The following press releases have been translated by NISGUA as part of its ongoing human rights accompaniment of communities threatened by the Xalalá dam project.
Press Release 1
25 October 2012
Imposition of Development Projects Threatens the Life of Communities in Ixcán
Considering that the Ministry of Energy and Mines recently announced a new bidding process for the construction of the Xalalá dam and oil exploration in the municipality of Ixcán, social organizations and community members from this region publicly state our concern and our rejection of the implementation of these megaprojects that threaten the well-beingof our communities.
The expropriation and extraction of natural resources by the oligarchy, businessmen, and the army in territories inhabited by indigenous peoples (pueblos originarios), has historically generated displacement, poverty, repression and serious human rights abuses, including genocide.
We reiterate our concern and call for the support of other organizations, considering the risk that the imposition of these large-scale development projects (megaproyectos) could lead to further violations of community rights, as seen in Polochic, San Juan Sacatepéquez, San Raymundo, San Miguel Ixtahuacán, Barillas and Totonicapán.
We hope to strengthen alliances with different groups also participating in the struggle to defend land and territory, respect for community rights and referendums, and our rejection of the repression we currently face as indigenous peoples for engaging in this struggle.
We denounce the National Electrification Institute (INDE) for withholding information about the impacts of the construction of the Xalalá dam and for minimizing the negative effects it could have on the community.
For these reasons, we demand:
That the State respect the results of the good faith community referendums held in Ixcán (April 20, 2007) and Uspantán (October 29, 2010), in which participants voted against the large-scale development projects planned for our regions.
That the government and the Ministry of Energy and Mines, as a matter of urgency, cancel the Ministerial Agreement number 321-2,012, published in the official government paper (Diario Oficial) on October 15 of this year on the construction of the Xacbal Delta Dam in the municipality of Ixcan. We also ask for the cancellation of the Government Agreement 172-2, 012, published on September 4 on oil exploration and drilling in the Xalbal area in the municipalities of Ixcán, El Quiché and Barillas, Huehuetenango.
That the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources comply with its function to protect the environment and people’s lives, and refuse to allow dams and oil exploration and drilling in our communities.
That all governmental entities provide truthful information to the communities and engage in a dialogue that respects agreements and decisions reached with the communities.
That the President and other governmental entities respect that the communities defending their territory and demanding better living conditions for their people have the right to protest, and refuse to allow the army, the national police, or private agents to endanger peoples’ lives.
To defend our land and our territory is to defend the life and dignity of our people!
Association of Communities for Development and the Defense of Land and Natural Resources (ACODET)
Commission to Follow-up on the Ixcán Community Referendum
Movement of People’s Resistance for Life in Ixcán (MOPREVI)
|A mural on a church in a community threatened by the Xalalá hydroelectric dam project reads, “The Maya people deserve respect for life, land, and natural resources.”
Press Release 2
On October 25, a delegation of community and organizational representatives from the municipalities of Ixcán, Cobán and Uspantán met with government officials in charge of implementing the Xalalá hydroelectric dam project. The delegates presented a document signed by authorities and representatives from 53 communities in Ixcán, Cobán and Uspantán that are threatened by the construction of the dam.
Juan Carlos Morataya, Project Development Manager for INDE (the National Electrification Institute), Edwin Rodas, Vice Minister of Energy and Mines, José Fernando Carrera, head of the SEGEPLAN (Secretary General of Planning and Programming for the Presidency), and the Vice Minister of the Environment all participated in the meeting. Congressional representatives Amilcar Pop and Carlos Mejía, presidents of the Transparency Commission and the Indigenous People’s Commission respectively, organized the meeting.
During the meeting, community representatives reiterated the decision made during the good faith community referendums held in Ixcán (April 20, 2007) and Uspantán (October 29, 2010). In the referendums, participants rejected the construction of the Xalalá dam, because it would flood the best land in 58 communities, affecting their rights to land, food, health, consultation, and participation in deciding development priorities. The representatives also expressed concern regarding potential human rights violations, pointing out that INDE has still not paid compensation for damages to the Achí communities affected by the Chixoy dam that was constructed over 30 years ago.
The Ministry of Energy and Mines affirmed that it has not received requests for, nor has it authorized, geological studies for the Xalalá area. The representative from INDE stated that the institution does plan to carry out geological, economic, and social studies to confirm the viability of the Xalalá dam. One of the officials explained that SEGEPLAN is conducting social work in order to raise consciousness among the COCODES