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30 de marzo | | | | |

Honduras: new report reveals corruption network for the approval of Agua Zarca hydroelectric project

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A new report published by Oxfam reveals a network of corruption and traffic of influence in the granting of contracts and operation permits for the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project, demanding its permanent closure and bringing light to the murder of Lenca leader, Berta Cáceres, which took place in March 2016.

The document titled "Facts and Circumstances surrounding the murder of Berta Cáceres Flores" outlines the legal arguments to demand the permanent closure of the project.

The Agua Zarca project is an initiative promoted by Desarrollos Energéticos SA (DESA) company since 2009. Only eight months after its foundation, DESA signed operation contracts with the Environment and Natural Resources Secretariat (SERNA) and the National Electricity Company (ENEE) for the generation, transmission and commercialization of electric energy.

As a first sign of nullity, the report shows that SERNA granted the concession and environmental permit in favor of Agua Zarca without a prior, free and informed consultation as established by ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous peoples rights.
Also, SERNA illegitimately increased the volume of water authorized to be used in the Gualcarque river, and authorized the 20-year extension of the operation contract without the approval of the National Congress.

According to article 205 of the Constitution of Honduras, the Legislative Branch is the only body allowed to approve or deny contracts involving waivers, incentives and fiscal benefits, or any other contract that extends its effects to the following administration.

To this date, criminal courts have sentenced 8 people to pre-trial detention for the murder of Berta Cáceres. Four of these people are connected to the military and one of them is an employee of DESA, which makes it necessary to expand the investigation towards possible intellectual perpetrators, accomplices and accessories.

The report also states that a joint investigation of the cases -the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project and Berta Cáceres murder- would make it possible to obtain definitive and concrete results. Currently both cases are being dealt with at different courts. Meanwhile, the Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage Special Prosecution Office does not have the required capacities to deepen on its investigations.
Based on the corruption acts denounced in the report, Austra Berta Flores, mother of environmental leader Berta Cáceres, submitted on March 28 a petition before the Mission of Support against Corruption and Impunity (MACCIH) to investigate this alleged corruption network operating in the granting of permits for hydroelectric and extractive projects.

"These are valid arguments to demand the annulment of the operation permits of DESA company on the Gualcarque river, and for the investigation to reach all levels involved in the murder of my daughter", said Austra Berta Flores.

The family of Berta Cáceres submitted the evidence documented in the report before the Public Prosecutor´s Office.

Also, they requested a formal investigation over the contracts granted by the Honduran government to DESA company.
OXFAM´s complete report (in Spanish) is available here. https://www.oxfam.org/es/node/8431

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