlo con inversión en energía limpia. Entonces si tengo que eliminar en el Norte diez toneladas de CO2, no lo elimino; mejor construyo una represa que según yo va a eliminar esas diez toneladas, las va a ahorrar en energía limpia.

-Los efectos de las represas en el mundo son desastrosos. ¿Cómo generar entonces otro paradigma de energía limpia? Ese es el gran problema; pero no construyendo, bloqueando más cuencas, desplazando más pueblos, lo que además favorece a las empresas constructoras de represas en todo el mundo. Hay otras formas y mecanismos de generar energía limpia. Incluso en Europa y Estados Unidos están desmantelando represas. Pero sí hay que construirlas en el Sur con la idea de que es energía limpia, sustentable y verde, pero es la energía más sucia que ha generado todos estos impactos socio-ambientales.

¿Están la mentalidad ecologista y ese nuevo paradigma para producir energía que usted menciona perdiendo el pulso contra la ideología extractivista, de la cual la construcción de represas es parte?

-Creo que más bien se está fortaleciendo mucho la resistencia. Incluso ha logrado detener muchos proyectos hidroeléctricos en Brasil, México, en muchos lugares.

-El gran reto que tenemos es cómo las mismas comunidades van construyendo alternativas distintas de desarrollo. Fui al COPINH como invitado para que reflexionáramos sobre otros modelos y mecanismos de generar energía limpia, autónoma, comunitaria que sirva a los pueblos, no inundando los territorios del COPINH para las zonas económicas especiales, para los proyectos mineros. Por ejemplo, la lixiviación del oro puede gastar según el tamaño de la mina, unos dos, tres millones de litros de agua cada hora. Necesitan represas y grandes cantidades de energía.

-El uso de energía y de agua se requiere para monocultivos, para parques industriales, para ciudades modelo, para incluso grandes centros turísticos, grandes hoteles, para la industria automotriz; y al final de cuentas los pueblos son los que pagan el precio de ese supuesto desarrollo.

¿Hasta qué punto todo ese proceso es impulsado por tratados de libre comercio? ¿Es realista esperar que los países denuncien esos tratados y se de espacio a un nuevo paradigma de generación de energía?

-Es un reto. La responsabilidad no es solamente de las poblaciones indígenas y campesinas de advertir y resistir a esto. Ciertamente los tratados de libre comercio aceleran este proceso y no solo los tratados, sino el supuesto Protocolo de Kioto.

-Los tratados de libre comercio abren las puertas a las inversiones: si antes no había diez parques industriales, ahora ya los hay y requieren agua y energía; si antes no había una empresa automotriz europea, japonesa, norteamericana en nuestro país, ahora ya hay tres, cuatro o cinco, y requieren agua y cantidades de energía. Si antes no había plantaciones de monocultivos y ahora sí, como Monsanto en zonas que requieren grandes cantidades de agua, pues ahora ya los hay. Si antes no existían proyectos mineros que requieren grandes cantidades de agua y energía, ahora ya los hay.

-Los tratados de libre comercio aceleran la necesidad de agua y energía, porque aceleran la inversión en todo este tipo de megaproyectos que requieren de estos insumos.

¿Está el acuerdo de París en la misma línea que el protocolo de Kioto?

-Sí, al final de cuentas no tocan de fondo el problema y siguen viendo la manera de cómo seguir dando paliativos, como pasó con el Protocolo de Kioto: quince años después lo aprueban, después de que se anuncia la urgencia, y aceptan reducir 5% el gas efecto invernadero no tras esos quince años, sino de quince años atrás – cosa que se pasa de absurda.

-Luego ese 5% ni siquiera lo voy a reducir; voy a buscar como lo compenso. Sigo produciendo toneladas de CO2 y mejor compro la selva de Costa Rica, los servicios ambientales, que respire diez toneladas. Entonces contaminación igual a cero: acá produzco diez, allá respiro diez; compro para respiración y le ponemos bonos de carbono o muy elegantemente economía verde.

-Lo mismo está pasando con todas las Conferencias de las Partes de la Convención Marco de las Naciones Unidas sobre el Cambio Climático (COP) que ha habido. No ha sido otra cosa más que ir posponiendo y posponiendo sin llegar al fondo del problema.

¿Cuál es el fondo del problema?

