Table of Contents

“It’s hard to distinguish between public officials and private-sector interests. They’re the same people.”
—Development economist

The individuals or families referred to here as private-sector members of Honduras’s kleptocratic network by no means control the nation’s entire economy. Plenty of businesses exist outside the network: the small restaurants that line the roads and city streets, small-scale manufacturing for local or regional consumption, agriculture—even much coffee cultivation, processing, and export—do not fall within the networks’ purview.

Kleptocratic networks focus on those economic activities that are most likely to generate and concentrate exponential returns in relatively few hands, especially by way of government favoritism, or that are most likely to attract significant international financing. In Honduras as elsewhere, banking, energy and natural resources, export agriculture (licit or illicit), and large-scale construction are prime targets of network predation.

One strand of Honduras’s private-sector network element does overlap very closely with the public sector, as the epigraph above suggests is the case. It consists of those companies that provide goods and services directly to the government, such as construction or pharmaceutical companies. But even the more powerful and more distinct private-sector strand—members of the handful of families of Syrian or Palestinian origin that dominate many of the most lucrative activities—may also be gradually fusing with the governmental cohort. Some have held high public office. And several students of Honduran elites told us that the young adults descended from Middle Eastern stock (approximately the fourth generation) are beginning to marry outside of their traditional clans.323

For many in these increasingly overlapping social groupings, the luxurious American School of Tegucigalpa—where “the language of money is built”324—serves as a social and business networking platform that may be breaking down some of the earlier separation. Interpenetration may also be taking place below the surface level of corporate ownership and management, by way of exchanges of company shares for generous contract terms, including free inputs such as electricity, illegal permitting, or other administrative favors.325 Such international initiatives as the Alliance for Prosperity—aimed at the three Central American countries known as the Northern Triangle, whose outside funding includes a projected $750 million from the United States—provide big businesses a seat alongside government decisionmakers in determining economic and development policy.326

Concerted research by a corporate due-diligence professional on our team with experience in the former Soviet bloc found Honduran corporate ownership “far less transparent than it is in Russia.”327 Companies are listed with the Commercial Registry Office, and must submit articles of incorporation and shareholder identity to their municipal chamber of commerce, together with annual balance sheets. But they are not required to make any of this information public. Chambers of commerce are unevenly transparent, and no national business registry exists.

There is no question that such secrecy is deliberate, meant to obscure from view the owners of companies engaged in contested activities. When Global Witness reported that the vice president of Congress (via her husband) owned the company building two unpopular dams, she denounced the information as false.328

Nevertheless, weeks of trawling public records, social media, and other sources allowed us at least to corroborate the basic picture sketched in numerous interviews and studies: that corporate ownership in those sectors of the Honduran economy that are most likely to generate rents is concentrated in the hands of members of about a dozen families.329

One characteristic that emerges from this examination is a notable degree of diversification within the key families’ activities. Like Azerbaijan’s ruling Aliyev family, they own conglomerates that often are engaged in a variety of lucrative businesses, and notably span the divide between finance and the real economy.330 “Bankers and industrialists are the same people,” comments a former senior government official.331 As a result, they can collaborate as a powerful bloc to fix the political and economic rules that underpin their domination. Rivalries within this private-sector element of the network certainly exist, and are often manifested by way of cleavages between major political parties. The Rosenthal family, for example, has leaned toward the Liberal Party, while the rival Atalas are Nationalist stalwarts.

Though the lack of public corporate records complicates substantiation, it is clear even from piecemeal evidence that the boards of many of these companies interlock, either via exchange of directorship positions or marriage alliances. As a result, like a tightly woven goal net, the families are “strategically positioned as indispensable allies to external actors seeking entrance” into Honduras, as scholar Aaron Schneider put it,332 and they benefit disproportionately from foreign direct investment and international loans and development financing.

The discussion below elaborates on a few of the economic sectors that some of the primary families dominate. A glance at any of the relevant company websites indicates that almost all their business operations cross borders. Further study is needed to explore and depict the transnational dimensions of the activities and relationships involved.


