Wednesday, March 25, 2015

One more political prisoner: Rigoberto Juárez, land defender

Written by Nelton Rivera
Translated by NISGUA

Read original piece in Spanish here.

[Yesterday] Rigoberto Juárez Mateo was arbitrarily detained and became another political prisoner held by the state of Guatemala. Rigoberto Juárez is a representative of the Plurinational Government (Gobierno Plurinacional) of the Q'anjob'al, Chuj, Akateka, Popti and Mestiza peoples, from the 16 municipalities of Huehuetenango. Juárez is criminalized for defending land and water. 

A warrant signed by a competent judge was not presented at the moment of arrest, carried out by officers of the National Civil Police. Domingo Baltazar was detained together with Rigoberto, both of whom are members of the Community Authority of Santa Eulalia, Huehuetenango. During the violent arrest, lawyer Ricardo Cajas was physically assaulted when he asked the officers to identify themselves and a legal arrest warrant for Rigoberto Juárez be presented.

The detained community representatives had traveled to the capital to lodge an official complaint for rights violations committed against the ancestral authorities and various journalists on March 19 of this year, committed by Diego Marcos Pedro, members of the municipal government, and others with ties to the authorities.

The Q'anjob'al ancestral authorities were assaulted by members of the municipal government on Thursday, March 19 during a public activity to re-open the Community Radio Snuq' Jolom Konob. For four hours, they were verbally and psychologically assaulted and threatened, leading them to travel to the capital to lodge complaints with the Attorney General's Office through its Crimes Against Human Rights Defenders section, as well as with the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman (PDH), and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Guatemala.

On multiple occasions since 2011, representatives of the Plurinational Government have traveled to the capital to denounce atrocities committed by hydroelectric companies operating throughout maya Q'anjob'al territory. Specifically, [they have denounced] the hydroelectric company Hidro San Luis in Santa Eulalia, who together with municipal leaders, are threatening the rights of the communities in opposition to the hydroelectric project.

This arbitrary arrest adds to a long list that has been growing since 2012, as the Government and the companies increasingly use arbitrary arrest as a strategy to break up the peaceful and organized opposition that exists to this model of extraction and displacement.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Santa Cruz Barillas: Natural resource defenders Saúl Méndez and Rogelio Velásquez sentenced to 33 years in prison

Posted on March 2, 2015 by ACOGUATE
Translation by NISGUA

Detained and awaiting trial since August 27, 2013, natural resource defenders Saúl Méndez and Antonio Rogelio Velásquez of Santa Cruz Barillas were recently sentenced to 33 years and four months in prison. They were found guilty of being accomplices in the August 2010 assassinations of one man and one woman, acts in which both leaders deny participating. Now, their lawyers have presented Special Appeals against the sentence, contending that there are flaws in the grounds of the sentence and the trial proceedings. These appeals will be heard in a public hearing on April 29, 2015 in Huehuetenango. 

The two accused maintain that they are victims of the political persecution of the hydroelectric company Hidro Santa Cruz S.A., subsidiary of the Spanish Hidralia Energía S.A., for their commitment to the defense of territory and their roles in the Civil Society of Barillas. They were first incarcerated along with seven other people from May 2012 to January 2013 in the context of the social conflict generated by the hydroelectric projects Cambalam I y Cambalam II of Hidro Santa Cruz S.A. On this first occasion, they were accused of having participated in the disturbances associated with the assassination of community member Andrés Francisco Miguel, on May 1st of that year. Andrés was reportedly shot by the company’s security personal. (1) The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention determined in its Opinion 46/2012 (2) that these arrests were arbitrary, and for lack of proof, all nine people were finally released.

ACOGUATE has accompanied the Civil Society of Barillas since January 2013 and has observed the hearings in the case against Saúl Méndez and Rogelio Velásquez, while also accompanying Carlos Bezares of the Center for Legal Defense, the lawyer coordinating the defense of the accused in collaboration with Association CEIBA.

