PBI-Guatemala accompanies the Indigenous Resistance to dams on the Cahabón River

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On July 24, the Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project posted, “This week we accompanied the Peaceful Resistance of Cahabón, visiting the members of the communities of Sacta, Sesaltul, Tuila, San Martín Chichaj, Secatalcab, Salac I and Tres Cruces.”

PBI-Guatemala adds, “Many of these communities are suffering intensely the environmental impacts caused by the Renace company dams.”

PBI-United Kingdom has previously explained, “On the Cahabón River and its tributaries Oxec, Canlich and Chiacté, seven hydroelectric plants currently operate: Renace I, II, III, IV, Oxec, Oxec II, and Chichaic.”

The Peaceful Resistance of Cahabón (Resistencia Pacifica de Cahabón) was formed in 2015 to defend the land, water and Indigenous rights.

In October 2016, the BBC Mundo reported (in Spanish) on community opposition to the controversial “Renace hydroelectric complex, which consists of four power plants” on the Cahabón River.

On February 21, 2017, Telesur reported, “Dozens of Indigenous Q’eqchi Mayans came from several towns along the Cahabon River, in the northern Guatemalan department of Alta Verapaz, to the capital Monday, to protest against hydroelectric projects carried out by the Spanish group Cobra, owned by Real Madrid’s President Florentino Perez.”

“Guatemalan firm Oxec, S.A. owns the hydroelectric dams Oxec and Oxec II, which is funded by investments from Panama-Based Energy Resources Capital Corp. The works are carried out by the Spanish company Grupo Cobra, owned by Florentino Perez, the president of Spanish soccer giant Real Madrid.”

That article highlighted, “Indigenous leader Bernardo Caal Xol told reporters that the firm has left about 50 communities without water, whose survival directly depended on the Cahabon River, among many other negative environmental impacts.”

PBI-Guatemala has accompanied the Resistance since July 2017.

PBI-UK has posted, “In August 2017, PBI provided security support to the good-faith consultation in which the 195 communities of the Cahabón River overwhelmingly rejected the Oxec hydroelectric projects, which threaten to seriously disrupt local ecosystems and water supplies.”

In November 2018, Caal Xol, a Mayan Q’eqchi’ community leader, was sentenced to seven years and four months in prison. He had already been imprisoned through “preventative detention” since January 2018.

Telesur notes, “It was Caal Xol who filed three lawsuits against the Oxec construction company at different institutions, including accusations for failing to consult the local population, and illegally cutting down 15 hectares of trees.”

Telesur has also reported, “The communities claim the Oxec and Renace hydroelectric projects are illegal because the local Indigenous Q’eqchi’ peoples were not properly consulted and informed about it, as established by Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization.”

Convention 169, a forerunner of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), states, “The consultations carried out in application of this Convention shall be undertaken, in good faith and in a form appropriate to the circumstances, with the objective of achieving agreement or consent to the proposed measures.”

A May 2018 interview with Caal Xol conducted by PBI-Guatemala and published by PBI-UK in English can be read here.


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