Case study: Madenica

The weakness of the law, however, is illustrated by the case of the Madenica company. In 2009, around 700 trees were felled indiscriminately in the Cárdenas municipality close to Nicaragua’s southern frontier with Costa Rica by a company known as Madenica (Maderas Preciosas de Nicaragua). Madenica had been sowing a plantation of teak in the frontier zone since 2003 and therefore felled the species which were native to this area. According to a report by the Nicaraguan Forestry Authority, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, the Environmental Attorney, the Cárdenas municipality and the police, Madenica’s actions covered 41 hectares of land and nearly 700 trees, some of which were under prohibition. The report detailed the damaging effects of the clearance to the vegetative cover, the biomass, wildlife, soils and the integrity of the forest.[1]

For this crime, Madenica was fined a sum of US$10,000 and their forestry manager a further US$5,000. The timber companies are content to pay such paltry fines and continue with their illegal schemes.

[1] Lésber Quintero (June 2009) ‘Gigantesco despale en zona fronteriza’, Freshwater Action Network Central America (FANCA).

Carbon credits and carbon neutrality in Costa Rica

The first acquisition of carbon credits from a forestry offset project was a trade between the World Bank Group and a reforestation project in Costa Rica owned by the Swiss group Precious Woods in 2006. The World Bank claims that it managed to counteract 100 per cent of its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, equivalent to 22,000 megatons of CO2, produced by its Washington D.C. headquarters.[1]

Over the last 20 years, the Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications (MINAET) in Costa Rica claims that the country has expanded the area of forested land from 21 per cent to 51 per cent.[2] The country aims to be the first to achieve carbon neutrality by the year 2021. A study conducted by Yale University, however, finds this target to be very ambitious due to inaccuracies in government calculation and prediction.[3] Currently Costa Rica emits 12 megatons of CO2 per year with 75 per cent of this due to transportation.[4] Trends in Costa Rica’s development over the past few decades suggest that the country will produce more CO2 in 2021 than it can compensate for (16 megatons per year). This is because the demand on land for agriculture and residential purposes means that only a further 11 per cent of surface area is available for reforestation and this is not enough to sequester the predicted rise in emissions.[5] The Yale study suggests that to reach carbon neutrality, Costa Rica would need to reduce emissions directly by increasing usage of public transport and electric or hybrid cars, better urban planning and a more efficient energy sector.[6]

[1] Steven Ruddell, Michael Walsh and Murali Kanakasabai (2006) ‘Forest trading and marketing in the United States’, Society of American Foresters (SAF), (accessed 11 January 2011).
[2] Mike McDonald (18 September 2009) ‘Carbon neutrality is a stiff challenge’, Tico Times, San José.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.

The human effects of the process of deforestation

1. Campesinos with no legal title to their land are moved off the land they have farmed for many years, in some cases for generations, by wealthy landowners seeking to expand their holdings or by large companies (often foreign TNCs) seeking to take over fertile land for plantation agriculture or to take over land that is rich in minerals.

2. The company fells any timber that stands in the way of their operations.

3. The displaced campesinos and families either:

A) migrate into the cities

B) move onto more marginal land as yet not in demand for other purposes

C) stay put and become plantation labour and find what work they can in the vicinity when their plantation work lays them off


D) migrate to other areas where seasonal labour is required – some agricultural labourers become itinerant, moving from area to area.

(In all four of the above options, the household finds it harder to subsist and has to depend on the pluri-activity of all members of the household.)

4. Following Option B above – at the agricultural frontier, the campesino has no option but to deforest in order to clear land for planting. Being marginal land, often on slopes and with its nutrients in the litter rather than in the biomass (trees), this land will only support plantings for a couple of years before the litter and its nutrients are lost.

5. The campesino household moves on to another area and repeats the process. Cattle ranchers move in behind them and their cattle compact the ground and turn it into a sterile savannah-like area.

