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Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina played a key role in the dirty war against the insurgents and especially against the country’s indigenous population. This is clearly seen in his actions as President.
This is, at least, the assessment of the residents of Santa Cruz Barillas who have resisted for seven years the installation of a dam owned by company Hydro Santa Cruz, together with the residents of another seven municipalities to the north of Huehuetenango department. The situation worsened a year and a half ago when the local government declared a state of emergency in Santa Cruz Barillas.
The International Solidarity and Human Rights Mission led way to the 5th Meeting of the Latin American Network Against Dams and For rivers, held in Retalteco, in Peten department, close to the border with Mexico.
“They accuse us of being drug dealers, terrorists. We denounce President Otto Perez Molina. We do not want more threats to our community, we want our river”, said Micaela, one of the leaders in conversation with the International Mission in Poza Verde, the place that remains blocked to prevent the company’s access to the river.
The company illegally acquired many hectares of community lands. People would use them for recreation, to celebrate festive events such as Christmas and anniversaries. The land extends to the big falls of Cambalam river.
The people who are part of the resistance to the dam said the lands were bought through deceit, since the corporation claimed that it wanted to invest in cardamom production and other traditional crops in the region, thus concealing its actual intention of building the dam. Santa Cruz Barillas is one of the main municipalities of Huehuetenango department because of its food production, mainly for export.
Several community members who spoke with the Mission, where Real World Radio participated, are former combatants and people displaced by the Guatemalan war, so they talked about their exile and the return to the community after the signing of the peace accords in 1996. They said “Since he (Otto Perez Molina) is a member of the Army, which is run by the country’s wealthy, he says the hydroelectric dam will bring progress and development. Does development mean beating the poor guy up?”, they said with reference to Maynor Lopez, a resident of Barillas who, despite being hearing impaired, was literally kidnapped in a police-military operation on September 28th.
This sparked the reaction of the communities of eight municipalities who, through road blocks, prevented the imprisonment of several leaders of the resistance.
“The company and the Government authorities are to blame. Our residents are suffering psychological damage. We are in a place where nobody controls the situation. They aim to occupy these lands where the Mayan indigenous live”, said one of the residents.
The community is demanding the cancellation of the project, which has less than 5MW of power, so under the Guatemalan laws, it does not require an environmental authorization. At the entrance of the resistance point there is a tombstone in memory of Andrés Francisco Miguel, murdered by the police and military forces in May of 2012.
Imagen: Radio Mundo Real
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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