Simonds Jilamito Rally: an Action Report

Rally outside Simonds Saws’ headquarters, Leominster, Nov 15, 2021. Photo: Brian Garvey/MAPA

By Derek Sexton

On November 15, in a Global Day of Action members of Massachusetts Peace Action (MAPA) and Boston Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) traveled to Simonds Saws’ headquarters in Leominster to demand that Simonds cancel the Jilamito hydroelectric project in Honduras or divest from the project’s parent company HERMACASA.

Around 20 activists gathered in the parking lot behind Simonds Saws’ offices to stand in solidarity with the Jilamato water defenders as they traveled to demand justice at HERMACASA’s offices, the parent company of the firm INGELSA who is overseeing the project. Another group affiliated with Witness for Peace Solidarity Collective (WFPSC) demonstrated at Simonds International’s offices in Ridgefield, WA.

For over four years, local communities in the municipality of Arizona, Honduras organized by the Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice (MADJ) have peacefully maintained an encampment defending the Jilamito River against this destructive hydroelectric project. Violence and threats against the water defenders have been repeatedly denounced by MADJ, as have serious allegations of corruption associated with the project’s initial concession, operating permit, and environmental licensing.

In May 2021, the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) announced that it would no longer be funding the proposed dam due to public concern. This decision came after over 60 U.S. and Honduran organizations signed a letter calling for its definitive cancellation, which followed a previous letter signed by Rep. Ilhan Omar and over 25 other U.S. Congressional Representatives.

Despite these actions, INGELSA, the Honduran company that owns the project, still intends to move forward and a historic Massachusetts company stands to benefit.  Simonds owns close to 40% of HERMACASA, the parent company of INGELSA.

Activists in Leominster dropped off two letters addressed to David Miles, President of Simonds Saw. The first from MAPA in collaboration with WFPSC and School of the Americas Watch (SOAW) expressing deep concern over Simonds role in the Jilamito hydroelectric project and requesting a meeting with a Simonds representative; the second from MADJ affirming the communities of Jilamito’s rejection and continued opposition to the project being executed without their free, prior, and informed consent.

Immediately after the demonstration, a lawyer representing Simonds Saw called Brian Garvey, Assistant Director of MAPA, and David Miles, President of Simonds Saw, responded to the group’s demands denying involvement and distancing the company from the project. David Miles has previously made statements about Jilamito to VICE, calling opposition to the hydroelectric project “political” and “without merit.”