More than 50 percent of Honduras’s financial market is now controlled by just three banks: Banco Ficohsa (led by members of the Atala Faraj family), Banco Atlantida (Goldstein and Bueso families), and Banco de Occidente (Bueso and Arias). Honduran banks have traditionally been parsimonious with credit, only extending it given substantial collateral and/or guarantees.

To help lubricate this constricted market, the International Finance Corporation has made significant loans, ostensibly for onward lending to small businesses.333 But in at least one case, an internal investigation found that International Finance Corporation money “in excess of agreed ratios” has been passed through Banco Ficohsa to one of its biggest borrowers, the Facussés’ Dinant Corporation, despite the violent conflicts surrounding Dinant’s palm plantations in the Bajo Aguán.334 (See the section on pages 73–74 below.)

Bancos Ficohsa and Atlantida hold almost all the trust funds through which many public infrastructure projects are implemented and public services delivered. (See Coalianza above, pages 35–37.) These funds do not secure and manage financing just for physical infrastructure, such as roads or ports. They have also been used for purchasing medicines and supplies for the public health service, privatizing the national electricity company, managing street lighting, and holding money that is collected through the “security tax” and set aside for welfare bonos to the poor.335

Legally, the agreements governing these funds’ structure and use are commercial contracts, and therefore are shielded from public scrutiny under Honduran law. “The contracts are negotiated under the table,” says a former Central Bank governor. “If there is a bad negotiation, the state assumes the risk and the costs.” According to another interviewee who has been studying trust fund operations, Banco Atlantida is considering reducing its exposure due to concerns about the way technical committees responsible for carrying out the terms of the trust arrangements are using the money.336

The recent liquidation of a smaller but still influential financial institution, Banco Continental, in the wake of U.S. money-laundering sanctions sent shock waves through the industry,337 according to several interviewees. The charges against the bank and its owners, members of the Rosenthal family, were based on purchases of beef from the Cachiros drug cartel and the subsequent acquisition of its meat-packaging business, as well as investments in or loan provisions to the family’s zoo, palm oil plantations, and personal mortgages.

In any economy that is as inundated by drug money as is that of Honduras, it is nearly impossible for banks to avoid doing business with companies linked to drug traffickers. Or even to steer clear of their cash. Kirk Meyer, who as a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) special agent investigated a shortfall of some $900 million in the Kabul Bank in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011, remarks that the only solvent private banks in that country were those floated by the opium industry.338

To the eyes of the development economist, the Honduran situation looks similar. “A lot of the liquidity of the main banks is connected to drug trafficking. I can remember one important banker telling me he knew Continental was laundering. He and all the others say they don’t do it, of course, but it’s part of the game. You know where the traffickers are—the office in Olancho gets a lot of cash . . . where is that from? Everyone knows: the Central Bank knows, the Banking Commission knows, but how do you stop it without creating a crisis in the sector?”

This reflection helps explain the durability of networked corruption: when its tendrils weave through several critical sectors, it can seem impossible to prune them back without destabilizing the entire economy. This economist conceded that his own analysis and forecasting does not take the massive shadow economy, or the financial industry’s exposure to it, into account. “We don’t have an estimate for how big it is,” he justified.339


Since the mid-1990s, private-sector members of Honduras’s kleptocratic network have surged into energy production, especially, in recent years, renewables.340 “It’s the easiest way of making money fast,”341 says an officer at a local NGO who has been supervising a study on the topic. The key investors are members of the Facussé/Nasser, Kafie, and Larach families. All of them have been expanding their electricity generating businesses into the neighboring countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Panama.

Solar power has been particularly attractive to these most powerful families, because the inputs are relatively inexpensive and getting cheaper, and risks are limited. (For a discussion of the extremely advantageous conditions offered to solar generators, see the section on the state-owned electricity enterprise, ENEE, pages 37–39 above.) But, because of potential fluctuations, large-scale use of solar requires a stable backup—especially if it is to be sent onto the interconnected Central American grid. And, as the NGO official notes, “that backup is hydro.” Indeed, the main Honduran families invested in solar energy at home have been building dams in neighboring Panama and Guatemala.342

ENEE itself is implementing several large hydroelectric projects, such as Patuca III and Llanitos y Jicatuyos in the western department of Santa Bárbara. But in the single year of 2010, immediately following the coup, no less than twenty-four concessions were granted for privately owned dams that were described as active in 2013.343 Environmentalists have counted more than forty.344

The most infamous of these projects is the now-halted Agua Zarca dam on the Gualcarque River in the southwestern department of Intibucá. Its backers’ willingness to risk the international outcry that assassinating Berta Cáceres would predictably unleash indicates what a high-stakes project it was, materially and symbolically.

