PBI-Guatemala visits environmentally-threatened department of Petén

Published by Brent Patterson on

On December 2, the Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project posted, “During our observation trip to Petén we visited different organizations, including ACDIP (the Association of Peasant and Indigenous Communities for the Integral Development of Petén), the Petenero Front, the Ixmucáne Women’s Association, and La Otra Cooperative.”

PBI-Guatemala adds, “They shared their concern about the situation of human rights defenders and the pollution of the environment in the region.”

Petén is the northernmost department in Guatemala. Its capital city Flores is situated about 485 kilometres north of Guatemala City.

Bi-annual visit

PBI-United Kingdom has noted, “Although we do not accompany in this department, every six months PBI-Guatemala undertakes a visit as a way of following up on the human rights situation.”

It adds, “PBI-Guatemala holds meetings with different social actors, to advocate around various problematic issues: protected areas (evictions, agrarian conflicts illegal detentions, restricted freedom of movement); militarization; women’s rights; megaprojects (tourist and investment projects, hydroelectric dams, etc.); and palm oil.”

Deforestation, land grabs

Al Jazeera has reported, “Guatemala’s northern Peten region is home to the largest tropical forest north of the Amazon.” Anywhere.com adds, “The northern third of Petén is protected under the Maya Biosphere Reserve. Even so, the pressures continue to rise to develop this reserve, and illegal logging and land grabs still occur.”

Oil extraction

The Hachette Book Group has noted, “Petroleum extraction continues in the northern Petén lowlands … although ecological organizations have long denounced its negative effects upon the environment.”

“In 2005, the Guatemalan government opened new concessions in an area along the Petén-Alta Verapaz border said to harbor an estimated 200 million barrels of oil.”

Palm oil industrial waste

In 2015, The Tico Times reported, “The United Nations office in Guatemala said that [the La Pasión river in the Petén department] had been contaminated with pesticides used to produce African palm oil, affecting thousands of people.”

“According to the team’s data, for every ton of palm oil produced, between 2.5 tons and 3.75 tons of toxic industrial waste are generated.”

Further information

In June 2017,  New York University history professor Greg Grandin wrote, “Peace Brigades International, which has been doing heroic work in Guatemala for decades, has produced a number of reports that provide background on the conflict, including the long history of migration to this area (some of the settlers had been external and internal refugees from the military’s scorched-earth campaign in the 1980s; others have been displaced from elsewhere by the expansion of biofuels, livestock, or drug trafficking).”

His article in The Nation highlights, “Two of the Peace Brigades International reports can be found here and here. Ongoing reports by PBI are periodically released, and would be a good source for readers to keep track of events.”

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