6. The cleared land becomes vulnerable to erosion and slope failure. Loss of trees and other vegetation reduces the watershed’s capacity to hold water. This causes flooding downstream during the rainy season and reduces the water that filters into the underground water table.

7. Other effects include: rivers and lakes filling with sediment and becoming shallower, leading to a greater likelihood of flooding during the rainy season; siltation of reservoirs behind HEP dams reducing the life and capacity of such plants on which Central American nations have a high dependence for their electricity; sedimentation of coastal estuaries damaging habitats for shrimp and other marine life; and loss of biodiversity.

Honduran death squad escapes justice

In December 2006 two members of the MAO (Environmental Movement of Olancho), Roger Iván Murillo and Francisco Heraldo Zúñiga, were assassinated in a death squad execution style killing. They were killed for their part in defending the forests of the department of Olancho in Honduras against illegal timber felling. Both men had received death threats from logging companies. (For more background on this struggle by Olancho’s environmentalists see ENCA Newsletters 42, 44 and 45.)

1-300x199The four assassins who carried out the machine gun execution were members of the local police – Linton Omar Cáceres Rodríguez, Rolando Antonio Tejeda Padilla, Juan José Talavera Zavala and José Arcadio González. Despite a history of impunity for those who commit such crimes in Honduras, the four were detained and were convicted by a Honduran court on 1st July this year.

They were to be sentenced on 15 August and faced up to 30 years in prison. After the conviction they were detained by Brigade 115 of the Honduran army whilst awaiting individual sentencing. In early August two of the convicted, Cáceres and Talavera escaped and a few days later González also fled. As the MAO said on hearing the news: “It is inexplicable that after being found guilty these men were given so many privileges, when by our standards they should have been behind the bars of a maximum security prison because of the danger they represent to society, in particular to the relatives of the murdered environmentalists.”

The MAO has asked a series of other questions about their escape: Who is it that wo2-300x278uld want us to2nd July in Olancho: Linton Omar Cáceres (in the middle) and Juan José Talavera (on the phone) in army custody believe that they escaped on their own? Who is it who has helped them to escape justice? Who is behind their escape? Is it the same people who Who was responsible at the Brigade 115 installation when they escaped? Where were these people when they escaped?

ENCA has written a letter to President Mel Zelaya urging him to initiate a thorough investigation into who was responsible for these escapes and to do all he can to ensure that justice is served in this case. The MAO has also demanded that the case of the assassinations be kept open in order to determine the intellectual authors of the original crime.

An indigenous perspective on the COP 16 summit

The following extracts are taken from the ‘Political Position of the International Indigenous Forum on Climate Change after the First Week of Negotiations 6th December, 2010, Cancún Mexico’.

As Indigenous Peoples from all over the world attending COP 16, we are at the front line regarding the direct impacts of climate change, the impacts derived from the implementation of false solutions, and the impacts generated by States which do not recognize or guarantee our rights. Our present and future survival is at risk. However, we continue, in effect, to be excluded as Indigenous Peoples from these discussions and these decision-making processes. We demand respect for our rights as well as our full and effective participation.

We reaffirm that the three main pillars of our political position must be guaranteed and implemented in the final outcome of Cancun, as well as in all the processes, agreements and actions on climate change at the regional, national and international levels:

  • Full respect for our rights, including those contained in the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Peoples.
  • Respect for our right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent.
  • Recognition and protection of our traditional knowledge as a basis for generating effective solutions to climate change. Our strategies and local solutions based on our traditional knowledge can provide real solutions to climate change.

We recognize that the current negotiating text being negotiated by the Parties contains some references to Indigenous Peoples, and these references must remain in the final agreement in Cancun. However, these references fall short of responding to our demands for the full recognition and implementation of the rights which, after 30 years of struggle, are now recognized in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Our rights must be included in all sections of the agreement coming out of Cancun, inter alia, the Preamble, Shared Vision and REDD sections.

We also continue to reject the carbon market as a false solution to climate change. Our Mother Earth is not a commodity. In particular, we insist that forests serve a variety of functions and are the source of life for Indigenous Peoples around the world, including those in voluntary isolation. For this reason, they cannot be part of any program or scheme based on the carbon market.

