Land Rights Conflicts: Rio Blanco, Intibuca

Last update: July 28, 2014

Rio Blanco, Intibucá is the site of a conflict over development of a hydro-electric facility on the Gualcarque River.  Organizations representing indigenous Lenca communities in the region object to the development, which they say was undertaken without their consent and has disrupted their local environment and reduced their access to water.  Other members of the local community express support for the development, which they believe could provide increased infrastructure and employment.  Both supporters and opponents of the development have alleged being subject to threats and intimidation related to their views.

On July 15, 2013, a soldier of the Honduran First Engineering Battalion shot and killed Tomas Garcia, an indigenous Lenca man protesting the construction of the hydroelectric facility.  Police arrested the soldier and turned him over to Public Ministry officials.  In pretrial proceedings, the soldier was remanded to the custody of the First Engineering Battalion.

Status Update

Embassy staff visited the communities of Rio Blanco in February 2014 to meet with community and indigenous leaders.  The Embassy continues to support civil society calls for respect for land rights, full consultation in accordance with international law, and peaceful resolution to land conflicts.

The Public Ministry has brought charges against Berta Caceres, the leader of indigenous NGO the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (Consejo Civico de Organizaciones Populares y Indigenas de Honduras – COPINH), for damages to the hydroelectric facilities caused during protests.  NGOs have objected to the charges as politically-motivated.  In February 2014, a judge dismissed other charges against Caceres.

In March 2014, COPINH reported that indigenous leaders Maria Santos Dominguez and her son and husband were injured in an attack related to Dominguez’s opposition to the development of the hydro-electric facility.  Other community members reported that the attack was related to a personal dispute.  Embassy staff have urged the police and prosecutors to fully investigate the incident.

The Embassy continues to actively monitor the case against the soldier charged with shooting Tomas Garcia in July 2013.