El Progreso, Honduras, April 16, 2021 – Over 60 U.S. and Honduran civil society organizations are sending a joint letter to the U.S. Secretary of Treasury Janet Yellen, expressing their serious concern regarding the proposed financing of the Jilamito Hydroelectric Project in Honduras by IDB Invest (a member of the Inter-American Development Bank Group) and the U.S. Development Finance Corporation (DFC). Citing grave human rights concerns and allegations of corruption related to the project, the letter urges the United States to use its voice within IDB Invest and the DFC to ensure that the financing is immediately suspended and definitively cancelled. 

The letter notes the numerous parallels between the Jilamito hydroelectric project and the Agua Zarca dam, which Goldman Environmental Prize winner and world-renowned Indigenous leader Berta Cáceres was murdered for opposing in 2016. Citing strong community opposition, well-documented instances of threats, murders and criminalization, and a number of serious corruption complaints still pending against the project, the letter calls on the United States to heed the warning signs, noting “[w]e do not want a high profile murder to have to occur for IDB Invest and the DFC to pull out of this project.” 

Magdalena Díaz, a member of Honduras’ Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice (MADJ) and the encampment defending the Jilamito River from this project, explains “We know that today, for defending our common goods and the environment, particularly water — which is fundamental to life and for the new and future generations — they kill us. They criminalize us.”

As Allison Lira and Julien Christe, Honduras Program Co-Directors of the Witness for Peace Solidarity Collective, jointly stated, “Honduras is one of the most dangerous places in the world for environmental defenders, in large part due to extractive projects like the proposed Jilamito Hydroelectric Dam. Given a context of widespread impunity and corruption, projects such as this one all too often generate violence, damage the environment, and displace families. International financial institutions, like IDB Invest and DFC, must strengthen safeguards to ensure that they do not undermine human rights and rule of law in the places where they operate.”

Martin Fernandez of MADJ states that “through open referendums, which is legally binding in a municipality, the communities have on two occasions determined the non-concession of their sources of water. So this [project] would be violating the popular will. From a strictly legal perspective, this company fraudulently obtained this project. And at the administrative level, they were warned on several occasions that this project was not environmentally viable…So we are warning IDB to take into consideration these elements that could put their investment at risk.”

Finally, the letter notes that financing the Jilamito Hydroelectric Project directly undermines the Biden Administration’s stated priority of addressing corruption and human rights abuses in Honduras as a way of addressing the root causes of migration. As Martin Fernandez of MADJ continues “far from generating development, [it] generates a climate of insecurity and serious social problems in the municipality of Arizona.” 

The organizations signing the letter include the U.S.-based organizations Witness for Peace Solidarity Collective, School of the Americas Watch, Pax Christi USA, the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, and many more, as well as Honduras’ Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice (MADJ) and the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). 

Read the full letter here: http://bit.ly/JilamitoLetter

En español: http://bit.ly/2021CartaJilamito

About School of the Americas Watch

Over the past 27 years, SOA Watch has grown to become the largest grassroots Latin America solidarity organization in the United States. In 2016 SOA Watch moved to Nogales Arizona/Sonora to call attention to militarized US foreign policy as a principal root cause of migration, as well as the devastating impact US security and immigration policy has on refugees, asylum seekers and immigrant families all over the continent. www.soaw.org