The solutions must recognize that Mother Earth is sacred. We urge the State representatives to reflect on and evaluate their relationship with Mother Earth, and to find real and effective solutions that restore the equilibrium and respect between nature and human beings.

We urge the State representatives gathered here to recognize the gravity of the climate crisis. We demand that, especially the industrialized countries, assume their responsibilities for the defense and protection of Mother Earth and commit to take effective, serious and legally-binding actions to reduce emissions of the Greenhouse Gases that are threatening life around the world.

We must speak for the plants, animals and future generations whose voices are not included here. Their survival, like ours, depends on strong, just and real outcomes at the end of this week here in Cancun.

Living on the Front Line

Honduras: Murder never went away

October, 07 2008 | By Alison Bracken* | Source: Le Monde Diplomatique | Reprinted from ZNet

Life is cheap in Honduras and those who defend human rights themselves need protection – sometimes armed protection, reluctantly supplied by the government.

The young soldier stands nonchalantly outside a front gate, AK47 over one shoulder as he chats on his mobile while keeping an eye on the street. “No, I’m not afraid to use it,” he says, so bemused by the question that he lowers his sunglasses. “I’ve been well-trained. It’s an honour to protect Padre Tamayo. He protects the environment and helps the community. No one’s attacked him while I’ve been working.”

Gustavo Alberto Ordonez, 19, is one of 10 armed soldiers who guard Padre Tamayo, the renowned priest and environmental leader in Honduras. The armed guards are a necessary precaution. The priest has a $40,000 bounty on his head and has survived four kidnap and murder attempts, including an incident in 2006 where a live grenade was forced into his mouth.

He is a member of MAO, the Environmental Movement of Olancho, an area of the country with vast forests. The group supports responsible deforestation but opposes the current situation, in which international logging companies were given free rein by government to strip the forests bare of timber, destroying the natural environment and its water sources. Local communities do not benefit from this development, but are hired as cheap labour, and the timber is immediately shipped out of the country. Continuous flooding because of extensive deforestation is a major problem: the memory of the devastation Hurricane Mitch caused in 1998 is still fresh in people’s minds.

The group defends the rights and land of locals in these communities by blocking roads, initiating strikes and publicly denouncing abuses by logging companies. Because it challenges powerful economic interests, its members have been murdered, attacked and intimidated. In December 2006 two of Padre Tamayo’s MAO colleagues, Heraldo Zúñiga and Roger Ivan Cartagena, were murdered by national police agents outside the mayor’s office in Guarizama, in front of local people. Just two days before his murder, Zúñiga had told people about death threats from Salama-based loggers employed by the Sansone logging company. A local police sergeant, with accomplices, did the killing, and up to seven policemen may have been involved. Four were awaiting sentence when three mysteriously disappeared from custody last year.

The hiring of police as killers is commonplace. Honduras had death squads active through the 1980s, the most notorious of which was Battalion 316. Hundreds of teachers, politicians and union bosses were murdered by government-backed forces. The human rights defenders we met all said that the death squads never went away, they were just moved to other roles within the police or hired as muscle for private security firms.

The country seems controlled by private interests; even the democratic government was placed there by people with money and influence. The government is so compromised by the church’s authority and deals done with big business that it has no power to effect change. Padre Tamayo believes it’s only a matter of time before the one remaining policeman in custody for the murder of his two colleagues also escapes. “We expect he’ll be allowed to escape too. The police will never bring the police to justice.”

Champion of the people

He fears for his life but his knack for talking gunmen around has earned him the affectionate nickname “the Wizard”. At a mass MAO rally in 2001 to block a road where raw timber was travelling, fights broke out between protestors and police. Padre Tamayo was isolated by the head of the local police, who forced a live grenade into his mouth before moving quickly away. “I took it out and threw it as far as I could. It exploded in a nearby field,” he says, smiling. “Now the police have a case against me for causing a disturbance.”

