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Despite being one of the main “engines” of the expansion of hydroenergy foreseen by the Guatemalan government in the next fourteen years, the organized resistance of the q’eqchi Mayan communities has prevented the beginning of the works of Xalala project in Coban and Quiché departments.
This was the description of Federico Poob Yat during the Latin American Meeting of People Affected by Dams and For Rivers, held in “Las Margaritas” community, close to river Copon. The river, as well as the Chixoy, will be affected by the megaproject.
The Xalala dam is promoted by the government’s agency INDE with foreign funding, said Federico a few hours before visiting the communities resisting the projects together with members of organizations of Venezuela, El Salvador, Panama, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Honduras. During the visit they exchanged experiences and strengthened the international coordination to confront the wave of dam construction in the continent.
The Xalala dam would directly affect 58 communities in Coban and Quiche departments, which overall amounts to 13,800 people, most of them who have expressed their opposition to these projects, said Federico.
This huge resistance has led to the cancellation of two tenders for the building of the dam in 2007 and 2012.
The corporations now demand the Guatemalan state to grant a “social licence” to the projects, so they have tried to capture the community authorities and they have blackmailed the communities through the office of public works and social security.
They also sent undercover agents to the communities, to do lobby for the project. Despite of this, the works have not been able to start. The communities directly affected include the core of the resistance, where state/corporate action has not had any effect.
A two-and-a-half year process of work which resulted in a meeting with several thousand Brazilian peasants; “a process that didn´t start now, and that won´t end here”, said Itelvina Massioli, national leader of the peoples´ struggle for land, agrarian reform and food sovereignty, in interview with Real World Radio after the 6th Congress of the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST).
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