PBI-Honduras present as five criminalized Lenca water protectors opposed to Progelsa dam receive provisional dismissal
On August 17, PBI-Honduras posted: “Yesterday, provisional dismissal was issued for defenders of the Lenca Indigenous Council of Reitoca, they were arrested for their opposition to a hydroelectric company and criminalized for caring for, defending and protecting the Rio Grande, mountains and forests.”
Proceso Digital reports: “The Criminal Court provisionally dismissed five men, who had been arrested, for being accused of burning a police post in Reitoca, municipality of Francisco Morazán.”
“The spokeswoman of the Criminal Courts Barbara Castillo announced that after a long day the criminal judge issued a provisional dismissal in the case against: Renán Zelaya, Jorge Alberto Montes, Andrés Evelio Gutiérrez, Jaime Noé Oliva and José Orlando Rodas.”
The article adds: “They obtained provisional dismissal, until new evidence emerges [about the burning of the police post].”
Opposition to Progelsa dam
Criterion.hn adds that defenders are opponents of the hydroelectric project backed by Promotora de Generación de Energía Limpia S.A. (Progelsa).
Residents of Reitoca oppose the dam because the river is the only source of water for more than 12,000 people in 10 villages and 113 hamlets. They also highlighted that they have title to the land and that the dam lacks their free, prior and informed consent.
Campamento en Defensa del Rio Grande
The dam was announced in 2013 and construction on it began in April 2016.
Criterio.hn notes what happened when construction began: “At the beginning of the work the construction company dynamited the hills that are in the riverbed and the earth fell into the waters, which caused a decrease in the flow. The color of the water darkened, the fish died, and the water level dropped substantially.”
In 2017, the Lenca Indigenous Council of Reitoca denounced the water pollution and the illegality of the project but were ignored.
In January 2018, they established Campamento en Defensa del Rio Grande, a camp in defence of the river, on community land in front of the entrance gates to the company.
They said in a public statement: “We initiated territorial control actions in the construction zone, since January 14, 2018, and we remain an average of one hundred people daily to prevent the construction of the dam from continuing.”
The camp was attacked by police on January 30, 2018.
Construction on the dam has been halted since this time.
Judicial process against defenders
Aler has reported: “Jose Orlando Rodas, one of the criminalized defenders points out that this new judicial process seeks to intimidate the resistance of the citizens and crush the fight, but that the company and the municipal mayor will not achieve the objective of continuing to damage the river with the hydroelectric plant, and they will continue to defend the main source of water of this indigenous Lenca community.”
Our earlier article on this can be read at: PBI-Honduras concerned by arrest of Lenca defenders of the Petacón River opposed to dam.