In early 2011, Desarrollos Energéticos SA (DESA) began seeking local approval to build a dam. That was around the time that Atalas, some of whom own Banco Ficohsa, acquired a significant stake in the company. The company’s links into the public-sector element of the Honduran network include the prior position of company secretary Roberto Pacheco Reyes as justice minister, and that of its president, Roberto David Castillo Mejía as a military intelligence officer.345

According to 2013 filings by the affected communities, residents repeatedly rejected DESA’s requests to approve the dam’s construction. Purported consultations with them were just as spurious as those described by villagers along the Patuca River.346 Nevertheless, the mayor signed off on the project, which received an environmental license valid for fifty years—in return for a bribe, as was later discovered.347 Funding was secured via a variety of bilateral and multilateral development banks.348

DESA contracted Sinohydro—the same Chinese hydropower giant that is constructing the Patuca III dam—to build this dam, and work began in 2012. In almost no time, conflicts were erupting between the villagers and construction workers, who trampled crops, damaged school equipment, and fenced off a spring used for drinking water.

When, in March 2013, guards and signs appeared on the road, denying villagers access to the river altogether, protesters set up a roadblock. Soldiers and security guards pitched their camp inside the DESA compound, and made themselves visible around the site—a notable example of the use of the military to protect the interests of private-sector network members. The legal system was also harnessed to this cause: Cáceres was arrested in May on illegal weapons possession charges that later proved to be bogus (the gun had been planted). In July, soldiers fired from inside the DESA enclosure on a public meeting, killing one of the local activists, Tomás García. Residents reported continuing confrontations with security forces as well as physical threats, both open and anonymous.349

These events prompted Sinohydro to terminate its Agua Zarca contract in August 2013. “Right from the very beginning,” it explained the move in a letter, “it was noticed that there were serious . . . conflicts between the Employer of the Project, i.e. DESA, and the local communities.”350

The type of multifaceted campaign required to ram such a project past local opposition can leave lasting scars. “When you introduce bribery,” mused an American who has been reporting on the Agua Zarca situation for years, “when you buy off community leaders, and bring in the military and introduce generalized violence as a cover for political violence, you destroy the fabric of the community. And it’s hard to roll that back.”351

Nevertheless, other outside investors, such as the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, and the Dutch and Finnish development banks, maintained or upped their stakes in the project.

The Honduran authorities’ initial response to the killing of Berta Cáceres was dazzlingly inappropriate. Instead of following up any of the leads Cáceres had provided in repeated complaints of death threats in the weeks leading up to the attack, investigators suggested the murder was part of botched robbery or even an internal feud. In a further example of the network’s use of judicial processes to discipline dissenters, the first people detained were a member of Cáceres’s organization (COPINH) and a Mexican friend of the movement who was the sole witness to the events.352

Some weeks later, under intense international pressure, a half dozen suspects were arrested: employees either of DESA, the Honduran security services, or both.353 In June, reports surfaced that members of two elite interdisciplinary anti-drug and -gang units, Xatruch and FUSINA, were being tasked to assassinate environmental and land-rights activists, including Cáceres.354 Attacks on COPINH leadership have continued.355

Another such dam project, in La Paz Department, represents an even more direct example of self-dealing by public-sector members of the network. The recipient of the concession for the dam on the Chinacla River was Los Encinos SA, which belongs to the husband of Gladis Aurora López, the current vice president of the Honduran Congress.356 Leaders of a local community coordination movement that is combating the project showed us photographs of the same type of falsified local consultations that characterized the Patuca III and Agua Zarca projects. Two flatbed trucks shown on several images parked nose to nose were used to transport outsiders to participate in the meetings, creating a false impression of dissent, according to the coordination-members.357

Given the well-known environmental impacts of dams, which resulted in a reduction in new construction starts worldwide for some years, it is ironic that recent climate-consciousness has allowed them to pose as environmentally sustainable sources of renewable energy.