-Tenemos que cambiar el paradigma del sistema; tenemos que detener desde el origen el cambio climático y eso implica no solamente este capitalismo atroz, sino la contaminación que generan los países más desarrollados: entre el 60% y el 66% de los gases de efecto invernadero del planeta.

-Tenemos que detenerlo y como decía Berta, ya no hay tiempo. Dijo una frase muy bonita: “despertemos humanidad”. Creo que el problema es sistémico, es planetario y tenemos que tomar consciencia de la necesidad de cambiar este paradigma de desarrollo.

©2015 Semanario Universidad. Derechos reservados. Hecho por 5e Creative Labs, Two y Pandú y Semanario Universidad.

Reproducido aquí con permiso de Vinicio Chacón

The Sorry History of the Chalillo Dam in Belize

The version of this ‘Sorry History’ that was given in the book was much abridged. This version is the full version as given by Probe International.

Chalillo-photo2-090803

  • The campaign to stop the Chalillo dam begins in 1999.Poster against the Chalillo Dam
  • Environmentalists warn that Chalillo will destroy endangered species’ habitat and major Maya archeological sites, be technically compromised, and uneconomic. Fortis perseveres nonetheless.
  • Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) secretly pays AMEC, a Montreal-based engineering firm, $250,000 to prepare a feasibility study of Chalillo justifying construction. U.S. author Bruce Barcott calls the report “a masterpiece of spin and obfuscation.”
  • AMEC fails to record geological faults and fractures in the project area and says bedrock at the dam site is “granite.” In fact, it is sandstones interbedded with soft shales which have poor load-bearing capacity.
  • London’s Natural History Museum hired by AMEC, predicts the demise of threatened species, and advises against construction of dam. Fortis ignores the warning.
  • Probe International demands that CIDA recall AMEC’s report and notify the Belize authorities that its conclusions are invalid. CIDA denies responsibility.
  • Environmentalists launch lawsuit in the Supreme Court of Belize which is then appealed to the Privy Council, Belize’s highest court of appeal, and loses by a slim margin.
  • Fortis completes construction of the Chalillo dam in 2005 and impoundment begins.
  • Fortis fails to fully comply with its legally required environmental compliance plan. In July 2007, Belizean environmentalists sue and win court case, ordering the government to monitor water quality in the Macal River, establish an emergency warning system to protect downstream residents in the event of a dam break, monitor levels of mercury in the fish and inform the public of findings.
  • Macal River water quality declines. Swimmers and bathers complain of stomach problems, itchy skin, and skin rashes.
  • Authorities warn people not to eat fish from the river because of possible contamination from methyl mercury, a toxin formed through bacterial synthesis in flooded soils and vegetation, which attacks the central nervous system in humans.
  • Sharon Matola, Director of the Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Centre, reports that Scarlet Macaws still return to try and nest along the Macal River and its tributary, the Raspaculo, but their nesting trees are gone and the reservoir becomes “a big mud-hole” every dry season. Nesting boxes the government nailed to trees as a substitute are, says Ms. Matola, a “total failure.” BirdLife International predicts the Scarlet Macaw population will die out within a few years due to habitat loss and poaching by the recent influx of dam construction workers.
  • Under Fortis’s monopoly, Belizeans now pay more for their electricity than consumers in other Central American countries.
  • Summer 2009, shock sediment discharges begin to flow down the Macal River from the Chalillo dam, contaminating the river and marine systems downstream.
  • Belize environmentalists seek an injunction in the Supreme Court of Belize to stop the release of sediments.
  • September 2009, Belizean authorities discuss shutting down Chalillo’s operations to stop the sediment pollution

Written by Probe International, December 2009

www.probeinternational.org

Anyone interested in the story of the Chalillo Dam are referred to the interview with Candy Gónzalez, in the Belize set of interviews

Photos: River turbidity below the Chalillo Dam

chalillo-photo1 Chalillo-photo2-090803 chalillo-photo3-SanIgnacio-090808

IACHR: Human Rights Violations by the Chalillo Dam – 11 years on

In 2004, a petition against the construction of the Chalillo Dam in Belize was presented to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on behalf of the Maya people and those living downstream of the dam by The Belize Institute of Environmental Law and Policy (BELPO). Since that time the dam has been built; but now the IACHR has declared that the petition has validity. In such cases we might ask if it acceptable that the IACHR should take eleven years to reach a decision regarding the validity of petitions. We include below the press statement recently released by BELPO.

