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Carbon Blood Money in Honduras March 10, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Energy, Environment, Honduras, Latin America.
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Published on Saturday, March 10, 2012 by Foreign Policy in Focus

  by  Rosie Wong

With its muddy roads, humble huts, and constant military patrols, Bajo Aguán, Honduras feels a long way away from the slick polish of the recurring UN climate negotiations in the world’s capital cities. Yet the bloody struggle going on there strikes at the heart of global climate politics, illustrating how market schemes designed to “offset” carbon emissions play out when they encounter the complicated reality on the ground.

Small farmers in this region have increasingly fallen under the thumb of large landholders like palm oil magnate Miguel Facussé, who has been accused by human rights groups of responsibility for the murder of numerous campesinos in Bajo Aguán since the 2009 coup. Yet Facussé’s company has been approved to receive international funds for carbon mitigation under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

The contrast between the promise of “clean development” and this violent reality has made Bajo Aguán the subject of growing international attention — and a lightning rod for criticism of the CDM.

The Coup and Its Aftermath

In June 2009, a military coup in Honduras deposed the government of Manuel Zelaya, stymieing the government’s progressive social reforms and experiments with participatory democracy. “It was not only to expel President Zelaya,” says Juan Almendarez, a prominent Honduran environmental and humanitarian advocate. The coup happened “because the powerful people in Honduras were acting in response to the people’s struggles in Honduras.”

The result has been social decay and political repression. The homicide rate in Honduras has skyrocketed under the Porfirio Lobo regime, registering as the world’s highest in 2010. Human rights groups highlight the ongoing political assassinations of regime opponents. In this small country of 8 million people, 17 journalists have been killed since the coup. LGBTI organizers, indigenous rights activists, unionists, teachers, youth organizers, women’s advocates, and opposition politicians have also received death threats or been killed. Those responsible are rarely punished by the justice system, which instead devotes its energies to prosecuting social and human rights activists. Protests are often met with teargas canisters and live ammunition.

The coup has also proved a setback for campesino activists seeking to halt the encroachment of large landowners on their farms.

The Struggle for Land in Bajo Aguán

Highly unequal land distribution has long been an issue in Honduras, and genuine land reform has been evasive. However, partial agrarian reform in 1961 made the rainforests of Bajo Aguán available for cooperatives of farmers who migrated there from other parts of the country. Clearing the forests to make the land suitable for farming was extremely difficult work, but the farmers’ perseverance turned it into one of the most desirable and fertile agricultural lands in the country.

However, under pressure from international financial institutions, Honduras’s government passed the Law of Agricultural Modernization in 1994, allowing large producers to extend their territories beyond the maximum legal property limits. As a result, large landowners began to buy up the land of small farmers, effectively reversing whatever limited land reform had been achieved. The human costs were immense. According to Juan Chinchilla of the Unified Campesino Movement of Aguan (MUCA), “it forced masses of farmers to migrate to the cities and to the U.S. under terrible conditions.”

An older movement, the MCA (Campesino Movement of Aguan), has organized several dramatic acts of resistance to this dislocation. In May 2000, the collective orchestrated a remarkable mass occupation of a former U.S. military base on a large tract of arable land controlled by agro-industrialists. Coordinating with landless farmers from all over the country, the MCA organized 50 trucks and, early one morning, entered the former base and tore down its fences. This occupation continues today, despite threats and persecution.

In 2008, MUCA occupied one of Miguel Facussé’s palm oil processing plants and subsequently entered into negotiations with then-President Zelaya to have occupied lands legally transferred to small farmers. When the coup occurred and jeopardized these hard-won gains, landless farmers mobilized against it, with MUCA officials travelling to the Nicaraguan border to meet Zelaya on his second attempt to return to Honduras. It was there that MUCA decided to organize a mass land occupation starting on December 9, 2009.

But despite this resistance, aggressive landholders buoyed by the coup have continued their onslaught against the farmers of Bajo Aguán. According to the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, 42 farmers were assassinated between September 2009 and October 2011 in Honduras. More recent reports have the numbers in the 50s by 2011. In one surprisingly brazen incident in November 2010, after five farmers were killed in El Tumbador, Facussé gave a press statement acknowledging that it was his hired security guards who were responsible.

A community member from the Marañones settlement in Bajo Aguán described an eviction of small farmers from the Guanchía cooperative on 8 January 2010, carried out by a contingent of 500 police and soldiers with teargas and guns: “It was a violent eviction where they had nothing legal to show us; the first greetings they gave us were the weapons. They began to shoot at us, to capture and beat our compañeros. There were captured children, nine of them…compañeras were raped…our homes were destroyed, our food – they took part of it and destroyed the other parts.”