Across Honduras, interviewees were adamant that the energy being produced by such projects—the massive solar farms in the southern part of the country, the dozens of dams, the new biomass plants—is not aimed at community development at all. Its real purpose is revenue generation. “Using the language of renewables is a disguise,” said the leader of a community group opposed to the dams. “These projects aren’t about electricity for people, they’re about companies and profits”—or, to put it in this study’s framework, profits that are not warranted by the level of investment and risk, otherwise known as rents. “They’re for the integrated grid, the SIEPAC, for extractive projects, for mining and cement.”358

As a Patuca III critic put it, “The thing about big dams isn’t that they generate electricity. They generate money for government pockets. The developers are the biggest companies. And big companies, big money also offers big opportunities for money-laundering.”359 Projects like this serve as nodes around which the three elements of Honduran kleptocratic networks coalesce.

Palm Oil

Apart from cattle (and dairy), the only agricultural commodity in which the private-sector elements of Honduras’s kleptocratic network have established a significant stake is palm oil. Almost immediately following the 2009 coup, companies belonging to Facussés among others began aggressively moving in on farmlands along the central Caribbean coast, in the Bajo Aguán Valley (Colón Department). The objective was the intensive cultivation of African palm trees—either to respond to the international demand for cheap cooking oil, or to anticipate a more economically significant shift from fossil fuels to biodiesel—which is also dubbed a clean form of energy.360 Consolidation of the vast tracts of land required for such monoculture was accompanied by a wave of human rights violations, ranging from harassment to torture to murder. As in the later violence against opponents of the Agua Zarca or Aurora dams, the pattern of violations committed by Honduran security services and judicial institutions indicate that they were harnessed to the service of the companies, especially the Facussés’ Dinant.361

Residents along the Patuca River, to the south and east of these African palm frontlines, were concerned that part of the objective of the Patuca III dam was to regulate the river’s flooding so as to allow for the plantations’ expansion into their region. “The government and the people with palm plantations have their eyes on this land. It started in Puerto Lempira and the Río Plátano area, but of course they want this area, too.” The experience of the Bajo Aguán campesinos visibly affected this interviewee. “The government is well-known for killing those who resist.”362

The proximity between these vast expanses of palm trees regimented in rows and the remote tracts of coastline used by drug traffickers to transship cargo has made palm another obvious choice for money-laundering. Alongside its meat-packing business, the Cachiros’ Maradiaga family also owned Palma del Bajo Aguán SA. And a U.S. embassy cable dated March 19, 2004, provides a detailed account of the delivery of a tracked cargo of cocaine to one of Miguel Facussé’s properties in Colón.363

And yet, Honduran palm continues to benefit from a robust trade in carbon credits.364


From the earlier sections on Coalianza and banks, it is clear that construction contracting is a means by which Honduran networks siphon public money into private pockets. But given the secrecy shrouding this sector, it is difficult to establish the corporate ownership of the main builders operating in Honduras, or to identify which ones have received public contracts. Selecting implementers is one of the closely guarded prerogatives of the technical committees that manage Coalianza trust arrangements, and identifying which companies got which contracts, and who owns those companies, remains a critical target for further investigative effort.

A few examples, however, are illustrative.

Consider the toll road from San Pedro Sula to Tegucigalpa, one interviewee suggested, as an example of the disproportionate risk the Honduran government often assumes in these construction deals. “COVI [Concesionaria Vial Honduras SA] collects the tolls. But if for any reason—such as public protest or a hurricane—the total does not reach the amount agreed under the contract, the government has to make up the difference.”365 And indeed, the multiple tolls to be collected on the COVI road were the target of several public protests in 2016.

Though it may have been expropriated along with the rest of the Rosenthals’ holdings, the family’s logistics company, in the form of Portland Cement mixers among other heavy machinery, was conspicuously present at the Patuca III dam site. The Nassers’ Grupo Terro is building a number of airports.366 Tegucigalpa Mayor Nasry Juan Asfura Zablah’s ownership of a construction company—and his well-known enthusiasm for infrastructure as a fix for the capital’s woes—suggests contracting as a mechanism for public-sector network members to claim their share of the spoils.