 PRESS RELEASE: HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS CAUSED BY THE CHALILLO DAM HAVE VALIDITY

June 21, 2016

 In an important decision, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has opened a case against the Government of Belize (GOB) regarding the controversial Chalillo Dam built on Belize’s Macal River in 2005.

The decision is in response to a petition from The Belize Institute of Environmental Law and Policy (BELPO) filed in 2004 on behalf of the Maya People and those living downstream of the dams who say their rights − including their rights to life, liberty and personal security, religious freedom, benefits of culture, legal rights and the right to work − have been violated.

In their brief to the Commission, BELPO documents show how the riverine populations have been harmed: water quality has been so degraded that people can no longer bathe in or drink the water; fish have been poisoned by mercury leaving citizens without their vital source of protein; more than 300 Mayan archaeological sites have been lost under the reservoir eliminating a large body of knowledge to the Maya; changes to river flows and sediment deposition have destroyed farms and ecotourism businesses along the river and unemployment has risen.

chalillo_8aug09

Also, BELPO says the Government of Belize has, in defiance of its own institutions and legislation, refused to abide by the Orders of the Belize Supreme Court to enforce the Environmental Compliance Plan (ECP) for Chalillo, which is a contract between the Government and the owner of the dam to take measures to mitigate the damages caused by the dam.

The GOB has also failed to inform the people on the quality of the Macal River water, to disclose mercury levels in fish to the public on a timely basis and to provide a viable warning system to alert downstream populations of dam breaks including the failure to disclose that the dam is built in a seismically active area.

IACHR’s decision to admit our petition is recognition of the severity of the harms to health, safety and property rights, as well as indigenous rights by the destruction of over 300 major Mayan archaeological sites as well as recognition that the people have a right to know the extent and nature of the harm inflicted upon them by contracts made in their name with corporations.

The opening of the case is, above all, a victory for the affected communities, the Maya people of Belize and local social movements, who have endured for all these years, and remain strong and determined in their search for justice and compensation.

As an organization representing the victims of the Chalillo Dam, BELPO remains committed to exposing the human rights violations directly caused by the dam’s construction.

BELPO acknowledges the integral role played by the Environmental Law Alliance (ELAW), the International Rivers Network (including a valiant fighter for the people, Berta Cáceres assassinated in Honduras earlier this year) and Probe International of Canada in the struggle to get these abuses into this international body.

Press Contacts:

George Gonzalez

Dr. Candy Gonzalez

The Belize Institute of Environmental Law and Policy (BELPO)

P.O. Box 105, San Ignacio Town, Cayo District, Belize

Phone: +501- 824-2476   | email: belpo.belize@gmail.com | candybz@gmail.com

 

“In all of Latin America there is resistance against dams” Gustavo Castro, ecologist

The activist points out that development of hydroelectric megaprojects continues to aggravate climate change.

By Vinicio Chacón, Semanario Universidad (Costa Rica), vinicio.chacon@ucr.ac.cr 

Sep 21st 2016. | Translated by Rick Blower

 Key words: Berta Cáceres; COPINH; criminalization; hydro-electricity; climate change; Kyoto Protocol; free trade treaties.

 The Mexican ecologist, Gustavo Castro, gained notoriety by being the sole witness to the assassination of Berta Caceres, the Honduran indigenous leader and environmentalist, on March 2nd [2016].

Castro is the leader of the organisation Other Worlds – Friends of the Earth and with calm but with forcefulness took on the Honduran judiciary, who, with incredible manipulation, sought to charge activists of the Civic Council of Popular Organisations and Indigenous Peoples of Honduras (COPINH) with the assassination.

From COPINH, Cáceres led the Lenca peoples’ fight against the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric Project (PH), a project of the company Desarrollos Energeticos S.A. (DESA).

In Costa Rica to participate in the II Latin American Congress on Environmental Conflicts (COLCA), Gustavo Castro spoke with Semanario Universidad in an interview coordinated through the Conservation Federation of Costa Rica (FECON).

What awakened your ecological conscience?

