PBI-Guatemala accompanies the Peaceful Resistance of Cahabón who experience systemic attacks for their defence of the Cahabón River
On February 2, PBI-Guatemala posted:
“PBI accompanies members of the Peaceful Resistance of Cahabon. who live with systematic attacks against their integrity for their defense of the territory and the Cahabon River. In addition, violence against women is still very present in this territory surrounded by hydroelectric megaprojects.”
The Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project has accompanied the Peaceful Resistance of Cahabón since July 2017.
It has explained: “The Peaceful Resistance of Cahabón is made of more than 190 Q’eqchi’ communities who live in the Cahabón River basin. Since 2015 they have organized around defense of territory and against the launch of the OXEC I and OXEC II hydroelectric projects installed on the Oxec River, a tributary of the Cahabón River.”
It adds: “During the good-faith consultation [in August 2017] PBI accompanied the consultation process relating to the hydroelectric project installed on the Cahabón river basin, operated by OXEC SA, belonging to the Energy Resources Capital Corp group (ERCC).”
Hatch Ltd., a company founded in Toronto and now based in nearby Mississauga, was involved in the construction of the OXEC II dam.
In 2017, PBI-Guatemala noted: “On February 17 the Constitutional Court (CC) ordered to suspend the construction of Oxec I and Oxec II hydroelectric projects due to incompliance with Convention 169 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) which establishes the right of indigenous peoples to be consulted on projects that affect them.”
OXEC II became operational in September 2018.
Hatch and OXEC II
NS Energy has reported: “What began as a discussion with stakeholders in 2014 would later become Hatch’s formal engagement by Energy Resources Capital (ERC), the developer, and Solel Boneh Guatemala (SBG), the general contractor.”
“Hatch would be engaged to deliver the conceptual design and detailed design-build-engineering for the Oxec II Hydroelectric Project, recipient of a 2019 Award of Excellence from the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies-Canada (ACEC).”
Design-Build combines all aspects of design services, construction services, and project management into one team that works together to complete a project.
That article also notes: “Hatch’s design of the cellular cofferdam [for the first stage diversion of the river] was recognised by the Consulting Engineers of Ontario (CEO) in 2017 with an award of merit in the Industry, Energy, and Resources category.”
Commenting on OXEC II, Ian Ainslie, a Hatch project manager based in Niagara Falls, Ontario, noted: “Hatch has been active in developing hydroelectric sites in Guatemala for over 20 years.” And Hatch’s managing director of power, Jim Sarvinis, says: “Projects like Oxec II are exactly why we do the type of work we do at Hatch.”
Criminalization of Maya Q’eqchi’ water protector Bernardo Caal Xol
Hatch’s one-page Indigenous Peoples Policy (signed by CEO John Bianchini in March 2018) states: “Our relationships with First Nations, Métis, Inuit, and Native Americans are based on the values of honesty, respect, and transparency. We understand that our ability to deliver successful projects on behalf of our clients is enhanced by our knowledge and understanding of the histories, cultures, protocols, values, aspirations, and governments of First Peoples across North America and Aboriginal communities around the world.”
And yet the Guatemalan Human Rights Commission has highlighted: “[In December 2017] a few months [after the August 2017 consultation on the OXEC dams], Bernardo was arrested [in] a clear act of retribution for the defense of his community’s water rights.”
In November 2018, he was sentenced to seven years and four months in jail.
Caal Xol was released from prison on a judge’s order on March 24, 2022.