Sergio Canales, former minister of public works, transport, and housing, awarded a contract to his construction company, Inseco, to participate in Honduras’s Road Fund. Inseco did not have the required profile, but, like other companies that received concessions, secured a contract that paid 39 percent over the estimate that was submitted in its bid. Canales is a former member of the road technical committee charged with evaluating potential construction companies.367

Real estate and construction—as our driving tour of Juticalpa suggested—are common ways to launder money, and not just in Honduras. In many countries, these sectors link business and criminal members into interwoven networks.368

In Honduras, construction and contracting may also serve as a junction between criminal and public-sector network members. In several telling examples, the Honduran government contracted with a construction company belonging to the same Cachiro cartel that Tegucigalpa (and Washington) punished the Rosenthal family for financing.369 This relationship further demonstrates the horizontal integration of the public, private, and criminal sectors within Honduras’s kleptocratic networks.370

Meat and Dairy

One thing network-controlled fast food restaurants require is a steady supply of meat. Connections between the ranching business and drug trafficking are explored above, pages 62–64. Here, it is worth highlighting the evidence of threads weaving ostensibly respectable private-sector network members into that tress: members of the Rosenthal banking family were indicted on money-laundering charges in part because their meat packaging business regularly bought beef cattle from the Cachiros, and they later purchased the Cachiros’ Ganaderos Agricultores del Norte outright.371

Nonprofit Organizations

The ability of a corruption network to establish or infiltrate nongovernmental organizations so as to capture resources provided to them, or to seed dissension so as to short-circuit such groups’ resistance to network-linked projects, has been documented.372 Global Witness’s careful 2009 study of illegal logging in the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve highlights timber traffickers’ use of internationally supported local cooperatives as covers—allowing them to benefit from the international financial support accorded to the cooperatives in the name of forest protection, while simultaneously profiting from illegally logged mahogany.373

In our interviews in Krausirpi, it was clear that the main association representing the Tawahka indigenous group had been divided against itself, perhaps fatally. Other researchers and activists described to us their findings that drug-trafficking organizations were able to suborn some Miskito activists with offers of lobster boats or other perks.374 In a 2009 report, the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, a regional affiliate of the international body that monitors money-laundering risks worldwide, singled out NGOs as notably unregulated and concluded that “a deep review of the non-profit sector to assess its vulnerability to abuse” for illicit financing is needed.375

Some Honduran churches, especially the Honduran Evangelical Church, are seen by many to have applauded the 2009 coup, and to have been instrumental in implementing many of the policies favored by the kleptocratic networks.376 Multiple interviewees made a point of mentioning this apparent alliance between some segments of the Catholic Church and the Evangelical movement and the networks that dominate the Honduran political economy. One described the local priest throwing stones at him, presumably because of his anti-dam activism. Another put Hernández’s relationship with the Honduran Evangelical Fraternity on a par with his persistent efforts to inject the military into domestic security roles.

These concerns raise further questions about the ASJ, Transparency International’s local chapter and recipient of significant USAID funding and other U.S. government support. With framed religious aphorisms hung on its office walls, it is an explicitly evangelical group. Critics question the even-handedness of its social welfare activities and its work in favor of privatized education.377


323 Interview, Tegucigalpa, August 2, 2016.

324 Comment by a parent who chose to enroll her son in a new American school, called Discovery School: interview (telephone), September 20, 2016. Perusal of their social media posting suggests young members of these elite groups remain tightly networked as they go on to university studies, usually in the United States.

325 In the words of a former senior government official, “This is how the political class has refined bribery: companies give shares to the circle [relatives or close associates] of government officials”: interview, Tegucigalpa, August 4, 2016.

