Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Money, money money...

There, got your attention?

We have been arguing for more than a year now that the coup d'etat of June 28 and its continuing aftermath were not ideological-- unless the ideology involved is capitalism.

The forces behind the coup were shown to be a cadre of business-owners in early analyses by Leticia Salomon and other Honduran scholars. Resistance to a living wage and to union contracts was only the most visible evidence of this direction of the de facto regime, continuing in the Lobo Sosa administration. Government agencies charged with protecting the environment were converted after the coup into rubber stamps for developments damaging to sensitive ecological zones, and even to the health of the Honduran people.

The fingerprints of this shift back to favoring business interests of a small elite are also found all over concessions of rights for power generation, even if it is hard to connect the dots due to an almost total absence of real reporting in mainstream Honduran and foreign news media.

Yesterday, El Libertador published a formal statement by the Frente de Resistencia about the "harmful contracts for renewable energy" granted to "the golpista oligarchy". The contracts in question are for thermal generation of electricity. The Honduran National Congress has, according to this report, approved the concession of more than 50 watersheds for this purpose to private companies.

One of the main arguments against these contracts, advanced by the Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Empresa Nacional de Energía Eléctrica (STENEE), the union of the national electrical workers, is that the contracts for ENEE to buy the energy produced guarantee an overly high price: reportedly 12 US cents per kilowatt hour, far above the previously negotiated price of 5 US cents per kilowatt hour.

Unlikely to be a coincidence, on August 25, El Heraldo published an interview with Honduran businessman Fredy Násser of the energy development enterprise Grupo Terra. The theme of the article: there is a reason why they haven't invested in "clean energy" in Honduras, they would love to, and they have lots of investment funding from the Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica (BCIE), the German Development Bank, and the Dutch Development Bank. Násser was among the businessmen singled out by Leticia Salomon in her analyses of the business interests behind the coup of June 28, 2009.

El Libertador claims that the concessions for energy generation rely on forged signatures of mayors of affected towns, and thus that they were "negotiated" without consultation of the citizenry. One of the hallmarks of the Zelaya administration was a push for citizen participation, and one of the counter forces against that administration was a desire to return to a system in which representatives without accountability speak for the people.

So, the Frente calls for mobilization to
defend in a permanent way our natural resources, that should be developed under public policies with participation and direct benefit for the communities. Only under this procedure can we support clean energy projects.

Rigoberto Cuellar, the Secretary of Natural Resources in the Lobo Sosa government, defended the new contracts, saying his ministry will ensure that the contracts will be the least expensive possible and environmentally sensitive. He stated firmly that the entire process of letting contracts adhered completely to the requirements of the law. The one thing absent from his public statements: any comment on how, or whether, the proposed new energy facilities have been discussed with the local communities.

But, as Fredy Násser would argue,
it is necessary to generate wealth and the spaces necessary to develop opportunities for our people. The governments have to realize that this is the only way out of poverty.

The only way out of poverty? or the only way to "generate wealth"?


John (Juan) Donaghy said...

Do you mean "hydroelectric" generation? I know there is some promotion of thermal energy but the real problem is hydroelectric generation.

There is a major conflict in the San Pedro Sula area where a number of forces, including, I believe, Guatemalan investors are promoting a hydroelectric project in the Merendon - and some of the energy will be going to Guatemala!

This will probably be a major source of conflict in the next months and year - as rich investors, sometimes aided by international investors - seek to provide "alternative energy" resources.

RAJ said...

The concept of "renewable energy" is being used by Honduran politicians and businessmen, as well as by the Frente, to include hydroelectric but also wind and geothermal potentials.

We could have an interesting conversation about how hydroelectric-- an environmentally and socially destructive technology-- can be called "renewable".

The hydro plants are clearly first-- but the interview with Nasser was interesting because it included other technologies as well. Privatization of these is troubling; pushing through contracts without public hearings is more than troubling.