The accused report pressures

In his final statement in the November 14th hearing, Saúl Méndez declared: “The company Hidro Santa Cruz is what has been behind all of this.” Similarly, Rogelio Velásquez said that he is a prisoner “for defending natural resources.” Saúl Méndez also referred to one plaintiff witness, Wagner Roberto Mérida Reyes, as someone “who came to accuse us in 2012.” The aforementioned UN Opinion revealed that on May 2, 2012 Saúl Méndez and Rogelio Velásquez, along with a third person, were detained by unidentified members of the Reyes family, who drove them to the military base.  The wives of both prisoners claim that during the 2012 imprisonment of their husbands, people involved with the company threatened them saying that both leaders would be accused of the crimes for which they were recently convicted if they didn’t end their opposition to Hidro Santa Cruz, S.A. (3)

Special Appeal by the defense identifies flaws 

In the beginning of December 2014, the defense lawyers filed a Special Appeal against the condemnatory sentence, identifying ten procedural errors (defective proceedings during the trial) and five foundational errors (incongruent legal foundation), which in their opinion were committed throughout the process. (4)

The defense points to several procedural errors: “The accused submitted evidence after the investigation deadline. The Court also accepted testimonies as coherent, when in fact they were contradictory and not aligned with the description of the events as outlined in the factual report presented by the Public Prosecutor.” Among the foundational errors, the lawyers indicate that the Court confirmed the Public Prosecutor’s investigation to be insufficient. When indicating that the men collaborated in the crime, the Court did not establish a clear and precise means in which this collaboration occurred that would indicate complicity in a crime.

The Regional Tribunal of the Court of Appeals of the Department of Huehuetenango formally admitted the Special Appeal on December 18, 2014, and as such, the sentence will be reviewed. The Seventh Appeals Court of Huehuetenango will hold a public hearing on the Special Appeal  on April 29, 2015. The acceptance of the appeal for procedural errors would either lead to a repetition of the trial from the beginning or a new tribunal would be assigned to consider the new actions [Special Appeal], while using the same evidence, witnesses and expert testimonies. The acceptance of the procedural complaint would mean that the Court would dictate a new sentence, complete with new legal grounds for the decision (without repeating the previous phases).

Support for the two sides

During some trial hearings, a group of about 20 women gathered at the court house wearing t-shirts with the message: “Justice for Guadalupe,” in reference to Guadalupe Francisco Felipe, one of the two people killed during the events being tried in the case. Throughout trial proceedings, members of the Departmental Assembly of Huehuetenango (ADH), members of the Civil Society of Barillas, and others of their own accord, affirmed the innocence of Saúl Méndez y Rogelio Velásquez and demanded their liberty, rejecting what they considered to be “criminalization for defending natural resources.”

As we wait for the Special Appeal process to be reviewed, the prisoners and their families continue to receive an outpouring of solidarity. Among these demonstrations was a Solidarity Festival for the Political Prisoners held on December 6 in the central park of Huehuetenango in support of the imprisoned leaders and their loved ones. The event included music and other artistic expressions that reflected solidarity. Those gathered included people defending natural resources through other struggles like community members from San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc, organized in the La Puya encampment against the imposition of the mining project El Tambor. They joined in the calls to demand the release of the two men from Barillas. (5) The event concluded with a visit to Saúl Méndez y Rogelio Velásquez in prison, bringing them candles and music as an act of solidarity. (6)

Together, since their second detention, Saúl Méndez and Rogelio Velásquez have spent one year and seven months in prison, while their wives and children – five in the case of Saúl and six in the case of Rogelio - have had to get by without the resources they provided as farmers. Rogelio Velásquez and his wife, Carmelia Sosa Mérida, also care for two of Carmelia’s brothers who were orphaned at a young age. Their economic situation will become even more difficult if the reparations payment approved on November 19, 2014, of 15,000 quetzales from each of the accused for the daughter of the victim, is upheld. This reparation is not applicable until the sentence is confirmed, that is to say, until the defense exhausts all of the available resources.

United Nations and the OMCT hear the case

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst (France), carried out an unofficial visit to Guatemala at the end of January 2015. On January 27, he met with dozens of human rights defenders who gave testimony on the human rights violations taking place in Guatemala. Among the participants were Carmelia Sosa Mérida, the wife of Rogelio Velásquez, and Rubén Herrera, defender of natural resources and member of the ADH who told the Special Rapporteur about the case of Saúl Méndez and Rogelio Velásquez.

On February 26, 2015 the report, "Smaller than David: the struggle of human rights defenders [Más pequeños que David: la lucha de los defensores y defensoras de derechos humanos],” was presented in Huehuetenango. The report was written by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OBS) in collaboration with the Human Rights Defenders Unit of Guatemala (UDEFEGUA) during their international investigation mission in Guatemala in November 2013. The OBS is part of the World Organization against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). Santa Cruz Barillas is one of the cases they are investigating in the report, paying special attention to the judicial process against Saúl Méndez y Rogelio Velásquez.
During the presentation of the report, Miguel Martín (OMCT) made reference to the pre-trial imprisonment of the other three leaders from the Barillas Civil Society, which had occurred on the same day.

