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The Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) denounced that employees of Desa company, in charge of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project in San Francisco de Ojuera municipality (Santa Barbara department) and members of the Nacional Party harassed and illegally detained the participants of a peaceful march in defense of the Gualcarque River.
The mobilization by the members of COPINH took place on February 20 and they were detained near San Francisco de Ojuera. "These Desa employees are being supported by the Military Police" denounced COPINH´s coordinator, Bertha Cáceres, in an interview published by Radio 8 de Octubre of Costa Rica. In order to prevent their passing, they "put vehicles in front of COPINH buses and threatened to harm the demonstrators", she added.
The activist said that they were demonstrating as part of the "struggle in defense of rivers, against privatization, in defense of territories and culture and in defense of the dignity and sovereignty of this country that is being depleted by private companies, transnational corporations and this dictatorial and tyrant government we have" (led by Juan Orlando Hernández).
On the same day, COPINH denounced on its website that the illegal detentions were supported on-site by the Honduran National Army, the National Police, private security guards and hitmen. In addition, the network of organizations denounced Desa´s engineer, Sergio Rodríguez, and the Mayor of the San Francisco de Ojuera Municipal Corporation, Raul Pineda, for threatening the physical integrity of the demonstrators participating in the action to reject the building of Agua Zarca.
"We demand respect to the right of mobilization and demonstration to defend the Lenca territory and life as a whole", highlighted COPINH on its website. They also appealed to the urgent solidarity of the people since demonstrators were being attacked at that precise moment
The Honduran network also warns that the national government "continues to allow and is an accomplice of the human rights violations against the Lenca People of Río Blanco and Norte de Intibucá, by supporting Desa´s second attempt to build Agua Zarca on the Gualcarque River, a natural, cultural, economic heritage and the habitat of the Lenca People".
The Council added that Desa´s new move is based on the same illegal concession that has violated the right to consultation and prior, free and informed consent by the Lenca People, as well as Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO), the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, "and therefore it is illegitimate and illegal at its basis".
"We condemn those who support today this death project, who are violators of historical, collective and individual rights of the Lenca People", said COPINH against several actors explicitly mentioned: the Dutch Development Fund FMO, the Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation Ltd. FINNFUND from Finland, the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, companies Siemens and VoithHydro from Germany, the United States government through its agency for international development (USAID), among others.
Also, the Council stated that the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources of the government (SERNA) is the "lackey of companies like Desa" and has refused to disclose information about more than 40 hydroelectric projects that affect and violate the rights of the Lenca people.
Meanwhile, the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH) denounced and condemned the repression and harassment "against our indigenous Lenca brothers and sisters, member of COPINH, in San Francisco de Ojuera community, who are defending the Gualcarque River against the attempts of Desa company, which is supported by this dictatorial, corrupt and repressive government".
In a press release issued on February 20, OFRANEH called the Honduran State, through its dependencies, prosecution offices, courts and municipalities, to stop the repression and harassment against "our Lenca brothers and sisters" of COPINH. They also demanded respect and enforcement of the right to consultation and prior, free and informed consent, as protected under Convention 169 of the ILO and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.
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