“It was a process of spending many years participating in co-operatives; I worked a lot with Guatemalan refugees who had come from the war. The jump to the fight for environmental causes came about in the nineties, when many investment projects came into the country after the North America Free Trade Agreement (NALCA), which obviously favoured the transnationals and the plunder of the country.

They were the country’s oil, gas, use of water, electricity, etc. It was not that there were no conflicts before, but when these pass into the hands of the corporations, they demand yet more favourable conditions for investment. They begin to modify the Water and the Mineral Laws, to hand over to the large mining companies the exploitation of gold, silver, strategic minerals of the country; now with the energy and also oil and gas reforms. This, in one way or another, begins to impact more and more on the environment, then begins a fight with more force about the defence of the territories; but also when we begin to see the deforestation that causes the infrastructure to favour the investments, not only in my case, but also in the peasant and indigenous communities you begin to have a greater awareness on the environmental impact.”

When did you begin to have contact with COPINH and Berta Caceres?

“I knew Berta in 1999, when we began to call for many processes of resistance, amongst them the creation of the Convergence of the Movement of the Peoples of the Americas, the Hemispheric Meeting against Militarisation, or the meeting against the Plan Puebla Panamá. We used to organise all of these meetings in Chiapas, later we repeated them in Honduras. A connection was made around the process of resistance in which we and COPINH not only took part but the whole region of Mesoamerica. There was much affinity in the process of putting together the movement with Berta and COPINH for more than 15 years.”

What is the most important lesson that you can take from the history of Berta Caceres?

“It is very difficult to name just one, because she was a very complex person, in the sense that she was very lovely, a very coherent person who had the capacity of structural analysis; also she could communicate strongly both with academics and members of congress, and at the same time she was involved in mobilization with the people.

“She was extremely respected and very tenacious, a very brave woman, always at the front of all COPINH demonstrations. Berta was very coherent in her analysis, her speeches and her attitude with the people and with the movement.

“With Berta’s assassination her personality was reborn on all fronts. As we say, Berta did not die, she multiplied, her presence is very strong.

“She was a happy person, she was very optimistic in spite of all of the adversity, even though she received many threats and assassination attempts.”

After the assassination was carried out and the hitmen took you for dead as well, what was the attitude of the authorities?

“I believe that what first took them by surprise was that there was a witness, they did not expect that. I arrived a day earlier at La Esperanza, (where Berta lived), so I think that only COPINH and Berta knew that I was going to be there. I believe that it was intended to be a ‘clean’ assassination, where Berta would be alone in her home. When they realised that there was a witness, they had to modify the scene of the crime and begin to make up a way to criminalize and implicate COPINH. They failed, so they begin to look at how to criminalize me.

“The authorities were unable to present to Berta’s family a credible version of events leading to the assassination, COPINH, the national community or the international community, when there was so much background information and the origin of the problem was very clear.

“For this reason they somehow tried to detain me in an illegal way in the country in order to find a way to impute me. In the end those who ended up being sacrificed are the manager of the company, the army and the hitmen. We know that they are not the only ones who are involved.

“The deal that they gave me was like a record card, as an object of proof, violating my human rights but also many judicial procedures. Everyone knows why, in the press, it emerged how the crime scene was altered. In those first days there were very many irregularities in the investigative process.”

Even when they produced an artist’s impression, the artist drew another person.

“I didn’t know that while I was in the Public Ministry, they had detained a member of COPINH on whom they were intent on placing the blame. Effectively, whilst I had not slept, was wounded, and with all this tension, they took me to the person who produced the ‘artist’ portrait. I told him that it was not like that, he erased the image and began to draw the same thing.

“They told me on various occasions that I could leave. I was obviously willing to help in all the proceedings, even though they had left me not having eaten, no sleep, without a blanket even if I had wanted one; anyway I went on supporting, left in my bloodied clothing. One way in which they tried to implicate me is that they stole my suitcase, which I left in Berta’s house, there was obviously the possibility to plant whatever thing which could implicate me – to date they have not returned it to me.

“They did not carry out any process of justice even though I appeared before the fiscal, the Public Ministry, the lawyer of the Honduran Commission of Human Rights, everyone is witness to me requesting a copy of my ministerial declaration, yet they wouldn’t let me have it – the copy of my declaration before the judge, and they did not give it to me; I asked that they return my suitcase, the same response. It was a total cynical violation of the Procedural Code, the Penal Code, and human rights.