Since 2013, Hidro Santa Cruz S.A. employees have accused Francisco Juan Pedro, Adalberto Villatoro and Arturo Pablo of threats, instigating crime, illicit association, abduction, and kidnapping. Miguel Martín mentioned that these imprisonments are very serious and expressed his solidarity with the detained. He stated that being a human rights defender is “a risky activity in Guatemala” and demonstrated his concern for the “lack of guarantees to access to due process in the [Guatemalan] justice system.”

Representatives of the OBS, UDEFEGUA, ADH and individuals visited Saúl Méndez and Rogelio Velásquez and well as Francisco Juan Pedro, Adalberto Villatoro and Arturo Pablo, on February 27 in the Preventative Center for Men in Huehuetenango.


(1) Emisoras Unidas, 26 de diciembre de 2013, Capturan a dos hombres por el asesinato de campesino en Santa Cruz Barillas, Comunicado del Ministerio Público, 1 de junio de 2012, Prueba balística confirma el arma utilizada en el asesinato de campesino en Santa Cruz Barillas,

(2) Opinión 46/2012 del Grupo de Trabajo sobre la Detención Arbitraria de la ONU, 15 de enero de 2013,

(3) Centro de Medios Independientes, 14 de octubre de 2014, Mujeres valientes: las esposas de los presos políticos,

(4) Centro de Medios Independientes, 24 de diciembre de 2014, Apelación Especial a favor de los presos políticos de Barillas señala Vicios de la Sentencia,

(5) Telesur, 11 de diciembre de 2014,  Ciudadanos de Guatemala se solidarizan con líderes comunitarios presos,

(6) Telesur, 8 de diciembre de 2014, Piden con música la liberación de dos presos políticos en Guatemala,

Communities speak out against the Escobal mine: we are still here, we are still in resistance

"In the face of a storm, some animals go underground and bury their heads. But eagles fly above the storm. We need to be like the eagles...with this storm upon us, we choose to rise higher, knowing that our struggle is one that has value and dignity." Teresa Muñoz, San Jose la Sierra

On March 1, 2015, Teresa Muñoz addressed hundreds of people in the town square in Nueva Santa Rosa to reiterate one seemingly simple but overwhelmingly complex reality: "We are still here. We are still in resistance."

She was joined by dozens others in loudly stating their ongoing opposition to the Escobal silver mine operating in the nearby municipality of San Rafael las Flores, in southeastern Guatemala. Recent statements by the U.S.-Canadian mining company Tahoe Resources that opposition to its Escobal project has disappeared did not resonate with locals who had gathered to hear the stories of those repressed and criminalized during the 2013 state of siege aimed at quelling dissent.

Teresa, who confirmed continued resistance in the face of fear, was joined by more than a dozen others in recounting the negative impacts of mining, pointing to the family divisions, criminalization, and remilitarization that have taken place following the arrival of the transnational mining company to the area.

In May 2013, Teresa fled from her home in the community of San Jose la Sierra and walked more than 70 kilometers to Guatemala City. She ran from the Guatemalan military who had come to her community to arrest her during the state of siege enacted by the government of Otto Peréz Molina in the neighboring municipalities of Mataquescuintla, San Rafael las Flores, Casillas and Jalapa.

Teresa sits in front of her home in San Jose la Sierra.

Although the pretext for the siege was to combat narco-trafficking in the area, Teresa and many others who had spoken out against the presence of the mine found they were on a list for arrest. Some went into hiding while others went to prison, and after seven months, a Guatemalan court dismissed all charges for lack of merit. People returned home to find the subsistence crops they had planted months prior were ruined, cows recently purchased were starving, and newborn babies they had left had grown dramatically.

Together with other members of the Diocesan Committee in Defense of Nature (CODIDENA), Teresa spoke about the real impacts criminalization has had in her life and the life of her community. But while the U.S. and Canadian Embassies back up Tahoe's claim that opposition is no longer a reality in the area, Teresa affirms: "The face of the resistance may have changed slightly, but we're still here and we will always be while God continues to grant us life."

