Source: Al Jazeera
Investigation says loan to Honduran palm oil magnate, alleged to be linked to activist deaths, violated bank’s rules.
An internal World Bank investigation says the bank’s private lending arm violated its own social and environmental rules in approving a $30m loan to a Honduran palm oil magnate allegedly tied to the forced eviction and deaths of dozens of land activists.
The months-long investigation found the bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) failed to properly vet Honduran powerbroker Miguel Facusse’s Corporacion Dinant, a palm oil and food giant embroiled in one of Honduras’ deadliest land conflicts in recent history.
The IFC said it was “deeply saddened” by the loss of life resulting from the land conflicts – risks the agency determined were “manageable” when it initially assessed the palm oil project in 2008. Both the IFC and Dinant said they disagree with parts of the audit released Friday but that they are taking the allegations seriously.
The audit by the Office of the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) says a standard news search required by the World Bank revealed damning allegations against Facusse. Public news articles show Facusse allegedly misused his political influence, was accused of involvement in the murder of an environment activist and land disputes with indigenous communities, had an arrest warrant issued in relation to environmental crimes, and had his properties used for drug trafficking.
The search, the CAO said, shows “IFC staff either knew about these allegations and perceptions and failed to deal with them as required … or did not conduct the required news agency searches”.
David Pred, executive director of Inclusive Development International, said the case shines a spotlight on the kind of “dirty business” the World Bank is increasingly engaged in as it expands its investments in high-risk environments.
“This audit, and the Bank’s response to it, shows that IFC’s social and environmental requirements, touted as the ‘gold standard’, come with a wink and a nod that companies like Dinant can literally get away with murder and still boast the World Bank’s stamp of approval,” Pred said in an email to Al Jazeera.
A history of conflict
The blood is being shed in Honduras’ northern Aguan Valley, where land disputes are age-old. Agrarian reforms of the 1970s saw indigenous-held land redistributed to farmer cooperatives. Those cooperatives ended up in bankruptcy with neoliberal reforms, and in the 1990s, the government and cooperatives sold the land to a few wealthy Hondurans, including Facusse.