OXEC dams on Maya Q’eqchi’ territory in Guatemala linked to Spanish, French and Canadian companies

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On April 3, during a webinar organized by PBI-UK and Amnesty International, Maya Q’eqchi’ defender Bernardo Caal Xol spoke about a march by the Peaceful Resistance of Cahabón to the Spanish Embassy in Guatemala City.

That march took place on May 10, 2023. PBI-Canada was there and compiled Bernardo’s tweets that day to help share the story of what happened.

You can read that here.

The Spanish company – Grupo Cobra

The construction of dams on Bernardo’s territory without the free, prior and informed consent of the Maya Q’eqchi’ people is associated with a Spanish company (this was the reason behind the march to the Spanish Embassy).

The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre has noted: “The Guatemala-based company Oxec S.A. owns the hydroelectric dams Oxec and Oxec II…and is being built by the Spanish company Grupo Cobra, which is owned by Florentino Pérez, the president of Spanish soccer giant Real Madrid.”

Upside Down World has also noted: “The company, Hidro Oxec S.A., which is owned by the Bosch Gutiérrez family, received a 50 years permit for the river. The Spanish company Cobra Group, owned by Florentino Pérez, the president of Spanish soccer team, Real Madrid, is constructing several of the projects along the river.”

The Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project has noted that “the hydroelectric project installed on the Cahabón river basin, operated by OXEC SA, [belongs] to the Energy Resources Capital Corp group (ERCC).”

In November 2016, Jeff Abbott, a freelance journalist based in Guatemala, also reported in Waging Nonviolence: “The Guatemala-based company Oxec S.A. owns the hydroelectric dams Oxec and Oxec II, with investments from Energy Resources Capital Corp, which is based in Panama. Oxec S.A. is owned by the powerful Bosch Gutiérrez family and is being built by the Spanish company Grupo Cobra, which is owned by Florentino Pérez, the president of Spanish soccer giant Real Madrid.”

With respect to ERCC registered in Panama, Transparency.org has generally noted: “Once companies are successfully incorporated, authorities usually do not collect any information on the real owners of companies. In case of suspicions or investigations against a particular company, law enforcement or tax authorities would have to request information from the corporate service provider.”

A French company?

On the PBI-UK and Amnesty International webinar, Bernardo shared that when the Spanish Ambassador in Guatemala City met with them in May 2023, they stated that it was no longer a Spanish company but a French company that is responsible for the dams.

At this point we cannot verify the accuracy of the Ambassador’s statement or identify the name of the French company.

A Canadian company

We have, however, compiled information linking a Canadian company. Hatch Ltd., a company founded in Toronto and now based in nearby Mississauga, has been involved in both the OXEC II and OXEC III projects.

NS Energy has reported: “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.”

And just as PBI-Guatemala and Jeff Abbott reference Energy Resources Capital, the NS Energy article links Hatch to them: “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.”


Power Technology notes “construction is likely to commence in 2025 and is expected to enter into commercial operation in 2027.”

Breakbulk Magazine has reported that the Oxec II dam was “designed by Hatch Ltd., the Toronto, Canada-based engineering firm”, then notes that Hooman Ghassemi, Hatch’s project manager for Oxec II, “has been working on Oxec II since 2015 and has just finished the conceptual design for Oxec III.”

At that march in Guatemala City on May 10, 2023, PBI-Canada took this photo of a banner that says: “We demand that the Oxec 3 licence be cancelled.”

We continue to follow this.

The Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project has accompanied the Peaceful Resistance of Cahabón since July 2017.

Thank you to PBI-UK and Amnesty International for organizing an informative and inspiring webinar.

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