“There wasn’t even a formality in the recognition of the faces. In the beginning they showed me photographs and videos of COPINH as if to say that the person responsible for the assassination was there.

“Many irregularities occurred in this process and so the government ruled that all of these ministerial formalities be kept secret.

“In the case of the state kidnapping at the airport, they took me back again for more meetings. Later, I stayed at the Mexican Embassy’s house for a month, up until the last day, without them giving an explanation as to why they wanted me, without even giving me a copy of the judge’s resolution which decreed the prohibition of my being allowed to leave the country, and before the insistence of the lawyer in the face of such judicial anomalies, such irregularity, the judge suspended the right of my lawyer to practice.”

Subsequently the authorities connected officials from the company DESA and the military institution with the murder, but you have said that it goes further?

“I did not say that, the press said it, COPINH said it, the family said it, there was even an attack against a journalist who explained a lot about the relationship and links between the judges and politicians in the problem.”

You have argued that to consider hydroelectric energy as clean is a ‘stupid idea’, which is a direct hook to the jaws of the proud Costa Ricans who produce energy in this way.

“It is not only Costa Rica, but the whole of Latin America, which for decades has always associated hydro electric as a clean development.

“If in Costa Rica they do not know it, they might know there is an impressive resistance in the whole of Latin America – the number of people who have been displaced and assassinated, who have not had an experience of adequate resettlement or redress. Even the same World Commission on Dams, which financed the World Bank, in the year 2000 published a report where they say that 60% of the basins in the world have been dammed, that 30% of fresh water fish have been killed as a result of the dams which generate 5% of greenhouse gases, that more than 50,000 large dams have been built in the world, that these countries remain extremely indebted to the World Bank, that 30% of the dams in the world have not generated the energy that they were meant to, that 80 million people have been displaced in the world at the same time flooding villages and towns. This is what the evidence tells us in the world, in all of Latin America, in Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay, Panamá and in Mexico there is resistance against the dams.

“Since this report the social movement against the dams said “we have to disarticulate that discourse”, a discourse in which hydro-electricity is the same as clean energy, when it has generated all these disasters, including the disappearance of mangrove swamps and whole basins as a result of the construction of dams.

“With the Kyoto Agreement they returned again with the intention to reposition the dams as a form of clean energy, in the sense that the countries of the North, in their attempt to reduce their output of greenhouse gases, are looking to replace it with an investment in clean energy. So, if I have to reduce 10 tons of CO2 from the Northern countries, I can’t do it; better I build a dam that according to me will eliminate these 10 tons, it can be saved with clean energy.

“The effects of the dams in the world are a disaster. So how do we generate another paradigm for clean energy? This is the big problem; but not building, blocking more basins, displacing more communities, that favours the construction companies of dams throughout the world. There are other ways and mechanisms to generate clean energy. Even in Europe and the United States they are dismantling dams. But if we have to build dams in the South with the idea that it is clean, sustainable and green energy, it is actually the dirtiest energy that has generated all these socio-environmental impacts.”

Is the ecological mentality and this new paradigm to produce energy that you mention losing the pulse against the ideology of extraction, of which the construction of dams is part?

“I believe rather that much of the resistance is strengthening. It has even managed to stop many hydro-electric projects in Brazil, Mexico and many other places.

“The big challenge that we have is how the same communities build alternative forms of development. I went to COPINH as a guest so that we could reflect on other models and mechanisms of generating clean energy, autonomous, community-led, serving the communities, not flooding the COPINH territories for special economic zones, for mining projects. For example, the leaching of gold can use, depending on the size of the mine, some 2 to 3 million tons of water every hour. They need dams and large quantities of energy.

“The use of energy and water is required for monoculture, for industrial parks, for model cities, even for large tourist centres, large hotels, for the automotive industry; and in the end, the people are those who pay the price of this so-called development.”

At what point in all of this process is it driven by Free Trade Agreements? Is it realistic to hope that these countries will denounce these agreements and make room for a new paradigm of energy generation?

“It is a challenge. The responsibility is not only for indigenous populations and peasants to be alert to and resist this. Certainly the commercial Free Trade Agreements accelerate this process and not only the agreements, but the so-called Kyoto Protocol too.

