Privatization of land and resources
Honduras history is characterized by the exploitation of natural resources and locals. Before President Manuel Zelaya (2006-2009) was dismissed in 2009, he introduced a temporary halt in all new production licenses. After the coup, the shutdown was abruptly abated, and since then the privatization of natural resources has increased. The state gradually sells itself out of state companies, and public resources go into private hands.
Licenses to the hydroelectric and extractive industries have gone hard over several indigenous and smallholder communities. Soil and natural resources are not only fundamental to their economic and social organization, but to indigenous peoples, they also have an important cultural value. Mining and hydropower projects are being pressured on local communities through the use of violence and threats. Instead of promoting “development”, the population feels that natural resources are being plundered without being able to take part in the processes, and often the projects receive land access in an unjust manner.
The last four decades have seen a continuous flow of migrants traveling to the United States as a result of extreme poverty, inequality, resource scarcity and violence. Remesas, remittances from Hondurans living in other countries, account for as much as 20% of the country’s GDP. The migrant caravans that went between 2018 and 2019 received a lot of media attention. Not only was there a massive increase in the number traveling, the circumstances had changed. The human rights organization Fray Matias in the border town of Tapachula says that it is no longer possible to talk about migration, but forced displacement. Where you used to see men who were looking for jobs in the short or long term to support the family, you now see (single) minors, women and entire families fleeing.Between January and September 2019, at least 247,000 people were forced to flee Honduras.
The stronghold of inequality
In Honduras, 62% of the population lives below the poverty line, and 17% live in extreme poverty. The numbers are among the highest in the region, and Honduras is one of the few countries where poverty has increased in recent years. The population lives below what is referred to as multidimensional poverty, where they have both poor economy and living conditions, as well as lack of access to education and health. Honduras is the country in Latin America with the highest inequality, both in terms of income inequality and what the UN Development Program calls human inequality.
Being young is a risk factor
Youth time is the most difficult to overcome in Honduras. The population is very young and the median age is 24.3 years. Nearly one-third of the country’s youth do not attend school or have a job, according to the United Nations Development Program. Being young increases the risk of being killed statistically, and during 2018, 70% of all people killed were between the ages of 15 and 39. Only between 2010 and 2018, 26,403 violent killings of children and youth were reported.
Grassroots organizations and trade unions, human rights
The repression in Honduras is worse than in 30 years, precisely because the organized resistance is stronger. Organizations and communities: indigenous peoples, garifuna, environmental activists, journalists, squads, students and peasants are in an ongoing battle against government, corruption, impunity and resources, against transnational corporations and state violence. These people are also the ones most vulnerable to political repression and hate crime. Many live under constant threats of being killed, abducted or persecuted.
Several indigenous leaders and human rights defenders have in recent years been prosecuted, imprisoned and killed for opposing major development projects. Often on the basis of false accusations and lack of evidence. This is a deliberate strategy on the part of the authorities and companies to weaken political and democratic organization. Honduras has ratified the Indigenous Peoples Convention, and has a land law that allows the occupation of uncultivated land. Nevertheless, indigenous peoples and small farmers rarely get their rightful ownership of the land. This often happens because of strong financial interests among landowners. An example is the land conflict in the Tolupan people’s areas of Locomapa.
Connections between Honduras and Norway
There is no political interaction between official Norway and Honduras according to Countryaah.com. There are consulates in the respective countries, but no dialogue or bilateral relationship of relevance. It is considered highly problematic by several human rights and aid organizations, given the relatively extensive investment in the country and the precarious human rights situation.
The most important dialogue between the two countries is between organizations. The most prominent Norwegian organizations working in or collaborating with organizations in Honduras are: Norwegian People’s Aid, Caritas, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Peace Brigades International and the Latin American groups in Norway.
Norfund is present in Honduras with investments in finance and energy projects. The Government Pension Fund Global (SPU), popularly called the Oil Fund, has previously invested in mining companies. As of 2020, there are no known investments in mining companies operating in Honduras.
The bank Ficohsa was a key player during the coup d’état in 2009. Atala at that time, the owner Atala was president of the Honduran business association COHEP, and worked actively to secure support from the business community. At the same time, Ficohsa paid for political lobbying in the United States in support of the coup. Ficohsa have close relationships with private Honduran businesses that are notorious for gross human rights violations: Corporación Dinant and Facousse family.
In 2012, Norfund signed a credit agreement with Ficohsa worth USD 12.5 million. Credit support should be aimed at small and medium-sized enterprises in agriculture and renewable energy. Ficohsa is the first bank in Central America to receive support from Norfund.
Los Prados and Agua Fría (PRODUCERSSA)
Over the past ten years, the Norwegian companies Scatec Solar, Norfund and Municipal Land Pension Fund (KLP) have invested in two solar park projects in Southern Honduras: Agua Fría and Los Prados. KLP Norfund Investments owns 60% of the solar park Agua Fría and Scatec Solar 40%. In the Los Prados solar park, KLP Norfund Investments owns 30% and Scatec Solar 70%. The solar parks are part of the Honduran government’s commitment to renewable energy projects. 20-year agreements have been signed for the purchase of energy from the two Norwegian solar parks to the Honduran national electricity company Empresa Nacional de Energia Eléctrica (ENEE). People in the communities around the solar parks tell about missing and incorrect information in advance of the developments, and that they have not been able to participate in the decision-making processes. According to local environmental organizations and the local people, the projects have led to deforestation, land loss, an increasing level of conflict and criminalization of project opponents.
David Castillo is a Honduran businessman and former public servant and military intelligence officer. He is the former CEO of the energy company Desarrollo Energetica SA, which was responsible for the controversial, corruption-accused dam project Agua Zarca on the Gualcarque River. In 2016, environmental and human rights advocate Berta Cáceres was killed in her own home because of her opposition to the project, and Castillo is slated to be the brain behind. The killing was condemned by a whole world, leading to political and popular mourning among organizations and activists. In the months that followed, it was mobilized for collections and associated demonstrations around the world.
David Castillo is also former chairman and secretary of the company PRODERSSA, and legal representative of PEMSA. In 2019, PRODERSSA authorized its board to transfer David Castillo and PEMSA’s shares in the Agua Fría solar project to KLP Norfund Investments. David Castillo received $ 1.3 million from the companies in exchange for the transfer of land titles, as the land area registered in his name had been used as part of the project financing guarantee.
Population: 9.6 million (2018)
Life expectancy: 75.1 years (2018)
Infant mortality: 15.6 per 1000 (2018)
GDP per capita (2011 PPP): US $ 4,285 (2018)
Official languages: Spanish
Currency unit: Lempira
Main export items: Coffee, bananas, palm oil, clothing, shrimp, car parts, cigars, gold, fruit, lobster and timber
Regional organizations: Member of the Association of Caribbean States (AEC), CELAC, Central American Common Market (MCCA), Organization of American States (OAS) Petrocaribe, Secretariat for Economic Integration of Central America (SIECA)
Free Trade Agreements: CAFTA-DR, AdA (Central America and EU), MA-Mexico, Northern Triangle – Colombia, et al