Almost every farmer I interviewed said that it was unsafe to leave their settlements. The countryside is dotted with military checkpoints, and farmers have been killed travelling to or from their settlements. “The way we see it, it has become a crime to be a farmer here,” Heriberto Rodríguez of MUCA explained. There have been at least four military operations in the area since 2010.

Palm Oil and Power

Bajo Aguán’s small farmers are already under siege. But carbon trading with the global North could help to fuel in this aggression even further under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Set up under the current UN climate treaty, the CDM is supposed to encourage “clean” technology in the South and to provide Northern actors with the most efficient (i.e., cheapest) way to reduce global pollution. The basic equation is simple: a project in the global South that ostensibly reduces carbon emissions generates carbon credits. These credits can then be bought and sold by companies in the global North, who can use them to meet government requirements to reduce pollution without actually reducing emissions in their factories or power plants.

Dinant, Facusse´s palm oil company, has set up one of these projects. In the past, the company’s palm oil mill pumped its waste into large open pits, a process that produces large quantities of methane. Dinant’s project involves capturing this greenhouse gas and using it to power the mill. The project’s blueprint claims that it will reduce pollution in two ways: first, by not letting the methane from open pits escape straight into the atmosphere, and second, by preventing pollution from burning the fossil fuels that were formerly used to power the mill.

Dinant’s approval is obviously problematic for a number of reasons.

First, with the expanding palm oil industry contributing to massive deforestation in sensitive tropical regions, it’s ironic that Dinant would be rewarded for environmentally sound practices. Moreover, its CDM approval essentially endorses a business model of producing palm oil for export—instead of food for local consumption—in a country where one in four children suffers chronic malnutrition. As Heriberto Rodríguez argued, “We don’t need palm oil here. We need what we can eat.”

Finally, if Wikileaks cables detailing some of Facussé’s more unsavory dealings—including but not limited to his potential links to drug traffickers (to say nothing of his documented violence against local farmers)—are any indication, Facussé’s misdeeds are no secret to the North. And yet one CDM board member told a journalist that “we are not investigators of crimes” and that there is “not much scope” to reject the project under CDM rules.

As rights groups have brought these problems to light, Northern companies associated with the project have pulled out one by one, including a consultant that contributed to the project application, the German government bank that had agreed to give a loan to Dinant, and the French electricity company that had agreed to buy the credits. This has left Miguel Facussé and Dinant out on a limb. However, the struggle to stop European carbon market money from flowing to Bajo Aguán is not finished: the CDM board has re-approved the project, and the British government has not withdrawn its support, which means that new buyers could still appear.

Not for Sale

At an international human rights conference held in Bajo Aguan in February, MUCA signed an agreement with the Lobo regime that included a financing plan for the farmers to pay the large landholders for occupied land. But critics say that even if the government can be trusted (itself a questionable proposition), the crucial issues of assassinations and impunity were ignored. Facussé´s company is now accusing farmers of new “invasions.”

Needless to say, the situation in Bajo Aguán continues to be incredibly dangerous. Local rights groups have called for a Permanent Human Rights Observatory to witness, document, and discourage the ongoing violence against farmers in the region.

Although growing international condemnation has made it more difficult for Dinant to access carbon market money, the project remains officially sanctioned, and loans from international development banks have not been cancelled. Heriberto Rodríguez, speaking from his roadside hut in an Aguán settlement, had no doubt about the impact of this international support: “Whoever gives the finance to these companies also becomes complicit in all these deaths. If they cut these funds, the landholders will feel somewhat pressured to change their methods.”

MUCA spokesperson Vitalino Alvarez rejects the idea of carbon trading projects altogether. “To get into these deals is like having [our land] mortgaged,” he said. “So to this we say no; this oxygen, we don’t sell it to anybody.”

© 2012 Institute for Policy Studies

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Rosie Wong has accompanied the anti-coup movement in Honduras since 2009, visiting Honduras three times and doing organizing work in Sydney, Australia. She compiles monthly updates at http://www.sydney-says-no2honduras-coup.net and can be contacted at latinamerica.emergency@gmail.com. Kylie Benton-Connell, currently based in Brazil, provided research support.

Comments»

1. Robert Shulman - July 5, 2012

Re: Alberto Castillo Hyde, Pro-Bono Diplomat, President of Fundacion Vamos Panama, & thief of  $1.5 Million Dollars. USA Representative of Fundacion Vamos Panama was Herbert E. Caswell, S & H Investment Firm  of Jacksonville Florida.

