PBI-Guatemala accompanied river defender Bernardo Caal Xol marks the International Day of the fight against Dams

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo: On May 10, 2023, Caal Xol marched to the Spanish Embassy in Guatemala City to demand sanctions against those who have violated the rights of Q’eqchi’ peoples including Spanish businessman Florentino Perez and his company Cobra SA, a subsidiary of the Madrid-based Grupo ACS.

PBI-Guatemala accompanied Maya Q’eqchi’ water defender Bernardo Caal Xol has tweeted: “Today is the International Day of the fight against Dams. Our Rivers are sacred, water and blood of Mother Earth. Water is life and not a commodity.”

International Rivers highlights: “The International Day of Action for Rivers is a day dedicated to solidarity – when diverse communities worldwide come together with one voice to affirm that rivers are vital and need our protection.”

They further note: “The International Day of Action Against Dams and For Rivers, Water and Life was adopted by the participants of the first International Meeting of People Affected by Dams, March 1997 in Curitiba Brazil. Representatives from 20 countries decided that the International Day of Action would take place on March 14 – Brazil’s Day of Action Against Large Dams. Our aim on this International Day of Action for Rivers, is to raise our voices in unison against destructive water development projects, reclaim the health of our watersheds, and demand the equitable and sustainable management of our rivers.”

The fight against the Oxec III dam

Caal Xol is a leader in the Peaceful Resistance of Cahabon and their struggle against the Oxec dams on their territory without free, prior and informed consent.

The Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project has previously 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.”

REMEZCLA has reported: “Due to construction of a pair of dams, Oxec I and Oxec II, water along the river has either been contaminated or has dried up, leaving the region’s roughly 30,000 Q’eqchi in danger. The company behind the dam project is the Spanish Grupo Cobra, owned by Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez; he visited the site of the project site in 2014 to initiate construction.”

As noted above, Cobra is a subsidiary of Grupo ACS which also has subsidiaries in Canada, including ACS Infrastructure Canada, Inc. in Toronto.

In April 2023, Power Technology noted: “Oxec III is a 75MW hydro power project. It is planned on Cahabon river/basin in Alta Verapaz. The project construction is likely to commence in 2025 and is expected to enter into commercial operation in 2027.”

On May 10, 2023, PBI-Canada observed a march by the Peaceful Resistance of Cahabón in Guatemala City that included a banner that read: “We demand that the Oxec 3 licence be cancelled.”

Breakbulk Magazine has previously reported Hatch’s Ontario, Canada-based project manager for Oxec II Hooman Ghassemi “finished the conceptual design for Oxec III [in 2017].” Hatch was founded in Toronto, Canada, by W.S. Atkins as W.S. Atkins & Associates in 1955. It has offices around the world with its headquarters in Mississauga, Ontario.

Caal Xol at the UN in Geneva

Caal Xol also recently tweeted: “At the invitation of international Human Rights organizations, we were at the UN to continue denouncing human rights abuses in Guatemala. We met with Rapporteurs and urged them to carry out the protocols to visit Guatemala and verify our complaints.”

Photo: Clement Voule (Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association), Caal Xol, Luis Pacheco (from Totonicapán, Guatemala) and Kerstin Reemtsma (PBI-Guatemala).

PBI-Guatemala has accompanied the Peaceful Resistance Cahabón since July 2017.

Photo: Maya Q’eqchi environmental defender Bernardo Caal Xol spent four years in prison for his peaceful resistance to dams being built on ancestral territory without consent. He was released from prison in March 2022. PBI-Canada met with him on May 5, 2023, in Cobán, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala.

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