The Misión de Apoyo Contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad en Honduras (MACCIH) announced Thursday that it would begin investigating, not the murder of indigenous activist Berta Cáceres, but the funding and government contracts of DESA, the company building the Agua Zarca dam for possible corruption and money laundering.
Mission spokesperson, Juan Jimenez Mayor announced the OAS mission would look into DESA, how it got its government contracts for the Agua Zarca dam and ENEE electricity purchase, and how it grew from a company with less than $1000 in capital in 2009 to have over $17 million in 2014. In particular, Jimenez Mayor said the Mission wanted to verify the source of the funds, and whether DESA was money laundering.
Another aspect of the Agua Zarca project that Jimenez Mayor said was interesting was the awarding of the original environmental license in 2010, and the enlarged project environmental license in 2011. The latter, approved by Dario Roberto Cardona, then sub secretary of the Secretaria de Recursos Naturales y Ambiente (SERNA). Jimenez Mayor noted that while Cardona was being prosecuted for issuing the expanded environmental license in 2011 without proper consultation with the indigenous communities around Agua Zarca, he wondered why the issuer of the first environmental license, then Minister Rigoberto Cuellar, was not being investigated for the same crime since the same problem exists with the first environmental license issued in 2010.
Jimenez Mayor also pointed to Congress, and its approval of an electricity buying contract from DESA to ENEE that called for ENEE to purchase more electricity than initially agreed on.
DESA denies there was an increase in its electricity production licensed by Cardona, and maintains it properly consulted with the municipality through open meetings, and that ILO 169 has not been codified into Honduran law.
The Agua Zarca project remains suspended. The recent withdrawal of two of the international funding agencies (the Netherlands Development Bank (FMO) and the Finland Fund for Industrial Cooperation (FINFUND)) has not resulted in its cancelation because much of the funding comes from the Banco Interamericano de Integración Económica (BCIE) which has not withdrawn its support.