Death toll one - An ethnography of hydropower and human rights violations in Honduras

Mark Bonta

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9 Scopus citations


How does the resistance of local people to hydroelectric projects take shape in a country where globalization (in the guise of 'regional integration') seeks the rapid transformation of rural landscapes into industrial zones? Why do local people resist energy- and income-generating 'modernization' projects that promise to help end poverty and save the rain forest, among other goals? During the course of their resistance, why are human violations committed by forces of globalization - and who or what is responsible for the beatings, threats, and murders that accompany Honduran hydro projects such as the one described below? The ethnographic details below suggest that the onus of guilt rests on local investment-hungry power elites whose repressive tactics are tolerated by development entities such as the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI). My case in point is the CABEI-funded Babilonia Hydroelectric Project (Proyecto Hidroeléctrico Babilonia, PHB), a 4-megawatt initiative of the private company Energisa in the Department of Olancho. I first describe the essence of the issue as a conflict between local land rights and globalization that gained national notoriety after the murder of an anti-project activist, at which point actors at the national and international scales became involved in mediation efforts. I then backtrack to an earlier local meeting in which are evident the tensions and delineations that point to the primary culpability of the provincial power elite in systematic human rights violations. I continue with an analysis of land rights groups on both sides (pro- and anti-project) and conclude by discussing the power and scope of heterogeneous coalitions in confronting the fast-moving advances and abuses of globalization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-30
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development


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