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Guatemala: Community leader murdered after reporting toxic spill in Pasion River & 3 others detained after court orders suspension of operations; Repsa denies involvement

The 18 of September, Rigoberto Lima Choc, who informed on the toxic spill in  Pasión River, in Petén, Guatemala, was murdered outside the Sayaxché courthouse. The same day, 3 human rights defenders were detained by possible workers of Repsa. Latter, the defenders were released. These events took place after a Court order a temporary suspension of activities of REPSA´s plantation.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Reforestadora de Palmas de Petén (REPSA), part of Grupo Hame, to respond to these allegations; the response is available. 

Lima_Choc_HRD_Credit_Prensa_Comunitaria_Km169.

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Company response
29 September 2015

Reforestadora de Palma de Petén response

…On the 28 of April and on the 6 of July of 2015, two different events occurred that resulted in fish kill. In the first occasion, the event was a torrential rain…At the beginning, we believed that we had contributed [to the fish kill]…We denounced [the event] and mentioned our possible responsibility…This denounce was a precipitated warning…Latter, we made an assessment with experts…and it concluded…that our company is not responsible…Up to date, the Public Ministry has not initiated any action against us; although the results of the approximated 15 visits to our plant are available…However, a judge in a hearing that we were not even called to attend…ordered the temporary suspension of our company…We explained our workers that the order of the judge was going to be contested…and indicated to them to abstain from protests…Additionally, we communicated to them that we could collaborate to guarantee their labour rights…If the 6 months suspension is ratified…as we will not be able to process the fruit of the oil palms, [and] these [fruits] will start the process of decomposition…that will have negative consequences on health…We strongly deny any association of our company with the assassination of Concejal Rigoberto Lima…

This is an unofficial translation by the Business & Human Resource Centre. Please see the original response in Spanish here

Article
24 September 2015

Guatemala Court orders palm oil company to suspend operations

Author: Jeff Abott, Upsidedownworld.org

A Guatemalan judge has ordered oil palm company Reforestadora Palma de Petén (REPSA) [part of Grupo Hame] to suspend operations at their Sayaxché plantation, pending an investigation in the environmental disaster in the Pasión River…The court’s September 17th order states that the firm must suspend operations for 6 months…[On September 18th] workers from the…plantation were informed that they would be laid off. [They] responded by taking to the streets in protest over the temporary closure of the company… workers [also] kidnapped three human rights defenders and community leaders…The confrontations turned deadly… [when] Rigoberto Lima Choc…was shot and killed by unknown assailants…Lima had been at the forefront of the movement to hold REPSA accountable for the contamination of the Pasión River... he was the first person to travel to Guatemala City to file public charges against the firm for the ecocide and had spoken openly about the impacts of palm in Sayaxché…

Read the full post here