 July 4, 2012

 Dear President Lobo:

 I write to you today with high expectations that you will receive my concerns, evidence, and position,  in a positive and productive manner.  My company was the victim of a $1.5 Million theft by Ex-Pro Bono diplomat, Alberto Castillo Hyde, not the $450,000 and $300,000 repeatedly reported in the Latino media.  One needs to only (Google) Alberto Castillo Hyde for a complete description  of his fraud since June, 2011.  I write to you because it is the responsibility of your high office to appoint responsible diplomats of high moral character, obviously,  in the case of Alberto Castillo Hyde, that was not accomplished.

 On April 18  2012,  I met with the legal department at the Honduras Embassy in Washington D.C.  The purpose of my visit was two fold.

 Firstly, to enlighten your embassy on a matter that evolved around  Ex-Pro Bono  diplomat Albert Castillo Hyde. All of the many reports in the media, indicated questionable &  ludicrous explanations of the truth, concerning the origin and intent of Albert Castillo Hyde, and the two incidents attempting to smuggle $300,000 undeclared into  Benito Juarez airport in Mexico City on January 17, 2011.  During the month of June 2011,  he was arrested again at the Tocumen airport  in Panama city for carrying $450,000 cash undeclared in a suitcase.  Each time the Ex diplomat was arrested and released.  I produced several evidential documents with your embassy’s legal department, which they retained during my April 18th meeting.  It is on record that Law enforcement authorities in Panama, Mexico, and Honduras, as well as the media, professed their desire to investigate and receive tips, accurate facts,  and assistance concerning the obvious “Maletinazo”.  I stand ready, willing, and able to produce 100% indisputable evidence to support my allegations of the entire criminal matter.

 Secondly, I seek your government’s assistance, in the return of the $1.5 Million dollars stolen from my company by Ex-Pro Bono diplomat Alberto Castillo Hyde. I respectfully direct this communication to your attention, in the spirit of justice, and the expectation of the rule of law prevailing. In addition, your government should seize the opportunity to display to your people and the world, that your administration  intends to restore honest democratic principals and unhindered justice, regardless of possible consequences and embarrassment. You must admit, his unbelievable explanations concerning the origin of the stolen funds, as well as the stated donation to Honduras, and his other explanations belong in a Disney cartoon.

 My Dear Mr. President, I was unable to convince your embassy in Washington D.C.,  to take suitable steps that would solve the so called Alberto Castillo Hyde  mystery. Likewise, the Panamanian, and Mexican embassies also decided to distance themselves from the egregious & brazen theft by the Ex Pro Bono Honduran diplomat, that also violated serious laws in Panama and Mexico.

 The fact that Alberto Castillo Hyde has not been brought to justice  in over one year, since the two incidents were exposed in the media, when he was arrested and released twice, presents serious questions that must be addressed:

 A).  Did the Honduran Government engage in a in-depth investigation of the origin of Mr. Hyde’s bogus claims in his affidavit?  Was the Panamanian & Mexican authorities contacted as part of an investigation?   No need to contact Interpol, I already  contacted them.

 B).  Did the Honduran government receive the gift of $450,000 for social programs as claimed by Mr. Hyde?

 C). Was Mr. Hyde treated in the same manner as any other suspect, attempting to smuggle large sums of cash through customs, on two separate occasions?

 D). Did Mr. Hyde share his loot with any officials or law enforcement,  in order to receive preferential treatment?

 E).  Does you administration intend to ignore my allegations,  and my offer of providing full proof of my allegations against Mr. Hyde?

F).  Was/is Alberto Castillo Hyde engaged in money laundering & drugs?

 Thanking you in advance for your anticipated government’s intervention,  I am standing by for your response. You can be certain, I will not go away anytime soon or in the future for that matter, until justice is served.

    Sincerely,

   Robert Shulman

  Managing Partner

  Sentenial Investment Group, Llc
  sentinelgroup.rs@gmail.com

2. Robert Shulman - August 17, 2012

President Porfirio Lobo Sosa
Tegucigalpa, Honduras

August 17, 2012

Dear President Lobo:

I am following up with this communication in good faith,  in the event that you  have not seen or received the open letter recently sent to you and others.  I write to you again for several reasons listed below, that are as vital to you and your government as they are to me and my associates in our quest for justice.

1). Your esteem office appointed Dr. Alberto Castillo Hyde as a Pro Bono Diplomat to
Panama.  Maybe Diplomat Hyde was willing to work pro Bono, since being a diplomat was a great cover to steal & move cash and drugs unfettered?