A young community member from Volcancito speaks about the need she felt - alongside dozens of others - to leave school in protest after the teacher accepted gifts from the mine. Community members point to the deception tactics the company uses to try to quell local opposition, gifting school bags, corn, fertilizers and other items in an attempt to show popular support for the mine.

Artemio speaks about his experiences being shot by private security outside the mine on April 27, 2013. A criminal case is currently being processed against Alberto Rotondo, the former head of security who allegedly ordered security to open fire on peaceful protestors. Artemio, alongside at least 6 others, were shot. Tahoe Resources is also currently facing a civil lawsuit in Canada for violence at the mine. #TahoeOnTrial

Roberto, former president of the Xinca Parliament, speaks about his experiences being criminalized and attacked for resisting the Tahoe mine. Roberto was kidnapped in 2013 alongside three other leaders of the Xinca Parliament while returning from a community consultation in Volcancito. One of the men kidnapped, Exaltación Marcos Ucelo, was murdered while Roberto and the other two eventually escaped.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Uncertainty around the Xalalá Hydroelectric Project

Posted on February 28, 2015 by ACOGUATE

Translation by NISGUA

On November 7, 2013, the National Electrification Institute (Instituto Nacional de Electrificación, INDE) signed an Emergency Purchase contract with the Brazilian company Intertechne Consultores, S.A. to conduct the geotechnical, seismic, geological and geophysical feasibility studies for the Xalalá dam, without informing and consulting the affected communities. More than a year later, affected communities organized through the Association of Communities for Development, Defense of Territory and Natural Resources (ACODET) are still waiting for the decision of the Constitutional Court on the irregularities of the contract and the lack of consent.

Photo credit: ACOGUATE archive
Even though the company was unable to begin their groundwork during 2014, tension in the region has increased. On December 12, the Ministry of Energy and Mines declared it would no longer be actively pushing the Xalalá project forward during the current administration, however communities remain concerned about its continued development. ACOGUATE has accompanied ACODET since 2007 and accompanied consultations in the Ixcán and Uspantán in 2007 and 2010.

Legal action against irregularities within the contract and the right to be consulted
The Xalalá dam is currently the largest planned hydroelectric project in Guatemala. With a generating capacity of 181 megawatts, if built, the dam would be the second most powerful in the country after the Chixoy dam. It is estimated to directly affect 58 communities in the region.  The contract signed between INDE and Intertechne Consultores, S.A. on November 7, 2013 is for a period of 12 months,  and is now being questioned due to irregularities in the contract.

On April 10, 2014, the office of the General Comptroller (Contraloría General de Cuentas, CGC) filed a legal complaint against 12 members of the INDE board of directors, noting irregularities in contracting the Brazilian company to conduct the feasibility studies of the Xalalá dam - a contract valued at Q40.8 million.  According to the General Comptroller, Nora Segura: "It is clear that the adjudication process of the feasibility study was not transparent. There are many irregularities and neither the law nor the internal process of INDE were respected, much less the government procurement law, which is why a criminal complaint was filed.”  In particular, the CGC called attention to three irregularities, stating that they infringed upon government procurement law:

  • INDE hired Intertechne directly without going through the public bidding process of GUATECOMPRAS, claiming a national emergency,
  • INDE paid an advance that was 20% higher than the maximum allowed for the contract, and
  • At the time of signing the contract, the Brazilian company did not have headquarters in Guatemala but instead, established a subsidiary company 60 days later.  

A month later, Amilcar Pop, the President of the Congressional Committee on Integrity (CGC), filed a complaint against members of the INDE board of directors - including Minister of Energy and Mines Erick Archila, former INDE Manager Marinus Boer, and INDE Project Manager Widthmark Estrada - for fraud, abuse of authority, embezzlement and failure to report to the Office of Administrative Offences of the Public Prosecutor's Office.  Amilcar Pop found that the contracting process was set out to directly benefit Intertechne. Alongside the CGC, Amilcar Pop found that the lack of offers from interested companies to conduct the feasibility study - leading to the eventual abandoning of the study in March 2013 - was likely due to INDE's requirement that each company pay $10,000 US just for the right to participate in the bidding process. According to Amilcar Pop: "While complying with legal requirements, that condition was put in place to guarantee that no one would participate and therefore, demonstrate the need to award the contract without any competition."