326 On the Alliance for Prosperity, see Office of the Press Secretary, “FACT SHEET: The United States and Central America: Honoring Our Commitments,” White House, January 14, 2016,; House Amendment #1 to the Senate Amendment to the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2016, H.R. 2029, 114th Cong. (December 15, 2015),; but also: Dan Beeton, “Central America’s ‘Alliance for Prosperity’ Plan: Shock Doctrine for the Child Refugee Crisis?,” The Americas (blog), Center for Economic and Policy Research, November 26, 2014,; and “Kids First: A Response to the Southern Border Humanitarian Crisis,” Congressional Progressive Caucus, 2014, Several interviewees, Western as well as Honduran, noted that key network members are putting significant focus and energy into shaping the use of these funds, such as former foreign minister and veteran operator Arturo Coralles, as well as the participation of members of the key families that dominate the private sector on the Consultative Council for the Alliance for Prosperity.

327 Katherine Wilkins, a member of the team that conducted the research for this report, during a team meeting, December 28, 2016. Chambers of Commerce, which typically house corporate registries do not include company data in Honduras. And the 2016 closure of the Executive Directorate of Revenue, a source for company tax registration data, further complicates access to information. The website of the directorate’s successor, the Presidential Commission for Tributary Administration, links to an inactive directorate page for its listing of large taxpayers. By contrast, ironically, most of these companies’ websites communicate abundantly about their sustainable practices and corporate social responsibility.

328 Jacobo Garcia, “El informe ecologico que irrito al Gobierno de Honduras,” El Pais, February 11, 2017,

329 To quote just one example: “Six or seven families control everything; basically they own the country” (author interview with the development economist, Tegucigalpa, August 5, 2016). For the U.S. government’s take, see “Response to the Political Crisis” (U.S. Embassy Tegucigalpa cable to Washington), WikiLeaks, July 31, 2009,; see also “Key Powerbrokers in Honduras” (U.S. Embassy Tegucigalpa cable to Washington), WikiLeaks, July 2009,

330 See Chayes, “Structure of Corruption,” 33–39; and “Azerbaijani First Family Big on Banking,” Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, June 11, 2015,

331 Author interview, Tegucigalpa, August 3, 2016.

332 Aaron Schneider, State-Building and Tax Regimes in Central America (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 146.

333 International Finance Corporation (IFC), “CAO Audit of IFC Investments in Banco Financiera Comercial Hondurena S.A. (FICOHSA),” World Bank Group, August 11, 2014,

334 “CAO Investigation of IFC Environmental and Social Performance in Relation to: Investments in Banco Financiera Comercial Hondurena S.A.,” Office of the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman, 2014,; “Honduras/Dinant-01/CAO Vice President Request,” Office of the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman, April 17, 2012, last updated August 15, 2016,

335 According to the government site, the trust fund from the security tax is distributed between the Supreme Court, D.N.I.I., the Ministerio Publico, Service Provision, and Security Measures for both national defense and domestic security. The complete reported set of projects can be browsed at: Tasa de Seguridad Polacional,

336 Interview by author (telephone), February 8, 2017.

337 A smaller, but still important, bank is undergoing liquidation due to U.S. money-laundering sanctions. See Michael Lohmuller, “Honduras Closes Bank as Elite Money Laundering Hits Savers,” InSight Crime, October 13, 2015,; and Samuel Rubenfeld, “U.S. Extends Banco Continental Wind-Down Until June 2016,” Wall Street Journal, December 8, 2015,

338 Conversations in Kabul and confirmation by e-mail, January 2, 2017.

339 Author interview, Tegucigalpa, August 5, 2016. Note the implications of this state of affairs for Citibank, whose Central American operations were bought out by Banco Ficohsa in 2015. It is almost inconceivable that some of the purchase price was paid in laundered drug money.

340 For a discussion of these developments, see Ramon Romero, “Electrical Elites and Political Power,” in Meza et al., Poderes Facticos, 119–34.