He had recently been walking around his small village when an armed group tried to take him by force to a vehicle. Luckily, a couple of his soldiers were present and the kidnappers scarpered when they fired shots into the air. The Inter-American Human Rights Court ordered the Honduran government to provide protection for him after three attempts on his life in 2006.

Many international logging companies have hired Hondurans to murder the priest but repeated attempts have failed. He’s revered by rich and poor as a champion of the people. The first potential killer had a crisis of conscience and left the country. “He got in touch and told me what the logging company paid him to kill me, but he couldn’t do it. He told me to watch myself.”

The final attempt on his life before the government finally provided protection was perhaps the most extraordinary. He was alone in his presbytery when an armed group, including several soldiers, broke in. They planned to kidnap him and kill him elsewhere, uncomfortable with spilling blood in a presbytery. He talked them out of it. Stunned locals watched the men leave the house later. “I don’t know. When I’m confronted, I’m not a little mouse. They are nervous about what they are doing and I just talk to them,” he says. “They know if they kill me, there will be major consequences. The people would rise up and no timber would leave here.”

Instead, less high-profile environmentalists are being targeted, like René Gradis, co-coordinator of MAO. He has survived two attempts on his life and a kidnap attempt. He takes us to Un Corte, where once stood a sprawling forest, but now the only remaining trees are those not worth cutting down. When we reach the top of the steep mountain, the view is stark. All that can be seen is bald, treeless hills. “Yes, of course I’m scared for my life,” says Gradis. “But these thieves are taking our trees. We have to stop the wood thieves and the only way to do it is to keep denouncing what they do.”

Gradis has lost more friends to this cause than he cares to remember, but there is reason for optimism. The corrupt Honduran Forest Development Corporation (Cohdefor), which ignored logging companies’ blatant flouting of forestry laws in exchange for kickbacks, has just been replaced by Independent Forest Monitoring and new laws have been introduced. MAO also prevented Cohdefor employees from moving into the new organisation, positioning themselves at the table to influence policy.

We drive north to La Muralla national park to remind ourselves what a forest should look like. There is no management of the park, meaning some rare species are disappearing. But it still gives Gradis hope. “They have murdered our friends and we have yet to get justice. But what has happened gives us strength. We will not stop. We will keep fighting because of their deaths.”

`Lawyer of the poor’

Life is cheap in the capital, Tegucigalpa. Outside every restaurant and shop, security guards brandish rifles as a warning to customers and criminals. But the armed men are in real danger. The average wage in Honduras is between $100 and $150 a month. The guns the guards carry are worth far more than their lives and they are regularly murdered for their weapons. Dionisio Díaz García, “lawyer of the poor”, was representing private security guards whose labour rights were being violated when he was assassinated on 4 December 2006. He had driven to the Supreme Court to prepare for a hearing and, as he neared the court, he was shot dead by a man riding pillion on a motorbike.

García worked for the Association for a More Just Society (AJS) in Tegucigalpa. A week before the assassination, one of his colleagues received a text message warning that his life was in danger. AJS president Carlos Hernández has been threatened and intimidated since García’s death and now has full-time armed state protection, as does another employee who works for the Christian organisation that promotes economic, social and cultural rights.

Since Dionisio Díaz García’s murder, life has been a struggle for his widow Lourdes and her eight-year-old son, Mauricio. Such is her concern for their safety that she doesn’t want their faces to appear in the press. She’s completing a law degree and hopes to follow in García’s footsteps by representing the exploited and vulnerable. “I’ve tried to be a valiant person, and I’d like to follow in his footsteps. My husband wanted me to finish college. I’m doing it for him. I live by myself with my son. I believe I’m in danger and I cannot trust the police. When he was murdered, it was completely out of the blue because he never spoke of the work he was involved in. It was like cold water being poured over me.”

