PBI-Guatemala accompanies Cunén community struggle against mega-projects on their territory

Published by Brent Patterson on

On October 27, the Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project posted, “Today 10 years ago, the municipality of Cunén held its community consultation.”

PBI-Guatemala adds, “Almost 60% of its inhabitants participated and declared their municipality free of exploitation.”

Context

NISGUA explains, “For generations, indigenous communities in Guatemala have held consultations to make decisions on issues affecting their people and their lands.”

“While the signing of the Peace Accords in 1996 facilitated the adoption of national laws and international agreements that recognized the particular rights of indigenous peoples, the post-conflict neoliberal economic model prioritized resource extraction — a practice fundamentally at odds with upholding these rights.”

“Specifically, the 1997 Mining Law weakened oversight and lowered royalty rates for mining companies, and the 2005 Central American Free Trade Agreement further established foreign direct investment as a pillar of the Guatemalan economy.”

“Transnational mining and hydroelectric companies were given free rein to begin operations without the consent of impacted communities, and they quickly gained access to huge swaths of land in order to carry out resource exploration and exploitation activities.”

NISGUA highlights, “Many of the consultations are celebrated annually, reaffirming the demands of the communities as they continue to face exclusion from the decision-making processes that affect their territories.”

Cunén consultation

The question asked was: “Do you agree that national or foreign companies or companies, individual or legal persons, appropriate and exploit in the territory of the Municipality of Cunén, our natural resources such as: minerals metallic, water, forest, oil and others, subject to large exploitation?”

PBI-Guatemala has previously noted, “During this consultation process about 19,000 people from 71 communities rejected these projects in their territories.”

PBI-Guatemala has also stated:

“On November 11, 2009, their community representatives delivered the results in the Congress of the Republic and other political instances of the Guatemalan State that, to date of this publication, has not recognized this consultation as binding.”

“On May 5, 2010, 130 representatives of the indigenous communities of the north of El Quiché, formally demanded in a public act before representatives of the Congress and the Government the cancellation of the licenses of recognition, exploration and mining, hydroelectric and petroleum exploitation, already granted in their lands and territories…”

Guatemala’s non-compliance with Convention 169

International Service for Human Rights adds, “Pedro Tzicá is a K’iche’ Guatemalan human rights defender working on human and environmental rights, as well access to justice and the right to development of indigenous peoples.”

Given the outcome of the consultation, Tzicá told them, “Convention 169 has not been respected by the Government. The international community must pressure the State to comply with its international obligations. The State has failed to fully comply under the Convention to conduct prior consultation which must be carried out in good faith.”

Accompaniment

PBI-Guatemala has accompanied the Cunén Communities Council since February 2010 due to the security situation for the people actively promoting the right to land, territory and natural assets in this region.

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