341 Author interview, Tegucigalpa, August 2, 2016.

342 GENISA, building a dam in Panama, belongs to the Kafie; see Kerem Perez, “Detienen a empresario de Genisa en Honduras,” tvnNOTICIAS, June 18, 2015, For the controversy over the dam, see “Companies Building Controversial Dam in Panama Hit $1.2 mn in Fines,” Agencia EFE, September 25, 2015, In Guatemala, the Nassers’ Grupo Terra has at least two dams: “Xacbal Hydroelectric project, Guatemala,” Environmental Justice Atlas, last updated November 13, 2014,; and “Hidroelectrica Santa Rita S.A. in Monte Olivo, Guatemala,” Environmental Justice Atlas, last updated November 11, 2016,

343 “Decreto No. 109-2012,” Government of Honduras, January 26, 2013, Cf. Austra Berta Flores et. al., “Hechos y circunstancias.”

344 Nieves Capote Figueroa, “Represas Hidroelectricas en Honduras,” Otros Mundos AC/Amigos de la Tierra, September 8, 2011, A more recent development has been the emergence of inefficient biomass generators, especially in areas covered by pine forests. In January 2016, a state of emergency was declared due to an epidemic of pine beetles—just like those wreaking havoc in the Rocky Mountains. Forestry specialists maintain that larger tracts of forest are being cut down than the customary eight meters, and notice that new operators, not previously in the energy business, are entering the biomass market.

345 Lakhani, “Berta Cáceres.”

346 In a July 20, 2016 interview, a U.S. observer described a repudiated community official, stripped of his position, stating he had participated in the meeting on behalf of La Tejera village, for example. See also Bird, “The Agua Zarca Dam,” 4.

347 “Honduras: Capturan exviceministro de Serna acusado por caso de Agua Zarca,” El Heraldo, October 14, 2016,

348 In an August 2016 interview, a lender confirmed that it was the Honduran government that had designated DESA before funding had been requested.

349 The early history is carefully detailed by Bird, “The Agua Zarca Dam”; see also Nina Lakhani, “Honduras Dam Project Shadowed by Violence,” Al Jazeera, December 24, 2013,; for a later analysis, see Willems and de Jonghe, “Protest and Violence Over the Agua Zarca Dam”; and among the many written after Cáceres’s assassination, Jonathan Blitzer, “The Death of Berta Cáceres,” New Yorker, March 11, 2016,

350 “Sinohydro Group Response to Report by Rights Action” (letter from Sinohydro to the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre), Sinohydro Group Limited, November 25, 2013,

351 Author interview, July 20, 2016.

352 Alessandra Borella, “Honduras, assassinata la militante ecologista Berta Cáceres,” Repubblica, March 3, 2016,; Simon Lewis, “Main Witness Barred From Leaving Honduras as Suspicions Mount Over Activist’s Murder,” Time, March 9, 2016,

353 “Berta Cáceres Justice: Honduras Arrests 5th Suspected Killer,” teleSUR, May 8, 2016,

354 Nina Lakhani, “Berta Cáceres’s Name Was on Honduran Military Hitlist, Says Former Soldier,” Guardian, June 21, 2016,

355 “Hitmen Target Berta Cáceres Ally in Honduras for a Second Time, teleSUR, October 11, 2016,; Nina Lakhani, “Honduran Activists Survive Attacks Months After Berta Cáceres Murder,” Guardian, October 11, 2016,

356 “How Many More? The Killing and Intimidation of Environmental and Land Activists,” Global Witness, April 2015, 18; see also, “Honduran Lenca Communities Reject Energy Project After Murder,” teleSUR, July 11, 2016,

357 Author interviews, July 22–23, 2016; see also the detailed reporting on the case of the two dams belonging to Aurora Lopez’s husband in “Honduras: The Deadliest Place to Defend the Planet,” Global Witness, 11–12. The role of two female vice presidents of Congress in such questionable business practices (IHSS scandal and dams), as well as the high proportion of women subjected to legal pursuits in the wake of the IHSS scandal raises the question as to whether women are deliberately placed in public-sector roles by the networks in order to serve as “fall-guys.”