“The Free Trade Agreements open the doors to investments: if before there were not 10 industrial parks, now there are and they require water and energy; if before there was not a European, Japanese, North American automotive industry in our country, now there are 3, 4, 5, and they require water and large quantities of energy. If before there were no monoculture plantations and now there are, like Monsanto in zones which require large quantities of water, so now there are. If before there were no mining projects requiring large quantities of water and energy, today there are.

“Free Trade Agreements accelerate the need for water and energy, which is why they speed up investment in all of these types of mega-projects that require these inputs.”

Is the Paris Accord on the same lines as the Kyoto Protocol?

“Yes, at the end of the day they do not touch the root of the problem and they keep on seeing how to carry on giving excuses, as happened with the Kyoto Protocol: 15 years after its approval, after the urgency is announced, and they accept a reduction of 5% in greenhouse gases not after those 15 years, but 15 years further on – that is absurd.

“Then, that 5% I am not even going to reduce; I am going to look at how I can compensate for it. I continue producing tons of CO2, but I can buy the Costa Rican jungle, the environment services, which may breathe 10 tons. So the contamination balances out to zero: here I produce 10, there I breathe 10; I buy breath and we give carbon credits or elegantly a green economy.

“The same is happening in all of the Conferences of the Parties to the Framework Convention of the United Nations on Climate Change (COP) that there have been. It’s not been anything other than keeping on postponing and postponing without getting to the heart of the problem.”

What is at the heart of the problem?

“We have to change the paradigm of the system; we have to stop it at the source of climate change and that does not mean only this atrocious capitalism, but also the pollution generated by the most developed countries: between 60% and 66% of greenhouse gases that affect warming of the planet.

“We have to stop it and, as Berta said, there’s no time left. She said a lovely phrase: “wake up humanity”. I believe that the problem is systemic, it is planetary and we have to become aware of the necessity to change this paradigm of development.”

©2015 Semanario Universidad. Derechos reservados. Hecho por 5e Creative Labs, Two y Pandú y Semanario Universidad.

Reproduced here by kind permission of Vinicio Chacón.

International Human Rights Clinic submits brief addressing environmental and human rights violations in Belize

Included here is a blog from Santa Clara Law’s International Human Rights Clinic.  They submitted a brief in support of BELPO’s Petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. I am grateful to Chloe Tomlinson for permission to reproduce the blog entry in The Violence of Development website.

By Santa Clara Law student Chloe Thomlinson and Prof. Francisco Rivera

On June 13th, 2018, Santa Clara Law’s International Human Rights Clinic submitted an amicus curiae brief before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of communities affected by the construction of the Chalillo Dam in Belize. The brief addresses novel legal issues and provides the Commission with a unique opportunity to further develop the human rights obligations of States and businesses in the area of environmental harms caused by large development projects.

Chalillo Dam in Belize.

 

Fourteen years ago, the Belize Institute of Environmental Law and Policy (BELPO) submitted a petition before the Commission alleging human rights violations caused by the approval, construction, and operation of the Chalillo Dam in the Macal River basin. Construction on the Dam began in 2002 and was completed in 2005. The petitioners allege the dam was approved in violation of applicable regulations that required, among other things, further studies on mitigation of impacts to wildlife, archaeological ruins, and the environment, as well as publication of required water tests.

People living in the Macal River Basin depend on the river for drinking water, employment, bathing, fishing, and recreation. The dam’s construction has severely damaged the Macal River and caused major, irreversible, negative environmental impacts, destroyed unique and critical habitats, and submerged unexplored Mayan archaeological sites, which are of cultural importance to the Mayan communities in the region.

On October 27, 2015, the Commission declared this petition admissible and a decision is pending on its merits.

The Clinic’s brief supports the petitioners’ allegations and argues that:

(1) Belize violated the human rights to life, health, and water by contaminating the communities’ water and food supplies and by making clean water economically inaccessible to them;

(2) Belize violated the right of access to information by failing to comply with public awareness requirements under the dam’s environmental compliance plan, provide adequate responses to requests for information, and offer an effective mechanism to guarantee the right to access information;

(3) Belize violated the right to work by negatively impacting tourism, fishing and farming in the Macal River Valley, and

(4) Belize violated the right to access to justice and judicial protection by failing to provide an effective recourse to address violations of the dam’s environmental compliance plan.

