Union Fenosa’s dirty little secrets

powerlessJust who are we getting into bed with when we allow foreign multinational wind companies free range to pillage rural  Australia communities?

Spanish-owned Union Fenosa is behind eight wind projects across NSW and Victoria.  Four have been approved and four are in the planning stage.

But this company  has been accused of serious human rights violations and legal violations in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico and Columbia.

According to the Transnational Institute of scholar activists, Union Fenosa was involved in corrupt activities in Nicaragua, in their process of privatisation of energy distribution. You can  read about it here. (Scroll to the end.)

According Friends of the Earth in Europe, Unión Fenosa was guilty of  being responsible for the persecution and assassination of community leaders in Guatemala and Colombia, of violating labour rights and of depriving the poorest of essential services by raising prices, and cutting electricity supply in Guatemala, Mexico, Colombia and Nicaragua.

In the same article, The Permanent People’s Tribunal also warned about the impacts of a coal mining mega-project planned by Unión Fenosa and Gas Natural in Guatemala and recommends its suspension.

A case against the company was filed by CEIBA-Friends of the Earth Guatemala, together with other Central American organizations that are also protesting against Union Fenosa’s abuses in other countries in the region.

In Guatemala, eight social leaders who demanded the expulsion of the transnational corporation have been murdered since October of 2009, four of them in March of 2010, according to FOE.

But you don’t need to travel so far to read similar reports of abuses by the wind developer.

Australian Green Left Weekly reports in 2010 dozens of social leaders had been shot and eight killed in the struggle between Union Fenosa and communities in the west of Guatemala.

On October 24, Victor Galvez was shot 32 times as he left his office, where he was meeting with neighbours whose electricity supply had been cut off by one of Union Fenosa’s subsidiaries.

Opposition to Union Fenosa began with the privatisation of electricity supply in 1999, with the multinational as the main beneficiary.

On July 8, 2009, a letter from 30 organisations, social movements, unions and Spanish political parties denounced the multinational’s practices in Guatemala.

The document highlighted “inflated charges” and “cuts to electricity supply in retaliation against those communities that protested the high rates and poor quality of the service”.

In Bolivia the state-owned electricity transmission company was privatised as part of the neoliberal offensive to auction off the nation’s private assets to foreign transnationals.

human rights2Union Fenosa bought the company for US$39.9 million. But within six months it had reassessed the value of the company at $74 million, despite not a single extra dollar being invested in the company.

In 2002, REE purchased the company for $88.3 million and proceeded to rake in profits while bringing little benefits to Bolivia’s population.

In Mexico Union Fenosa was involved with La Venta Wind Park and was accused of taking over indigenous lands.

The company is notorious in Latin America for being corrupt and providing very poor services to its customers.

Which brings us to Australia.

Go back to the Greenleft.org.au and do a search on Union Fenosa. (The link on the left should bring up the search.)

Up come the above stories, as well as piece by pro-wind energy campaigner Ben Courtice decrying Victorian Liberal government wind policy.

“Wind developer Union Fenosa had two previously-approved planning permits in western Victoria blocked by the planning minister,” the report says, which extensively quotes Friends of the Earth’s Cam Walker.

So how does this work? Union Fenosa in Australia = good. But same company in Latin America = bad?

Locals in Australia who have dealt with Union Fenosa say the company is poor at answering letters and much of the information they supplied in wind farm permit applications has been inadequate, misleading, dubious and in some cases untrue.

We’re told one Planning Panel requested that they redo parts of their submission e.g. regarding Brolga and transport –  because data presented was false or grossly underestimated.

The value statement on Union Fenosa’s Australian web site states that they are committed to “social responsibility and integrity.”

Their Code of Ethics states that they have local ethics committees in Nicaragua and Guatemala with similar structure to those in Spain.

Our questions are this.

Would Australians be comfortable with this company receiving millions of dollars of taxpayer-funded RECs? Why is this company  being allowed to ride roughshod over rural Australian families?

Why is Friends of the Earth in Australia quiet on Union Fenosa’s appalling track record when their European counterparts are so critical?

Will Victorian premier Denis Napthine open Berrybank wind farm when the time comes?

“The process of privatising the Columbian electricity sector, including the entrance of Union Fenosa into the market, took place amid strong opposition by trade unions to the sale of this vital public service. This resistance was brutally silenced, however, including through the systematic murders of eight union members who worked at Union Fenosa’s subsidiary companies, Electrocosta, Electricaribe.

“CCAJAR (a Columbian non-government human rights organisation) reports that claims by trade unions and others in Columbian civil society that members of the illegal paramilitary groups were behind the murders, and that a document written by Union Fenosa companies may have played a role in these murders that should be fully investigated in a court.”

– read the The Powerful and the Powerless.

5 thoughts on “Union Fenosa’s dirty little secrets

  1. Thanks STT for exposing the unsavoury underbelly of Union Fenosa. What a disgraceful situation that many wind developers are allowed to cause suffering and to ‘evict’ people from their homes, while our Governments pander to their every whim.

  2. “According Friends of the Earth in Europe, Unión Fenosa was guilty of being responsible for the persecution and assassination of community leaders in Guatemala and Colombia, of violating labour rights and of depriving the poorest of essential services by raising prices, and cutting electricity supply in Guatemala, Mexico, Colombia and Nicaragua”
    Friends of the Earth in Europe have confirmed that:-
    “FoE Australia is associated with FoE International and FoE Europe, and in this respect all FoE members share the views about Union Fenosa expressed in the statement.”
    FOE Australia therefore will no doubt support a request to the Australian Federal & State Govts that Union Fenosa be required to divest itself of all businesses and assets held in Australia (no doubt to Govt owned energy companies, Australian Superannuation Fund owned or funded energy companies or Peoples Republic of China owned energy companies.

  3. Australia !! Wake up, The world needs to wake up,
    NOT GREEN , NOT CHEAP , NOT RELIABLE , NOT SAVE, and now , WILL KILL, some side effects this product has ,,,,.

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