Even President Otto Peréz Molina gave contradictory answers regarding the irregularities. He called for the resignation of INDE’s manager, Marius Boer, who retired a week before being called to present before Congress.  On April 10, Otto Peréz Molina publicly stated that he was in agreement with the cancellation of the contract. He changed his discourse three days later, however, when he said that the feasibility study for the Xalalá hydroelectric dam was of national priority,  and therefore, INDE was exempt from following the Law of Contracts and Purchasing and instead, needed only to follow its own internal decision-making procedures.  Since the start of the project, the government has stated on several occasions that Xalalá is a priority and that feasibility studies would be carried out during Molina's administration. It was not until December 12, 2014 that the Minister of Energy and Mines stated the administration would not actively push the Xalalá project forward, feasibility studies would continue despite ongoing opposition and it would be the next administration which would make a decision.

Photo credit: ACOGUATE archive
The Supreme Court denied the preliminary hearings requested to contract Intertechne. The Attorney General's Office declared itself unfit to rule on the impacts of the contract, arguing that the Office could not intervene in the activities of an autonomous institution like INDE.  On June 12, 2014, affected communities represented by ancestral authorities of the Xalalá and Las Margaritas Copón communities filed an injunction against the irregularities of the INDE contract and Intertechne. On July 22, ancestral authorities went before the Procedural Complaints Court and with legal support from Maya Lawyers and third-party support from Congressman Amílcar Pop, argued the illegality of Intertechne’s contracting process. They also presented arguments around the lack of consultation with the communities before the contract was signed, effectively ignoring the results of the community consultations in the municipalities of Ixcán in 2007 and Uspantán in 2010.  INDE failed to appear at the public hearing.

In its decision, the Court declared the injunction to be of partial merit and recognized the lack of prior and informed consultation with the communities by INDE. However, the Court did not annul the contract, stating that it would be the responsibility of the Public Prosecutor's Office, who defended the contract at the public hearing. In addition, the Court's ruling requested that impacted communities participate in the study, which was subsequently appealed by ancestral authorities, the Congressional Committee on Integrity, and INDE.

In its second public hearing on October 8, 2014 in the Constitutional Court, INDE argued that they did in fact consult communities, presenting the "right to passage" signed by various Community Development Councils (COCODEs) in the region as evidence. However, the ancestral authorities insisted that no consultation process took place and that INDE only came to communities to offer development projects, which cannot replace consultation in accordance with national and international law. Likewise, the chairman of the Congressional Committee on Integrity argued that, "These rights were not respected in the least, and [the contract] threatenes the constitutional right of the Guatemalan people, as outlined in Articles 58, 66 and 67 of the Constitution, where the rights of indigenous peoples are recognized."  He also noted there were already two feasibility studies made in the 1970s, which showed the soil in the region where the dam would be built is too sandy, making it unfit to withstand the planned Xalalá construction. In addition, this puts into question the justification of a new feasibility study, with a demonstrated lack of transparency on part of INDE in relation to the project. A decision on the injunction is still pending from the Constitutional Court.

Strong Impact on Affected Communities

During 2014, tension in communities affected by the Xalalá project increased, leading to divisions within and among communities that have differing opinions on the dam's construction. Although Intertechne has not appeared in the area, affected communities have claimed that INDE and the Ministry of Planning and Programming (SEGEPLAN) have tried to convince people by coopting leaders and COCODEs, conditioning rural electrification on the acceptance of the dam, as well as offering development projects outlined in the "Immediate Action Plan 2013-2014 Xalalá - Investment for Development." Affected communities organized within ACODET have also suffered heavy pressure, militarization and defamation. Community leaders feel greater concern since the signing of the contract in November 2013. As one community member states: "How can one live when under constant threat?"

According to Amnesty International, there has been an increase in military presence in various locations in Guatemala under the current government, especially in regions with a high percentage of indigenous peoples and strong opposition to megaprojects. This militarization is justified through defamation and criminalization, where leaders are accused of being terrorists or drug traffickers.  The army arrived twice in the region in 2014. On February 25, a military and police convoy arrived at the entrance of the Q'eqch'i communities of Las Margaritas Copón and Xalalá, allegedly due to a complaint about the suspected presence of drug traffickers in the Xalalá community.  Yet no one from the community of Xalalá had registered the complaint.  Nevertheless, several news outlets had already circulated the announcement made by the Minister of the Interior about the presence of drug traffickers in Xalalá, linking communities directly with drug trafficking; Prensa Libre tweeted: "An armed command pressures the population of Xalalá, Ixcán, Quiché to get involved in drug trafficking.”