Clinic students Susan Shapiro, Chloe Thomlinson and Kyle Heitmann interviewing a local business owner in Belize.

 

Five Clinic students worked on the brief during a year-long process that included a fact-finding trip to talk to affected communities in the Macal River in Belize. “Interviewing the affected community members in Belize was an exceptional experience;” said clinic student Chloe Thomlinson, “it made the issues we were discussing all the more real and significant”. Students canoed down the Macal River with affected community members who described the negative effects the dam had on the river and on their livelihoods. Some community members, including children, developed skin rashes and stomach problems due to the contaminated water. For the community, the Macal was more than just a river; it was where they grew up, made memories, and worked, and it was a source of food and clean water.

The Clinic’s brief aims primarily to support and supplement the remarkable work that the petitioners and local NGOs have done to seek reparations for the damage done by the construction of the dam. Additionally, the Clinic expects the Commission to develop clear language on the relevant obligations States and businesses have in the area of economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights, particularly in the context of large development projects that contaminate rivers and cause harm to rural and indigenous peoples.

Read the amicus brief on Chalillo Dam in Belize.

http://law.scu.edu/ihrcblog/international-human-rights-clinic-submits-brief-addressing-environmental-and-human-rights-violations-in-belize/

Marina Puesta Del Sol, Nicaragua

Reproduced from ENCA 38, June 2005, by Martin Mowforth

The Marina Puesta Del Sol is located in the Pacific coastal community of Aserradores in the Cosigüina Peninsula of Nicaragua. The Cosigüina Peninsula is an agricultural area characterised by extreme rural poverty surrounded by coastal communities such as Aserradores in which most families have traditionally made their living by artisanal fishing and small-scale shrimp farming. Few of the 143 communities in the area have electricity and outside the main town of El Viejo the water supply is from wells or rivers and the most common sanitation system is a sump latrine. The village of Aserradores has a population of approximately 500.

Roberto Membreño (left) and Max Garay

Roberto Membreño (left) and Max Garay

The Marina Puesta Del Sol is the project of Roberto Membreño, a millionaire US businessman who was born in Nicaragua. Begun in the year 2001, the marina and hotel complex has around 120 berths and a hotel offering 33 luxury suites, a driving range, swimming pools, tennis courts, air strip, helipad, restaurants, shops and many other smaller facilities for guests.

Although the development has other investors, Mexican and North American, it is closely and personally identified with Señor Membreño, a personal friend of Enrique Bolaños, Nicaraguan president at the time of construction of the marina. It is believed that the development involved an investment of at least US$100 million on the part of Sr. Membreño. The whole environment exudes wealth and opulence and is clearly for the ultra-rich only. As Membreño himself says, “Look at this. It’s superb. My carpenters from Corinto have taught the local workers to do things like this. They have skills now that they could not have dreamed of before.”[1]

Membreño recognises that few of the locals will be able to provide the services he requires for his guests in Marina Puesta Del Sol without training. He argues forcefully, however, that the benefits of his seafaring tourism development trickle down to the locals through the construction phase of the project in which some of them were hired as labourers and trainees for positions such as service providers and attendants. He also believes that the development could give rise to a range of other related businesses in the vicinity. The potential for trickle-down benefit in the community exists, and it is hard to find anyone in Aserradores who does not acknowledge that some local people have benefited through employment in the development.

It is not difficult, however, to find local opposition to the marina – the story of Marina Puesta Del Sol2005 mpds piscina y yate is not as clear-cut and as widely beneficial as the developer’s publicity claims. The development has necessitated the purchase of a considerable amount of land in Aserradores, most of which is now policed by private guards and protected by barbed wire and ‘Private Property’ notices. The fishermen of the community have been left with only one narrow access point to the estuary, now crowded with boats; access to the estuary and the sea is prohibited in all but a few points which are not owned by Sr. Membreño; most of the land previously owned by the Mario Carrio Chevez fishing cooperative in agreement with the municipality was sold off, in dubious circumstances, to Sr. Membreño; two short stretches of estuarine mangrove vegetation have been destroyed and replaced by white sand brought from the Pacific Ocean coast of the area; and heavy pressure has been exerted on one particular family to quit their land which now forms something of an island surrounded by the marina.

