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In the morning of Friday 27th September, many helicopters were flying over Santa Cruz Barillas municipality (in Huehuetenango department), Guatemala. Civilians and military arrested Maynor Lopez, a renowned leader of the opposition to hydroelectric project Santa Cruz, owned by Spanish corporation Hidralia SA through its subsidiary Hidro Santa Cruz.
The kidnappers aimed firearms at Maynor and bit him up. They then put him in a van (which the residents recognise as one of the company’s vehicles) and took him to a remote place, where one of the helicopters would take him to Guatemala City, so the communities are quite certain it was kidnapping.
“It is a plan of transnational assault and invasion by the Governments that implement projects, which promote pillage under the guise of development”, said Basilio Tzoy in interview with Real World Radio. He described the harassment the Guatemalan communities who resist the projects of transnational corporations have to suffer. He said this “resembles the armed conflict in Guatemala during the 36-year civil war”.
The community has been resisting the project since 2007, the year when, through popular consultations, they overwhelmingly rejected the installation of megaprojects in their territories. But the conflict continued and worsened on May 1st 2012, when gunmen ambushed and killed Andrés Francisco Miguel, and seriously hurt his colleagues and neighbours Pablo Antonio Pablo and Esteban Bernabé.
Otto Perez Molina administration declared a state of emergency in Santa Cruz Barillas, which led to arbitrary detentions and human rights violations of the residents. Eight community activists were imprisoned for eight months. They were released early this year.
This is the second kidnapping for Maynor. In May of this year, he was detained and tortured under similar circumstances. Prensa Comunitaria reports that now the leader is accused of “tax evasion, aggravated robbery, attempt to commit a crime and instigating crime”.
However, on the background of the accusation lies the fact that Maynor was one of the persons who opposed a negotiating table with limited participation, which President Otto Perez Molina and Hidro Santa Cruz wanted to impose on the community on September 3rd. Besides Maynor’s kidnapping, there are 22 arrest warrants against community leaders of Santa Cruz Barillas, so 700 police officers were sent to the municipality, Basilio added.
“Santa Cruz Barillas has held a Permanent Assembly with between 5,000 and 8,000 people”, said Basilio about the strength of the resistance to the megaproject.
Besides, eight municipalities have joined the resistance in Huehuetenango department, as well as communities of Quiché department, which are currently resisting other hydroelectric projects.
Lastly, Basilio said that although Hidro Santa Cruz has suspended the work in the region “they have people spying the communities who have bought up leaders and threatened their own workers”.
Today, the Departmental Assembly of Huehuetenango will issue a press release in rejection to the actions of the government and Hidro Santa Cruz against the communities who defend their territory.
José Luis Abarca, hijo de un luchador ambiental asesinado en noviembre de 2009 por encabezar la resistencia a un proyecto minero en el municipio mexicano de Chicomuselo, estado de Chiapas, interpuso el 5 de febrero una denuncia administrativa ante el Comisionado para la Integridad de la Administración Pública de Canadá.
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