In January 2008 two men suspected of involvement in the killing were arrested and are currently in custody awaiting trial. But Lourdes and the AJS believe they were paid assassins and worry that the private security firm they believe ordered the murder won’t be brought to justice. “My husband was a very humanitarian man, loved by society. He dedicated his life to defending the poor. He didn’t care if someone had money to pay. For everything he did, he deserves justice. My son is always remembering him.”

New disappearances

García was one of 29 lawyers killed in the past two years in Honduras. A judge has also been murdered. Across the city, Bertha Oliva was reeling from a break-in at her office the week before, when the burglars urinated all over the floor. “It’s the first time after 25 years of working in human rights that I want to give up. Of course I won’t. But when I left my office at the end of the day, I cried.” She has a fair idea who’s responsible but is waiting until she has all the facts before making a public announcement. Oliva founded the Committee for the Defence of Prisoners and of the Families of the Disappeared (Cofadeh) and it’s the second time her premises have been ransacked in two months. They took files, computer equipment and personal effects. The group was initially set up to trace what happened to the hundreds of people who were “disappeared” by state security forces in the 1980s. The official number of disappeared stands at 184 but it is believed there are hundreds more.

Oliva’s interest is deeply personal. In 1981 her husband Tomás Nativí was forcibly abducted from their home by masked men. She never saw him again. The pair had married secretly and she was pregnant with their first child at the time. Nativí was a young revolutionary who had left the Communist Party to set up his own political group.

Cofadeh’s work has expanded far beyond examining what has happened to the disappeared. It is now legally representing families of environmentalists who’ve been murdered in their cases against the state. “We thought that the whole issue of disappearances was something that had been consigned to the past but in two-and-a-half years, seven people have disappeared. We are now seeing the same pattern of assassinations, torture and killings as we did in the 1980s.”

Oliva’s car has been followed in recent weeks and she feels as vulnerable as when her husband was taken 27 years ago. She’s involved with the development of a memorial park and exhibition centre outside the city that will pay homage to the 184 people officially disappeared. A tree has been planted to represent each person and a flame of memory will burn bright. She purchased the land from an Irishwoman and swears when the project is completed she’ll retire from the organisation and her 70-hour working week. “The state right now is weak and it has failed. I am here to give it strength. The day my voice will cease to be heard is the day I prefer to disappear physically myself,” she says. “They can kill me with guns, but they will never kill my spirit. If I had to do it all again, I wouldn’t hesitate. I’d go through it all again. For him.”

`If I had a gun, I’d shoot you’

Dusk is falling as Donny Reyes and his boyfriend walk hand in hand through the busy streets of Tegucigalpa. Two men across the road begin shouting obscenities at them. One of them spits on the ground and screams: “If I had a gun, I’d shoot you.” This is nothing compared to what Reyes has lived through. They held hands publicly to facilitate our photograph; they would not usually take such a risk in this violently homophobic country, where the Catholic church has extreme influence and ran TV and radio campaigns denouncing the “evil of homosexuality”.

Reyes is treasurer of a rainbow gay group, Arcoiris, in Tegucigalpa. His tale has won international attention and raised awareness about the dangers and discrimination the gay and lesbian community face. “It still hurts to tell the story,” he says, “but what hurts more is that this kind of thing is still happening here.”

In March 2007 Reyes left the Arcoiris office late at night with a friend and supporter of gay rights, Doña Blanca. Six police officers approached him and demanded to see his identity papers, which he produced. He explained who he was and where he was coming from. The police then let Blanca go but arrested Reyes. “They beat me with batons and threw me into the car saying `queers don’t have rights’.” At the police station, the police took some time choosing which cell to put him in, looking for the one with the most gang members in it. Eventually, they brought him to a cell with some 60 prisoners and told them: “Here’s a present for you boys. You know what he is and what to do.” He was gang-raped by six men after being stripped and beaten. “It was a very small and dark room. I ended up in a pool of shit and urine.”

