Chilean government to decide the future of the Mediterraneo hyrdoelectric project in Puelo

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Puelo Patagonia, press release, Oct. 30 - The feasibility of the Mediterraneano hydroelectric project in Puelo, whose owners include José Cox, partner and friend of former Chile President Sebastian Pinera, and Ricardo Bachelet, cousin of the current Chile President Michelle Bachelet, will be decided by an intergovernmental Chilean committee of ministers from the environment, mining, health, economy, development, agriculture and energy ministries on Monday, November 2. 
 
The Committee of Ministers must resolve 27 claims that the inhabitants of Puelo, located in Chile's Los Lagos Region, in northern Chilean Patagonia, have lodged against the project's approval by the government just four days before the end of former President Piñera's term in office expired in March 2014. 
 
Residents of Puelo accuse the energy company of abusing their influence on government officials to push the project forward, even though it suffers from serious irregularities, omissions and deficiencies that were not resolved during the environmental assessment process, and that even today, remain unresolved. The scale of charges ranges from the suppression of background relating to native species by consultants who participated in the elaboration of the project, the construction of a road to elude the assessment of the authority which has produced serious environmental damage, the omission of any risk analysis for potential threats to people by locating the project in an area of frequent avalanches, and not including in their studies threats to endangered species such as the alerce tree, river otters, and the huemul deer.
 
Especially serious, governmental officials have systematically been silent about the requirements and legal appeals by residents of Puelo. For example, environmental authorities have consistently delayed the investigation of complaints from local residents, while Conaf has hidden information with respect to the management plans for the clearcutting of native forest by the company. Those affected complain that citizen participation in the process has been a farce, and their has never been a consultation with indigenous communities, which violates Chile's obligations under the International Labor Organization's 169 resolution.
 
Rodrigo Condeza, president of the environmental group Puelo Patagonia, said "especially serious is the frustration of the community, given that we have trusted in the public policies implemented in the Puelo watershed, which were supposed to be oriented to development in harmony with the environment. Residents have invested financially in this place and have designed their lives here thinking that it would be a protected territory."