Rio Blanco to Juan Dumas


March 27, 2017 

We the Lenca Indigenous people of Rio Blanco, Intibucá reject the process that Mr. Juan Dumas seeks to impose in the area of the Agua Zarca Project. We have not asked for a process to 'decide' about a hydroelectric project and we reject this process completely.

The Agua Zarca Project has resulted in murders and numerous violations of our rights as Lenca people and human beings. We have clearly demanded for years that the banks withdraw from the Agua Zarca Project, and we continue to demand that they leave. But now FMO, Finn Fund, and BCIE, have hired Juan Dumas to explore 'a dialogue between communities in the area' to 'decide if a hydroelectric project can play a role.' We reject this proposal and demand that banks stop financing this process. We do not need people to come from outside to impose a process. What we need is an end to impunity. We need justice for the crimes that have been committed, we need the intellectual authors of Berta's murder to be brought to trial, we need ILO Convention 169 to be respected and the concession of Gualcarque River to be cancelled, we need those responsible for the murders, attacks, and repression we have suffered to be prosecuted and imprisoned.

We have clearly expressed our rejection of a dam on the sacred Gualcarque River, from the first moment that strangers arrived to plant cement in our territory without our permission. We have already made our decision and we completely reject any hydroelectric project on the Gualcarque River. The State violated our right to free, prior, and informed consultation, but we, autonomously, in Indigenous Assemblies and meetings since 2010 with the participation of several communities, have made the decision to reject a hydroelectric project on the sacred Gualcarque River.  We have repeatedly rejected a hydroelectric project. DESA and the state authorities never accepted our decision and spent years trying to create division and break our legitimate resistance. They have offered bribes to buy leaders, they have threatened, attacked, and murdered leaders and people who speak out against the project, they have paid assassins and people in the area who attack us and have even have paid people to be in favor of the project. DESA needs to be prosecuted for promoting corruption and paying bribes.

As a result of the attempts to impose the Agua Zarca Project, we have lived the repression of the government and DESA. We have lost companions. We have seen how DESA uses hired assassins and violent people in the area to threaten and attack. We the signers of this letter risk our lives to defend the life of the Gualcarque River. We also know many people in other communities who oppose the Agua Zarca Project, but are afraid to say it. They know very well that if Berta was murdered, anyone who opposes the hydroelectric Project can be murdered. They know very well that we have had guns pointed at us, we have been hit, we have been detained and criminalized, and we have been threatened with death simply for opposing the Agua Zarca Project on the Gualcarque River.  Bribes and violence have been used to try to impose the Agua Zarca Project and we all know that they will not stop now.  To impose the process that Juan Dumas proposes, while those who gave the order to assassinate Berta and those who threaten and attack us are free, is to ask for us to be murdered.

We demand that the banks FMO, Finn Fund, and BCIE immediately exit the Agua Zarca Project and that they definitively stop pushing this process. We completely reject the process that the banks are pushing through Juan Dumas. The banks and their consultant have no legitimacy at all to decide what we need.

We ask all international organizations and institutions of any government to not support this process, which will only result in more violence and repression against the Lenca people.  We demand the cancellation of the Agua Zarca Project and an independent commission to investigate and prosecute the intellectual authors of Berta's murder.

We will continue to defend the Gualcarque River for our children, our grandchildren, and future generations. The spirits of the female children of the Gualcarque River guide us.

Indigenous Council of Rio Blanco

Elders Council

Signed by more than 150 members of the indigenous Lenca community of Rio Blanco.  (Signatures are not published for safety reasons.)