A dam imposed by blood

Guatemala: Two defenders of the land who fought against the building of hydroelectric plants in the Pojom River were murdered.

Pojom River. One of the 3 rivers projected to be dammed. Photo: CMI-Guatemala, 2016.

The Council of Wuxhtaj Peoples and the Council of the Mayan People (CPO), which are part of the Movement of People Affected by Dams in Latin America (MAR), denounced the murder on December 16th of the brothers Nery Esteban Pedro and Domingo Esteban Pedro, from the Bella Linda community, a microregion of Ixquisis (municipality of San Mateo Ixtatán, Huehuetenango, Guatemala).

Both were defenders of the Pojom River and were opposed to the construction of the Pojom I, Pojom II and San Andrés hydroelectric dams. “They were shot to death in the context of a series of attacks perpetrated by official and paramilitary forces in charge of protecting these three projects, against which the Chuj indigenous people have been resisting peacefully for over a decade,” denounced the MAR.

Joel, head of the community organization of Bella Linda, told RWR that the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the National Civil Police (PNC) acted negligently after human rights organizations reported to the authorities the discovery of the brothers’ bodies in the powerhouse of the hydroelectric company.

The CPO said these crimes are part of the harassment and other types of violence exercised by members of the Panamanian company Energía y Renovación Holding S.A., which has imposed its projects in the territory with the complicity of the Guatemalan government, the repression of the PNC and investments of financial institutions such as the Central American Bank for Economic Integration.

Francisco Rocael, a member of the CPO, told Real World Radio these extractive projects have divided many communities, generating conflicts through “infiltrators” who face villagers against each other. The defender asked for justice for the murders of the brothers and recalled that the murder of Sebastián Alonso, committed in January 2017 by paramilitary forces during a peaceful march against Pojom I, remains unpunished.

“This situation is part of a series of violations against the human rights of indigenous peoples due to the implementation of an energy policy in Guatemala in order to satisfy a demand from large industries and not the demands of the communities. An energy policy that is being imposed by blood, with community division, state repression and militarization, which aims to turn the country into one of the regional energy exporters,” Rocael said.

“We must reach not only the material perpetrators of these crimes but also the masterminds; this crimes are committed in order to protect high economic interests. This type of projects that are presented as development vectors for the agricultural peoples of our continent do not guarantee any right, not even the basic right to electricity”, added the MAR and Otros Mundos Chiapas-Friends of the Earth Mexico, which adheres to this complaint.

MAR and CPO also denounced “the farce” of “the Peace and Development Agreements of San Mateo Ixtatán” signed in October without the consent of the local community, after an intimidation of 300 agents of the National Civil Police who guarded the facilities of the company Energía y Renovación in a crackdown against the population in resistance. Given these facts, the social movements demand, once again, the definitive and immediate cancellation of the Pojom I, Pojom II and San Andrés projects.

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