Maya-K’iche defender Lolita Chávez speaks about extractivism and the “false green” REDD+ plan

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Chávez during the Defend Dissent Tour in Canada, 2013.

Aura Lolita Chávez Ixcaquic is a member of the Council of K’iche Peoples for the Defence of Life, Mother Nature, Land and Territory (CPK), that the Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project began to accompany in 2013.

That organization was founded in 2007 to deal with the effects of the Central American-U.S. Free Trade Agreement.

Death threats and an attack with high-calibre bullets on a vehicle she was in forced Chávez to leave Guatemala in 2017.

She recently spoke with EarthBeat from an undisclosed location.

In that interview, she said: “I’m from a territory in Iximuleu, which the West calls Guatemala. The place is called Quiché.”

Chávez further noted: “There currently are various plans [in the Quiché region], some under way and others still on the drawing board.”

Hydroelectric dams

Chávez says: “One is to generate electricity using water. There is an invasion of transnational companies going after the water, because despite climate change and global warming, in my territory … there are rivers and mountains, so we have water. The Chixoy hydroelectric dam, one of the largest in Guatemala, is in the north of Quiché.”


She further highlights: “Because the area is mountainous there are also minerals, so there are mining leases. But community organizations opposed them. There were various community consultations, not carried out by the government, but autonomous, and we managed to block many leases.”

The Montreal Gazette has reported: “Chávez has been branded a threat to national security and a terrorist for speaking out against the development of Canadian-owned mines against the people’s will.” In that article, Chávez says: “Canadian companies are the main protagonists in this invasion that brings only death and destruction.”


In the EarthBeat interview, Chávez continues: “[When we blocked the mines] that’s when the logging companies moved in. We realized that the government had granted 97 forestry licenses to timber companies. These are licences to invade.”


Chávez also speaks about false solutions:

“Since we didn’t let the mining companies in, they came with ‘green capital’ plan through REDD+ [reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation]. But that is a false green. They plan forestry [plantations] with companies that eliminate ancestral trees like the teun uman pine, which is a tree very specific to Quiché.”

It appears very likely that REDD+ will be on the agenda of the United Nations COP26 climate summit in Glasgow this year.

UN-REDD has reported: “Last November, leaders in international development, politics, civil society and business came together at UN-REDD’s Race to Zero event to discuss how we can leverage the potential of forests as a key nature-based solution to carbon emissions.”

Canadian Mark Carney, the UN special envoy for climate action and finance, is a supporter of REDD+ and voluntary carbon markets.

PBI at COP26

Peace Brigades International will be intervening in support of human rights defenders at the COP26 summit planned for November 1-12 this year.

The article in EarthBeat highlights that Chávez will receive the annual Romero Human Rights Award from the University of Dayton on April 20. To read that article, please see: Environmental justice award winner: ‘We have the right to live in a territory that for us is sacred’.

For more about Chávez, please also see: Lolita Chavez: “Society is not aware of companies, even Basques, that are exploiting territories”.

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