2).  The rule of law questions the liability, morality, and legality of witnessing or being aware of a crime, and standing by idle and doing nothing?  His United States representative Herbert E. Caswell, signed an affidavit that the $1.5 Million theft by Dr. Hyde was premeditated. Of course Mr. Caswell was a motivated participant while also attempting to enrich himself.

3).  Dr. Hyde was apprehended in both Panama and Mexico, attempting to smuggle large sums of undeclared cash through security. ( You need only to Google “Alberto Castillo Hyde” ) to learn about the obvious crimes committed during 2011. In addition to the $1.5 Million embezzled from my company.  Mr. President, was Dr. Hyde investigated for money laundering & Drugs?  

4). On April 18, 2012, I met with Minister Counselor Norma Cerrato, at the Honduras Embassy in Washington D.C. I provided indisputable documentation of the $1.5 Million fraud by the appointed diplomat.  In addition, I was advised that Ambassador Hernandez , and the Minister of Foreign Affairs was briefed on the fraudulent “Maletinazo”.  As of this date I have been ignored, and that doesn’t please me at all.

5). I have also contacted the Panamanian and Mexican Embassies in Washington D.C., since laws were broken in both countries, and there appears to be no interest in dealing with such a sensitive matter.  Mr. President, Ex-Pro Bono Hyde, obviously enjoyed special treatment, since he signed a ludicrous affidavit attesting to a $450,000 gift to the Honduran Government upon his arrest. If by some chance your government did receive the alleged gift from diplomat Hyde, it needs to be returned to my company pronto.  I question if he also shared his loot with  involved law enforcement in order for his release?

Mr. President, I believe it is in the best interest of your country to deal with this matter expeditiously, by apprehending Alberto Castillo Hyde, and making him accountable for his crime. 100% proof of my allegations are available upon request, in addition to the obvious facts at hand.

” The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword”

Sincerely,

Robert Shulman
Managing Partner
Sentinel Investment Group, Llc

3. Robert Shulman - September 4, 2012

Open letter to:
President Porfirio Lobo Sosa
CC:  President Martinelli of Panama

September 1, 2012

Dear President Lobo:

I am following up with this communication in good faith,  in the event that you  have not seen or received the open letter recently sent to you and others.  I write to you again for several reasons listed below, that are as vital to you and your government as they are to me and my associates in our quest for justice.

1). Your esteem office appointed Dr. Alberto Castillo Hyde as a Pro Bono Diplomat to
Panama.  It is obvious that Diplomat Hyde was willing to work pro Bono, since being a diplomat was a great cover to launder cash and move drugs across borders undetected.

2).  The rule of law questions the liability, morality, and legality of witnessing or being aware of a crime, and standing by idle and doing nothing?  His United States representative Herbert E. Caswell, signed an affidavit that the $1.5 Million theft by Dr. Hyde was premeditated. Of course Mr. Caswell was a motivated participant while also attempting to enrich himself.

3).  Dr. Hyde was apprehended in both Panama and Mexico, attempting to smuggle large sums of undeclared cash through security. ( You need only to Google “Alberto Castillo Hyde” ) to learn about the obvious crimes committed during 2011. In addition to the $1.5 Million embezzled from my company.  Mr. President, was Dr. Hyde investigated for money laundering & Drugs?  

4). On April 18, 2012, I met with Minister Counselor Norma Cerrato, at the Honduras Embassy in Washington D.C. I provided indisputable documentation of the $1.5 Million fraud by the appointed diplomat.  In addition, I was advised that Ambassador Hernandez , and the Minister of Foreign Affairs was briefed on the fraudulent “Maletinazo”.  As of this date I have been ignored, and that doesn’t please me at all.

5). I have also contacted the Panamanian and Mexican Embassies in Washington D.C., since laws were broken in both countries, and there appears to be no interest in dealing with such a sensitive matter.  Mr. President, Ex-Pro Bono Hyde, obviously enjoyed special treatment, since he signed a ludicrous affidavit attesting to a $450,000 gift to the Honduran Government upon his arrest. If by some chance your government did receive the alleged gift from diplomat Hyde, it needs to be returned to my company pronto.  I question if he also shared his loot with  involved law enforcement in order for his release?

Mr. President, I believe it is in the best interest of your country to deal with this matter expeditiously, by apprehending Alberto Castillo Hyde, and making him accountable for his crime. 100% proof of my allegations are available upon request, in addition to the obvious facts at hand.

” The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword”

Sincerely,

Robert Shulman
Managing Partner
Sentinel Investment Group, Llc


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