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30 Nov 2016

Jeff Abbott, Waging Non Violence

Guatemala’s indigenous water protectors organize to challenge hydroelectric projects

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Thousands of indigenous Q'eqchi, Achí and Pomcomchí Mayas took part in a series of protests on October 17 against hydroelectric projects along the Cahabón River in the Guatemalan department of Alta Verapaz...
The Guatemala-based company Oxec S.A. owns the hydroelectric dams Oxec and Oxec II, with investments from Energy Resources Capital Corp...The project has already generated negative environmental impacts...The project has also brought social discontent to quiet rural communities..
In response, organizers have mobilized the 29,000 residents of the 195 communities that rely on the river as a source of fresh water, fishing and their culture through sharing information on the project and the effects that it will have on them...
Their first major victory came in April 2016 when the Guatemalan Supreme Court sided with the Q’eqchi’ residents and suspended the company’s licenses...A consultation was then planned for July 31, 2016, but just days before it was to begin, the company filed a legal action against the planned vote to block it...The community responded by calling for holding the consultation anyway...But the state interceded by deploying the Guatemalan National Police and military police to guarantee that the consultation would not occur.
The expansion of energy generation in Guatemala is part of a project that has been envisioned for the region for decades...The modern expansion of energy generation is marked by extreme cases of human rights violations...The movement in the communities of Cahabón has inspired the neighboring municipalities to stand up to the expansion of hydro projects along the river.