Released from prison the next day, Reyes immediately had medical tests and endured an agonising wait before he found out that he hadn’t contracted HIV or another sexual infection. Next stop was the police station to make a formal complaint. The chief of police advised him it wasn’t worth pursuing and advised him to leave the country. But Reyes persevered and charges were eventually brought against several policemen for illegal arrest. He had a witness, Doña Blanca, who was willing to give evidence. But weeks before the trial was to begin, she was shot dead in her home. All charges against the policemen were dropped in the Supreme Court earlier this year.

The same month Reyes made the complaint, Arcoiris’s office was broken into and documents and computer equipment were stolen. The office has been broken into a couple of times since. “I feel threatened and in danger,” he says. “But we have to keep on doing our important work until we have equal rights.”

Since Arcoiris was founded seven years ago, 210 people from the gay community have been murdered in hate crimes. Gay rights leaders believe a lot of this hatred stems from the influence of religious fundamentalism. In 2004 the church described it as “unfortunate” and “to be repudiated” when three gay organisations were granted legal status. The church has considerable sway with the government and influences political decisions that contribute to the stigmatisation of this community. Three years ago the cardinal of Honduras, Oscar Andrés Rodríguez, objected when Arcoiris rented an office down the street from a church building. The group was evicted from the premises immediately.

The group’s new premises is a busy drop-in centre. Many of its visitors are teenagers thrown out of home by their parents because of their sexuality. They speak about dropping out of school because of beatings from their peers and intolerance from teachers. Many then drift into prostitution. “I’ve been beaten and attacked and seen it happen to all my friends. I’ve tried to kill myself too,” says Ray Saene, 18, who’s been living with prostitutes since her mother threw her out of their home because she’s a lesbian. “I’m scared every minute.”

* Alison Bracken is a journalist

A carbon sequestration example from Guatemala

An example of a sequestration project commissioned by the American company, Applied Energy Service (AES), in partnership with the NGO CARE, demonstrates the negative effects of agroforestry on the inhabitants of western Guatemala.[1] The project was planned to sequester 15 -16 million tons of CO2 in 40 years, but is massively failing to offset carbon at this rate, and has only counterbalanced the equivalent of 270,000 tons of CO2 in 10 years.[2] (The AES company also features in Chapter 4 for its destructive Chan 75 hydroelectric project in Panama.)

The first mistake was that the species of tree planted were inappropriate for the climate and for the already degraded land, so the plantation did not mature as rapidly as anticipated. Other reasons for the project’s failure can be attributed to land use conflicts, disputes over control for scarce forest, and legal changes that criminalised subsistence activities such as fuel wood collection and denied farmers access to the forest.[3] These riled locals enough for them to sabotage the planted trees, and this, along with damage caused by animals, also halts expansion. Because the project is underachieving, more resources are being used on carbon measuring than poverty alleviation in the area[4], yielding absolutely no benefit for the people of Guatemala.

[1] Chris Lang (9 October 2009) ‘How a forestry offset project in Guatemala allowed emissions in the USA to increase’, (accessed 11 January 2011).
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.

Criticisms of UN estimates of deforestation rates

Taken from (accessed 16.06.09)

Some environmental groups have criticized the UN numbers as “misleading and inaccurate” saying that FAO is using industrial plantations to offset deforestation figures for natural forests while relying on flawed figures provided by governments that varying standards of forest monitoring. The London-based Rainforest Foundation notes that “the UN figure is based on a definition of forest as being an area with as little as 10% actual tree cover, which would therefore include areas that are actually savannah-like ecosystems and badly damaged forests.” Further, says a press release from the organization, “areas of land that presently have no trees on them at all, but that are ‘expected’ to regenerate, are also counted as forests.”

Despite the criticism, industry experts say that FAO has the best figures available across virtually all countries in the world. Mila Alvarez, who tracks forest trends for World Resources Institute and Global Forest Watch (, told the New York Times “The F.A.O. is doing the best it can given what the governments are providing.” Alvarez says the World Resources Institute and other organizations are developing a way to use satellite imagery to analyze forest changes and to verify government estimates.

