PBI-Honduras notes arrest of Guapinol River defender Leonel George, community opposition to ASP mining concession

Published by Brent Patterson on

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PBI-Honduras has reposted a tweet that says:

“Defender Leonel George in interview with Pasos de Animal Grande after his arrest by the national police. ‘It is an alarm signal that gives rise to believing that the persecution is reactivated in moments of great tension in Tocoa, Colón.’”

To listen to that interview, click here.

George was detained by Honduran national police on Friday January 26.

Pasos de Animal Grande reports: “George has been a key advocate in the fight for the protection of the Guapinol River, [is a member of] the Municipal Committee for the Defense of Common and Public Goods (CMDBCP).”

“He has suffered constant criminalization and has been sent to prison [in 2019] along with several of his comrades, but national and international pressure managed to get him letters of freedom, which he always carries.”

“The arbitrary detention of Leonel George comes at a key moment, when there is an attempt to ignore the decision of the population of Tocoa, to reject mining and their demand to Mayor Adán Fúnez, to respect their self-determination as a people.”

The article continues: “For the defenders of Guapinol, the National Police reactivated a campaign of harassment of human rights defenders, following the complaint against the illegal megaproject of Inversiones Los Pinares, a contract that expires on January 28, 2024.”

Earth Rights International notes:

“Since 2015 citizens of Tocoa, Honduras have organized as the Comité Municipal de Defensa de los Bienes Comunes y Públicos de Tocoa (CMDBCP) to oppose the illegal granting of a concession to an iron ore mining project in the Mountain Botaderos Carlos Escaleras National Park. Their grassroots activism has particularly focused on concerns that the mining project will contaminate the Guapinol, San Pedro, and Ceibita rivers and watersheds, which supply water to tens of thousands of people.”

Amnesty International adds: “The people of Guapinol and other communities of Tocoa have faced continued attacks because they have been peacefully questioning the legality of a mining project in the Carlos Escaleras National Park.”

They add: “On August 1, 2018, residents set up the ‘Guapinol camp’ to peacefully protest against the [mining] license… Members of the CMDBCP have faced at least two criminal proceedings since 2018 for defending the Guapinol and San Pedro Rivers of the impacts mining project. Leonel George spent some time in prison in 2019 along with other Guapinol River defenders for these proceedings.”

As noted above, one of the mining concessions – named ASP – was to expire on January 28, 2024. The community, however, learned this past October that Inversiones Los Pinares intended to renew the concession contract for up to 30 more years.

Photo: PBI-Honduras was present at the self-convened popular assembly that rejected the Ecotek/Los Pinares megaproject; December 9, 2023.

Then on January 19, more than 100+ organizations, including the PBI-Honduras accompanied ARCAH and COPINH, called for the “immediate and unconditional cancellation” of the ASP mining concession along with other components of the megaproject, which include the ASP2 mining concession, a thermoelectric plant, and a pelletizing plant.

But as Contra Corriente reports: “The company and the municipal authorities have not given up and called for a new town hall to be held on January 31.”

On Monday January 29, PBI-Honduras posted:

“@guapinolre warns that on 01/28 the contract for the ASP component of the mining concession expired. It also maintains that by calling a new open council for 01/31, the mayor of Tocoa would ignore the decision of the communities, which already said ‘no’ to mining. In a context of high risk for defenders of [human rights], we remember the importance of the international community supporting @guapinolre, since this solidarity has been fundamental during the most critical moments of criminalization, repression and threats.”


A Canadian connection?

Contra Corriente has also reported: “Inversiones Los Pinares maintains Lenir Pérez and Ana Facussé as its sole partners, despite the fact that in April 2023 it was made public that the FBI was investigating the activities of Honduran businessman Lenir Pérez and his relations with the multinational Nucor, the main steel producer in the United States.”

Read: The hidden connection between a US steel company and the controversial Los Pinares mine in Honduras (Univision, November 9, 2020).

Simply Wall St has noted: “The Vanguard Group, Inc. is currently [Nucor’s] largest shareholder with 12% of shares outstanding.”

Vanguard Investments Canada Inc. explains: “The Vanguard Group, Inc., is owned by its U.S.-domiciled funds and ETFs [exchange-traded funds]. Those funds, in turn, are owned by their investors. …As a result, Canadian investors benefit from Vanguard’s low costs, client focus, stability and experience.”

Vanguard Investments Canada Inc. is located in the Bay Adelaide Centre, 22 Adelaide Street West, Suite 2500, in Toronto.

As the Guapinol River defenders and communities await formal confirmation of the expiration of the ASP mining concession, we continue to monitor the situation.

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