PBI-Guatemala accompanies Human Rights Law Firm at hearing on the extrajudicial killing of three Q’eqchi’ community members

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On March 10, PBI-Guatemala posted:

#PBI accompanies the Human Rights Law Firm at the continuation of the hearing of the oral and public debate of the #SamocochCase. Today the visual and audio-visual evidence was presented in relation to the facts, analyzed by a forensic specialist from the National Civil Police.”

PBI-Guatemala has previously explained: “More than 20 PNC officers are accused of extrajudicial execution, non-compliance with duties and abuse of authority for having caused the death of three Q’eqchi’ community members from Samococh village in Chisec, Alta Verapaz, during a demonstration [on August 15, 2014].”

La Hora has reported: “Two of the fatalities were left at the scene and were identified as Sebastian Rax and Luciano Cal. The other death corresponded to Óscar Chin, who died in the hospital of Cobán, after having been wounded by a bullet.” Prensa Comunitaria adds: “The result of the police raid was the death of Sebastian Rax Caal, 29; Luciano Can Cujub, 40; and Oscar Chen Quej, 22.”

That article also notes: “Elena Beb Atzing, Cristina Quej Quej de Chen and Zoila Caal Chun are the co-plaintiffs in this case against PNC agents. Two of the three Q’eqchi’ women lost their husbands and one their son to police bullets.”

The Santa Rita dam

The demonstration appears to have been against the Santa Rita hydroelectric dam on the Dolores River in Alta Verapaz.

Truthout explains: “In Monte Olivo, the state used its full force against the community. On August 14, 2014, 600 police units were deployed to evict a community of a few hundred families along the River Dolores. …In the following days, two other communities, 9 de Febrero and Samococh, both faced similar violent evictions to make way for the dam. These communities were driven out by 1,600 police units, and 22 community leaders were detained.”

That article also notes: “The Guatemalan-based company Hydro Electrical Santa Rita S.A., owned by the elite López-Roesch family, first proposed the Santa Rita hydro project in 2009. The powerful and influential cement company Cementos Progreso, owned by the Guatemalan Novella family, is reported to also have interests in the project.”

Prensa Libre further notes: “The confrontation occurred when dozens of police tried to evict peasants who had blocked the road from Chisec to Raxruhá, Alta Verapaz, to prevent the transfer of two leaders of the Peasant Development Committee [CODECA].”

“The PNC agents who arrived came from Cobán, where the Public Ministry successfully evicted some 160 families who were occupying the Santa Rita and Santa Rita Xalahá Canguini farms. In the first community [Santa Rita], families lived to avoid the construction of a hydroelectric plant [that lacked their free, prior and informed consent].”

That article adds: “The PNC tried to capture local leaders Rafael Chub and María del Carmen del Cid, which generated discontent among the residents and the confrontation.”

For more on the raid, please see the Witness Media Lab article/videos at: Community reporters document deadly raid on Indigenous villages in Guatemala.

Financing of this dam

In 2017, Carbon Market Watch reported: “In October, the private sector lending arm of the World Bank Group (International Finance Corporation, IFC) confirmed the cancellation of a controversial Santa Rita hydroelectric project in Guatemala, approved under the UN’s carbon offsetting scheme Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).”

That article further highlights: “[The dam was going to be built with] financial support of a private equity fund backed by bilateral and multilateral institutions such as the German and Dutch development banks (DEG and FMO), the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation (AECID).”

We continue to follow this.

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