Gangsters in the mangroves

The expansion of shrimp aquaculture in Honduras began in 1972. By 2010, it remained without any plan for its development and expansion. The only mechanisms controlling its growth are shrimp diseases, the fall of international shrimp prices, falling demand and sometimes pressure from local communities. The destruction, pollution and displacement of communities plus the plundering of natural resources have given rise to a social movement aimed at reducing its impacts. The NGO CODDEFFAGOLF has led the movement since 1988 and set its objective to achieve the declaration of Wetland Protected Areas in the Gulf of Fonseca.

In July 1999, during the Ramsar Convention held in Costa Rica, Honduran shrimp farmers (ANDAH) were surprised by the announcement that wetlands of the Gulf of Fonseca had been designated as ‘Ramsar sites’ (30,304 ha.), which became the #1000 site among the world’s wetlands. … On 20 January 2000, this ‘site’ was included in the Protected Areas of the Gulf of Fonseca (81,378 ha.) by Decree 5-99-E of the National Congress. ‘La Berbería’ was assigned 2,293 hectares of wetlands.

A few months after the publication of the Decree, a Spanish company known in Honduras as the ‘El Faro’ of Mr. Jaime Soriano, disrespecting the Ramsar Convention, national laws and without an environmental license, converted over 100 hectares of wetlands in La Berbería’s protected area into shrimp ponds. Complaints, demonstrations and protests of fishermen were of little use. The El Faro company, supported by the police and the complicity of government officials, had its way. It forced fishermen to negotiate inadequate compensation measures.

Meanwhile the EMAR I company expanded without an environmental license over tens of hectares.

In 2004 the Central American Water Tribunal condemned the government of Honduras and the shrimp farms El Faro, Sea Farms of Honduras and the World Bank for pollution and destruction of wetlands. The verdict was an ethical and moral conviction, and therefore did not result in any punishment.

2008: Destruction was spurred by high international demand for shrimp. In 2008 CODDEFFAGOLF presented a complaint during a Workshop on Protected Areas attended by regional and central authorities. It presented images of La Berbería where shrimp farmers had been caught red-handed using 6 tractors to destroy hundreds of acres of wetlands without an environmental license. The authorities ordered a halt to operations but they were resumed the next day to finish the shrimp farm which is called EXCASUR.

On 26 January 2010, EMAR II was granted an environmental permit for construction of shrimp farms in 169 hectares by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (SERNA) in a unique process which lasted only 5 days. It also gave a license to EMAR I that was operating for several years without an environmental license.

EXCASUR, which had earlier been punished for environmental crimes, waited for EMAR II to finish its shrimp farm with impunity before expanding its own on tens of hectares, claiming to have an environmental license dated 15 December 2009.

The irony and cynicism is that in all these cases the police and army have been protecting operations, equipment and facilities of the shrimp farmers. The President of the Honduran Council of Private Enterprise (COHEP) said: “We need more security because while farmers in the Lower Aguán try to recover land, in the south (Gulf of Fonseca) they have ‘seized’ a shrimp farm and this cannot be allowed because it will scare away investment.”

The granting of environmental permits that led to the expansion of aquaculture within Ramsar site #1000 in La Berbería did not consider the General Environmental Law. It did not respect the National System of Environmental Impact Assessment. It did not respect the Protected Areas Act 5-99-E. It did not respect Site Ramsar #1000 or the guidelines of the Management Plan.

On 5 March 2010, over 80 hectares of wetlands were converted into shrimp farms in the Gulf of Fonseca in addition to thousands of others that had already been converted. In La Berbería, wildlife has lost most of their habitat and fishermen have lost or are struggling for access to the mangroves and food sources for survival. …

As the insatiable demand for shrimp continues in Europe, Japan, USA and Australia, wetland ecosystems continue to disappear. Does it matter?

Extracted and adapted from Jorge Varela Marquez (March 2010) ‘Consumerism in developed countries causes destruction of wetlands in the tropics’, CODDEFFAGOLF, Honduras.