Probably the most critical of the local issues arising from the development, however, and the one that generates the most heated sentiment is the lack of suitable provision of potable water for residents of Aserradores, especially when set aside the provision of swimming pools, a number of hydro-massage whirlpools and luxurious bathrooms in the hotel suites. For years the community has had problems with its water supply. Water in the wells in the immediate area is too saline to be potable and subterranean water in general in this area is too contaminated with agrochemicals to be of use. In 2003 the supply of water was identified as the highest priority for resolution by over half the population, the next major problem (the lack of electricity) being identified by less than twenty per cent.[2] Francisco José Maliaño Molina, a former leader of the community now retired and tending his herd of goats, explains how in 2002 he sent a letter to Sr. Membreño, signed by over 80 residents, asking him to take into account in his development the community’s need for potable water. He never received a reply and concluded that: “he’s not interested in the community.”[3] Juan Alberto Chieres Casco, a member of the local administrative committee, related that “members of the local committee have discussed the problem [of water supply] with Membreño and he suggested that he was going to do something about it; but we don’t know when.”[4]

On the destruction of mangroves either side of the major quay to make way for white sand brought in from the nearby Pacific coast, in my discussions with him in 2003 Sr. Membreño was fulsome in his praise of the geologist who had assured him that the respective ecosystems would not be adversely affected. It has to be remarked, however, that it would be difficult to find any environmentalist or a geologist not in Membreño’s pay who would agree that such actions would have no effect.

Regarding land ownership in an2005-mpds-piscina-y-yate-300x194d around the community, residents report that Sr. Membreño’s supposed benevolence towards the local community has concealed his aggressive approach to acquiring the land required for the development. The family of Max Garay is one of the few Nicaraguans families in Aserradores who owned sizeable parcels of land. He explains:

The [fishing] cooperative gave up its rights to the Marina Puesta Del Sol and the marina began to develop a hostile attitude towards various residents, including my family. … [Membreño] has managed, through buying influence, to turn the illegal into the legal. … Bit by bit he has closed down our spaces along the estuary and at his whim they have closed our access to the sea for subsistence. … The judicial system in Nicaragua is very easy to corrupt.[5]

Max Garay’s wife, Tadea, adds: “I wanted to talk directly with him so that we could put all our cards on the table and tell him that I am not against his project. Our country needs progress. The only thing that I am asking is that he respects our rights.”[6] Allan Bolt, a journalist with El Nuevo Diario, one of Nicaragua’s leading daily newspapers, confirms this version of events:

Everybody, including the Garay family, welcomed the new tourism project enthusiastically because it meant work and increasing affluence for all. But it seems that this investor has his own vision of how he wants the countryside to appear and what type of people he wants to see there, so he has closed the public right of way to the shore (which is unconstitutional, but which the authorities have allowed), he has prohibited his employees from making purchases in Garay’s mini-store, he has tried to throw them off the Island of Aserradores (despite their land titles), and he has been supported in this ugly game by all the powers of the state.[7]

Some benefits have trickled down to a few members of the community of Aserradores, but these appear to have been more than offset by the trickle-down of a number of disbenefits to various residents, although it is an impossible task to quantify the net effect of these different impacts. But putting aside all the eulogistic publicity material in favour of the development, all the local criticisms against it and all doubts about the very notion of the trickle-down effect, probably the most telling comparison to make is the fact that the amount of money invested in the Marina Puesta Del Sol could have provided a safe potable water supply for every person in the whole of the Cosigüina Peninsula. Such an investment would have spread the health and security benefits of this amount of money to a huge number of people instead of leisure and luxury benefits to a tiny number of people whose wealth is already great enough to ensure their basic human needs and rights.


[1] Roberto Membreño (April 2003) In discussion with Martin Mowforth and others, Aserradores, Nicaragua.
[2] SELVA (2003) ‘Información Linea Base para el Diseño de Proyectos de Desarrollo de la Comunidad de Aserradores’, El Viejo, Nicaragua.
[3] Francisco José Maliaño Molina (September 2004) In interview, Aserradores, Nicaragua.
[4] Juan Alberto Chieres Casco (September 2004) In interview, Aserradores, Nicaragua.
[5] Max and Tadea Garay (September 2004) In interview, Aserradores, Nicaragua.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Allan Bolt (19 December 2002) ‘Turismo, soberanía y desarrollo’, El Nuevo Diario, Managua.