Photo credit: ACOGUATE archive
Given these circumstances, ACODET believes this to be the continuation of a governmental strategy to impose the construction of the Xalalá project: “Under these circumstances, we understand that the government is trying to terrorize our communities, discredit our struggle against the imposition of the Xalalá dam and justify the presence of military troops in our territory."  Two months later on May 5, military and police convoys returned to the neighboring community, Copalá la Esperanza, in the municipality of Cobán, Alta Verapaz. They arrived in the community in the morning, without warning and armed with machine guns,  explaining that the purpose of their presence was to patrol the area and to cross the river. Since Copalá is a community of returned refugees who fled during the internal armed conflict, the unexpected arrival of the army caused much concern and fear among the community. Community members stated:
"The presence of the military in our community without our consent causes us great concern, as they came heavily armed as if they were coming to wage war against us while we are in times of peace. Their presence causes fear, despair, and reminds us of the traumas inflicted during the internal armed conflict. They turned us into victims of war and we continue to be victimized by the threats their presence brings to our territory; just seeing them causes panic...

Concern for the Violation of Fundamental Rights

Reacting to the two military incursions, communities of ACODET cite Article 30 of the Declaration of the United Nations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: "No military activities will take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples...”  They affirm that entering without consent into their communities violates their right to self-determination, their territory and their ancestral authorities –rights guaranteed by various international treaties. They demand that this type of activity not be repeated.  “There is concern among communities that INDE could enter by force to conduct the studies. Communities live under constant tension, wondering how and when they might enter. Given the violent evictions by the police in 2014 in other parts of the country such as in La Puya and Monte Olivo, the community leaders of ACODET are worried they could face a similar situation.
The Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman (PDH) also expressed its concern about the situation in May 2014: "With the [construction of] the Xalalá dam, three fundamental rights are being violated: the right to life, to live in a healthy environment and the right to health."  On several occasions, leaders and social organizations in the region who oppose the dam have been slandered by local and national actors.

Communities threatened by the construction of the dam have filed complaints with human rights organizations about the use of the Rural Electrification Project Las Copones (Proyecto de Electrificación Rural Los Copones) to carry out the Xalalá project. It has also been reported that INDE geologists have enterred communities by using the legitimate request for bringing electricity to the communities as a substitute for free, prior and informed consent. This action has caused division and confrontations within communities.  At a meeting held in Ascension Copón, Uspantán in December 2013, shortly after signing the contract with Intertechne, senior staff of INDE (Manager Marinus Boer and Project Development Manager Widthmark Estrada) agreed to begin the feasibility studies for the electrification of nine communities.  However, there has still been no progress made in electrification.

In the same manner, humanitarian aid has been conditioned. In March 2014, Uspantán Mayor Victor Hugo Figueroa conditioned material support and equipment to open up roads after heavy landslides in the Zona Reina, Uspantán, in exchange for the acceptance of the presence of INDE engineers who were to perform the technical studies needed to advance rural electrification.  [In the landslides], 27 families of the community of Playitas Copón lost their homes, their livestock and crops and had to take refuge in neighboring communities, where they lived under plastic tents without access to potable water or plumbing.  Since the communities did not accept these conditions, the mayor delayed the road repairs and waited until seven months later - in October - to deliver rooftops and food.

Due to the lack of official information since 2007 on the possible impact of the dam construction, ACODET has requested meetings with relevant state authorities.  In January 2014, the project development manager of INDE began to talk about a design change for the dam, stating that instead of a large hydroelectric dam, there could be several medium-sized ones on both tributaries (Chixoy and Copón. He subsequently argued that the concerns of affected communities are disproportionate to possible damages.

It is important to note that a meeting was held on November 13, 2013, in San Juan Chactelá, Ixcán, between representatives of INDE and communities from Ixcán, Uspantán and Coban who will be directly or indirectly affected by the construction of the dam. At the meeting, INDE failed to mention that the contract with Intertechne had already been signed six days prior.  The International Mission of FIAN, CIFCA, CIDSE and APRODEV that visited two communities of the region in November 2014 found that, "communities do not have adequate information and have not been adequately consulted," and reminded "the state of its responsibility to provide accurate, complete and objective information on topics of interest to the community."  According to Article 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO), ratified by Guatemala in 1996, the state has an obligation to "consult the affected people using appropriate procedures, particularly through their representative institutions, whenever carrying out legislative or administrative activities that may directly affect them."

For a complete list of sources, please see the original article on the ACOGUATE blog.