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Honduran activists oppose Cuyagual dam despite dangers

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Community activists in Honduras are opposed to the construction of the Santa Lucia I and Santa Lucia II dams on the Cuyamel River by Hidroeléctrica Cuyagual S.A.

The Association of Defenders of Common Goods in Quimistán (ASODEBICOQ) was founded to defend land, rivers and human rights. Quimistán is a municipality in the department (state) of Santa Bárbara, which is situated in western Honduras.

ASODEBICOQ has called on the Government of Honduras to stop construction on the Santa Lucia dams because the project violates the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989, an International Labour Organization Convention, also known as ILO-convention 169.

That convention is a forerunner of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and reflects the right to free, prior and informed consent.

There have also been serious environmental impacts.

Kevin Ramírez Vásquez, a co-founder of ASODEBICOQ, says, "The impact the Cuyagual project has had is the pollution of the rivers from where they explode dynamite, explode bombs to loosen rocks and fell deeply-rooted trees."

He adds, "The poison this bomb makes ends up in the freshwater springs, in the river, and it pollutes the river where it kills the animals, the fish, the water-snails."

Ramirez also notes, "The inhabitants of communities such as San Felipe and Santa Lucia can’t access the rivers because they are privatized. The owners are the businessmen, the owners of the dam. They have militarized the area, installed police posts..."

And he says, "We know that for defending our territory, defending the rivers, which are the veins of our Mother Earth, the first thing that comes are the threats. ...We know that deaths may await us because they send soldiers when we make blockades or take to the streets."

Peace Brigades International (PBI) Honduras has been monitoring the security situation of Ramirez since April 2017.

In December 2017, PBI Honduras reported, "Ramírez and the ASODEBICOQ team have reported a total of three incidents, which include violent threats, defamation and intimidation."

PBI Honduras adds, "During a rally in the sector of Cacao organised by the association on July 10, 2017, armed employees from the Santa Lucia hydroelectric project managed by the Cuyagual company threatened the group of demonstrators, preventing them from leaving the scene. ...According to [Ramirez], the events were observed by the police but they did not intervene."

Ramirez has also highlighted, “There are associates of the mayor in the municipality who have threatened us and insulted us, they have even put a price on my head and I have been singled out many times for assassination. My wife has been very attacked in this, we had to rush her to hospital, and when she was injured it left her with psychological problems.”

PBI Honduras began to provide accompaniment to ASODEBICOQ in May 2018.

Ramirez says, "The support PBI offers us gives us strength, encouragement, so we can keep going."

The Cuyamel River itself also gives Ramirez strength.

He says, “When I see the river I feel excited and proud because we defend that river, we defend it from those businessmen that come to pollute it.”

To read an interview (in English) done by PBI Honduras posted on the PBI United Kingdom website, please click here.

Image: Facebook via ASODEBICOQ ​

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