Logo of the ADHStatement regarding the “consternation” that the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the World Bank expressed regarding the report of the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO), related to the complaint presented on July 1, 2015 by the People’s Assembly of the Department of Huehuetenango for the defense of Natural Resources and defenders of human rights in the Peaceful Resistance of Santa Cruz Barillas. 

We report to the national and international community:

On July 1, 2015, defenders of the human rights, land, life, and natural resources of the organized communities in the Peaceful Resistance of Santa Cruz Barillas, family members of the political prisoners from northern Huehuetenango, and members of the Departmental Assembly of the People of Huehuetenango for the defense of Natural Resources (ADH) presented a complaint before the office of the CAO. The complaint denounced the different human rights violations committed in the municipality of Santa Cruz Barillas by the company Hidro Santa Cruz, a subsidiary of the Spanish company Hidralia Energía-Ecoener. Hidralia Energía-Ecoener is owned by the Castor Valdivía brothers, who intended to construct at all costs the hydroelectric project Canbalam in non-compliance with the Norms of Execution of the IFC and the World Bank by investing in this hydroelectric project through the Inter-American Corporation for the Financing of Infrastructure (CIFI).

The CAO received the complaint and completed an in situ investigation to corroborate the claims made in it. They publicized the findings of that investigation in a Final Report that was published in December 2018. In April of 2020, the IFC responded to the undersigned of the document their position on the CAO’s Final Report.

In its response, the IFC excused itself from all of the “technical” anomalies in the financing provided to Hidro Santa Cruz and to the Castor Valdivia brothers for the construction of the hydroelectric project Canbalam, emphasizing instead the  important “benefits” the project could represent to the population of the municipality and the absence of opposition to the project. The response simultaneously exonerated the company for all of the human rights violations that it committed against the people organized in the Peaceful Resistance who opposed the construction and installation of the hydroelectric project.

The legal persecution and incarceration that more than fifty men and women were subjected to before, during, and after the declaration of a State of Siege imposed by the corrupt government of Otto Pérez Molina and the Patriot’s Party (PP) in May of 2012, was the strategy executed by the company and the Guatemalan state in order to neutralize and eliminate the population organized in the Peaceful Resistance, who openly and publicly opposed the construction of the hydroelectric project and the presence of Hidro Santa Cruz (HSC) in the municipality. Some of these people were accused by employees of the company and obtained legal advice from the team of lawyers contracted by that same company. The direct effects of this incarceration were that people were in prison between 3 and 37 months for crimes they did not commit, as was proven in the trials; and the many indirect effects were felt by the families of these incarcerated people in their economic well being, including the increased need for their partners to work and effects on their children’s studies.

The World Bank and IFC’s support for the version of events put forth by the Castro Valdivia brothers and the HSC, and their intention to present themselves as a purely “technical” body having little to do with the human rights violations committed against the population of Santa Cruz Barillas, constitute the central point of their response to the Final Report of the CAO, which the ADH publicly rejected and denounced in the year 2020.

The response of the IFC is itself a recognition of the breach of its own Norms of Execution and the international standards of respect for human rights. Additionally, it acts as a complete excusal of the company’s owners and the hydroelectric project from responsibility for the violence and the repression they unleashed for 8 years against a population that never accepted the construction and exercised their constitutional rights, demonstrating from history and experience that the project didn’t represent any benefit at all to the municipality.

This is how the IFC and the World Bank continue to support the illegal and irregular activities committed from beginning to end by Hidro Santa Cruz — and a significant part of this support was the financial backing that they provided to this company for the construction of the hydroelectric project through the CIFI.

Deep down, the World Bank and the IFC are defending a “model of development” that is being imposed on the Indigenous and mestizo communities of Guatemala by moneyed interests at the national and international level with the support of the Guatemalan state. In this model, the extraction and exploitation of natural resources; the promotion and financing of hydroelectric projects; the extraction of minerals; and the mega monoculture of palm oil and sugar, constitute some of the main branches and projects.

Therefore, we demand:

A public apology and financial, political, and social compensation for the harm that the population of Santa Cruz Barillas experienced for 10 years, considering that through the CIFI the IFC financed a project that, although it hasn’t been completed, has caused armed assaults against three community members, one of whom died and the other two of whom survived with serious injuries. One of those community members was publicly known to have refused to sell his land to the company for a site to install the hydroelectric project in question. The people responsible for this attack had worked as security guards of the HSC, which denied this employment connection until forced to recognize that one of the accused had been their employee.

The immediate exit of extractive companies that continue to provoke community division, persecution, harassment of women and girls, criminalization of leaders and even assassinations in our national territory. It is unconscionable that more attention is paid to monetary investments than to the destruction of natural resources and the life of individuals, communities, and Indigenous peoples.

Stop the criminalization of human rights and land defenders!

Justice and reparations for the communities of Santa Cruz Barillas!

We are all Barillas!

Peaceful Resistance of Santa Cruz Barillas and the Departmental Assembly of the Peoples of Huehuetenango for the Defense of Natural Resources