358 Author interview, July 20, 2016.

359 Author interview, Patuca, July 26, 2016.

360 Nina Lakhani, “Honduras and the Dirty War Fueled by the West’s Drive for Clean Energy,” Guardian, January 7, 2014,

361 “There Are No Investigations Here,” Human Rights Watch; Annie Bird, “Human Rights Violations Attributed to Military Forces in the Bajo Aguan Valley in Honduras,” Rights Action, February 20, 2013,; “Honduran Killing Fields: Repression Continues Against Campesinos in Bajo Aguan Valley,” Council on Hemispheric Affairs, June 6, 2013,; “Oil Palm Plantations in the Bajo Aguan, Honduras,” Environmental Justice Atlas, last updated May 12, 2014,

362 Author interview, Krautara, July 28, 2016.

363 “Drug Plane Burned on Prominent Honduran’s Property” (U.S. Embassy Tegucigalpa cable to Washington), WikiLeaks, March 1, 2004,

364 “Project 3187: Aguan Biogas recovery From Palm Oil Mill Effluent (POME) Ponds and Biogas Utilization- Exportadora del Atlantico, Aguan/Honduras,” Clean Development Mechanism, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Changes, August 1, 2009,; Arthur Nelsen, “EU Carbon Credit Scheme Tarnished by Alleged Murders in Honduras,” Guardian, October 3, 2011,; and Tamra Gilbertson and Oscar Reyes, “Carbon Trading: How It Works and Why It Fails,” Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation, November 2009,

365 Author interview, Tegucigalpa, August 4, 2016. In the United States, private prison companies are sometimes contractually guaranteed payment even if the jail is not filled to capacity.

366 “Terra Infraestructura,” Grupo Terra 2017,

367 “Mas Corrupcion,” La Prensa, July 5, 2007,

368 Examples are legion, from Mafia builders in New York (See David Cay Johnston, “Just What Were Donald Trump’s Ties to the Mob?,” Politico, May 22, 2016, to recent revelations about the London property market. (See “London Property: A Top Destination for Money Launderers,” Transparency International and Thomson Reuters, 2016.) The mere fact of being involved in new housing construction proves nothing, of course. But the images in this advertising video for PSI corporation—an Atala-Faraj business—are suggestive: “PSI- Proyectos y Servicios Inmobiliarios,” YouTube video, posted by “PSI Honduras,” May 28, 2013,

369 “Contrato de Construccion de Obras para el Mantenimiento Periodico y Rutinario de los Tramos,” Government of Honduras and Fondo Vial, February 8, 2012,; and see “La ENEE dio contrato,” El Heraldo, March 29, 2017,ón-a-los-cachiros.

370 A former senior finance official described the resulting joint complicity for money-laundering this way: “The government is going to build a road in Bajo Aguán. They hire a construction company established by the Cachiros. The company deposits money in Banco Atlantida and the Cachiros add their own money to that deposit, and that’s how they launder it” (author interview, Tegucigalpa, August 4, 2016).

371 U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York, “Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Charges Against Four Prominent Honduran Businessmen,” press release, U.S. Department of Justice, October 7, 2015,

372 International examples include Gulnora Karimova’s Fund Forum or the “26/26 fund” in Zine el Abedine Ben Ali’s Tunisia (see Chayes, Thieves, 107–10, 215) or the more recent arrest of Samsung’s acting CEO, Lee Jai-yong, for depositing money in a “charity” fund controlled by the president’s confidante. See Anna Fifield, “Samsung Boss Arrested in South Korea’s Explosive Corruption Scandal,” Washington Post, February 16, 2017,

373 “Illegal Logging in the Rio Platano Biosphere,” Global Witness.

374 Phillips, Honduras in Dangerous Times, 104: “People in communities throughout the region were forced to collaborate with drug traffickers while police, military, and U.S. anti-drug units were not disposed to employ much discretion or time to differentiate the guilty from local people simply trying to survive.” See also Jackson, “From Lobsters to Cocaine.”

375 Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, “Mutual Evaluation Report: Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism, Honduras,” World Bank, August 10, 2009.

376 See, for example, Jeremy Weber, “Honduras Coup Was ‘Answer to Prayer’ for Many Evangelicals,” Christianity Today, July 3, 2009,

377 Multiple interviews in 2016 and 2017, as well as forwarded e-mails and other documentation of ferocious controversy about ASJ among U.S. Honduras experts and Hondurans alike. See also, Karen Spring, “US-Funded Evangelicals and Coup Supporters Behind the New Commission to Purge the Honduran Police,” Aqui Abajo (blog), June 8, 2016.