Canada’s support for the June 28, 2009 coup in Honduras and its implications for the environment and human rights

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo: On October 17, 2019, PBI-Honduras accompanied CEHPRODEC at this march in defence of water against mining.

The Peace Brigades International-Honduras Project has posted: “Since the coup d’état took place in Honduras on June 28, 2009, PBI has followed with growing concern the serious deterioration of space for the defence of human rights faced by organisations, communities and human rights defenders in the country.”

MiningWatch Canada explains that in late 2006 the Supreme Court of Honduras ruled that 16 articles of the 1998 mining code were unconstitutional, including the provision that gave mining companies unlimited access to water. Following that ruling, José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, who had been elected president earlier that year, placed a moratorium on new mining concessions and struck a commission to redraft the mining law.

MiningWatch Canada adds: “By May 2009, a new draft mining bill was complete. It would have imposed tax increases in the mining sector, prohibited open-pit mining and the use of toxic substances such as cyanide and mercury, and required prior community approval before mining concessions could be granted.”

Debate within congress was scheduled to begin August 16, 2009, but that did not happen because of the June 28, 2009 military coup.

On June 30, 2009, the United Nations condemned the coup and called for the restoration of the democratically-elected government. Canada hedged though on the question of Manuel Zelaya’s return to power.

Notably, on July 30, 2009, about a month after the coup, The Globe and Mail reported: “Canada is still providing training to members of the Honduran army, despite the military coup that sent the Central American country into turmoil late last month.”

Then by November 2009, a controversial election (in which the Organization of American States and the United Nations refused to send observers) brought Porfirio Pepe Lobo, a wealthy conservative landowner, to power.

Toronto-based York University Professor Todd Gordon has noted: “Soon after Lobo took power, Canadian officials and a mining executive discussed how to promote a new foreign investor-friendly mining law.”

By October 2010, Canada began bilateral negotiations towards a free trade agreement with Honduras that includes investment protection provisions (that favours mining companies). And by August 2011 Canada’s then prime minister Stephen Harper visited Honduras (the first foreign leader to do so after Honduras was readmitted to the Organization of American States).

Then in January 2013, the National Congress passed a new General Mining Law that invalidated the Supreme Court ruling from late 2006.

MiningWatch Canada has commented: “This law was developed and passed with strong diplomatic support from the Canadian embassy, and with contributions from the Department of Foreign Affairs and the former Canadian International Development Agency.”

PBI-Honduras has accompanied the Honduran Centre for the Promotion of Community Development (CEHPRODEC) since May 2014. That same month CEHPRODEC contributed to a report that noted: “The political and economic support Canada gives Canadian companies … is provided without adequate controls to prevent the violation of human rights in the countries where the companies that receive these benefits operate.”

PBI-Honduras recently observed: “The process of granting concessions in Honduran territories to national and international companies that began at the start of this decade, has led to 302 mining concessions covering 2.173 km².”

And on April 9 of this year, PBI-Honduras highlighted: “The National Coalition of Environmental Networks and Organizations of Honduras warns that the COVID crisis is being used to ‘continue the dispossession of the territories, since today employers can request and receive approval of environmental licenses for the virtual exploitation of natural assets’ and to ‘remove from circulation the social leaders who oppose’ these projects.”

Global Witness has reported: “Nowhere are you more likely to be killed for standing up to companies that grab land and trash the environment than in Honduras.”

In 2009, Canada provided $16.4 million in official assistance to Honduras. Between 2010 and 2016, Canada’s bilateral aid disbursements to Honduras totalled $175 million, with average disbursements of $29 million per year.

“Giving resources to the Government of Honduras is giving them tools so that they continue to violate the population. The focus of the international community is very important to curb all these human rights violations.” – Dina Meza, director of ASOPODEHU

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