News recap: NISGUA celebrates a successful fall speaking tour; Communities celebrate another year of resistance; Take action to stand with Indigenous Peoples to demand respect for Indigenous self-determination in Guatemala; ACODET releases statement in the face of attacks against water defenders; 2018: a year of horizontal exchange – a recap of this year’s accomplishments.
This and more in this month’s solidarity update!
Solidarity Update: NISGUA Tour highlights Indigenous water protection
In November, NISGUA partnered with the Association of Communities for Development and the Defense of Natural Resources (ACODET) for a 14-day speaking tour, "How to Stop a Dam with Indigenous Resistance." The tour visited Washington, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Sonora, Mexico, with a focus on facilitating direct exchange between Maya Mam leader José Gómez and Indigenous Peoples in the U.S.
Our first stop in Seattle featured a panel discussion at the Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center with indigenous and ally organizers fighting for environmental justice. Panel members highlighted the importance of centering the voices of directly impacted communities when deciding strategy to protect the Earth. Read a full report from our stop in Seattle here.
Tours are one of our core strategies to build direct relationships between social movements in Guatemala and the U.S. In the current political moment, we believe we need these connections more urgently than ever, and we couldn't make it happen without dedicated organizers and volunteers. MIL GRACIAS to our lead organizers this year: Phil Neff, Rebeca Zúniga-Hamlin, Kayla Autumn Myers, Laura Von Dohlen, and Katie Sharar. We appreciate your commitment and hard work! Learn more about this year's organizing crew on our blog, and reach out to learn more about how you can get involved with future speaking tours!
Community members from Mataquescuintla march to commemorate the six-year anniversary of their 2012 consultation.
Communities Celebrate Another Year of Resistance
The municipality of Uspantán recently celebrated eight years since holding a community consultation in which people from 186 different communities voted no to the imposition of hydroelectric, mining, and mono-crops. Uspantán stood with Cobán and Ixcán in rejecting the imposition of the Xalalá hydroelectric project, which would displace and otherwise impact multiple communities in the Copón and Chixoy Rivers watershed.
Meanwhile in the southeastern municipality of Mataquescuintla,thousands of people gathered on November 11, 2018 to commemorate the 6th anniversary of the municipal referendum on mining. The 2012 referendum, which saw 98.42% of participants reject mining, is one of several that have taken place in the area and has played a key role in preventing the unchecked expansion of mining activities.
These yearly celebrations show the importance of community consultations to people organizing to defend their territories and waters. Consultations are not merely votes, but are community organizing tools that build inclusive, consensus-based decision-making. They are also important reference points for communities facing corporate- and government-sponsored threats, criminalization, defamation, and attacks in response to their resistance. You can read more about consultations in our summer report.
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In the face of regulatory threats to community consultation practices, ACODET released a statement along with Indigenous organizations in Guatemala, the U.S., and Canada calling for the respect of Indigenous communities’ rights to consultation.
ACODET Releases Statement in the Face of Attacks against Water Defenders
While José Gómez represented ACODET on tour with NISGUA, the organization continued its work in Guatemala to denounce threats currently faced by water defenders. On November 13, they released a statement defending Bernardo Caal, a Q’eqchi’ organizer targeted for protecting the Oxec and Cahabón Rivers against a series of hydroelectric projects. The statement also called out attacks and defamation against the Peaceful Resistance of Ixquisis, which has organized to resist the imposition of three hydroelectric projects under construction in their territory. Activists critical of the dam have been met with criminalization and violence, including the 2017 assassination of Sebastian Alonso Juan which remains in impunity. ACODET also denounced the ongoing defamation of Rigoberto Juárez, Coordinator of the Plurinational Ancestral Government of the Maya Q’anjob’al, Chuj, Akateka, Popti and Mestiza Peoples.
In the context of the recent threats against water defenders, ACODET remembered the long history of killings and destruction that have accompanied the imposition of hydroelectric projects saying, “We cannot remain silent in the face of a wave of violence against the rights of Indigenous peoples, for defending the land that gives us food and the rivers that give us life.”
NISGUA accompanies many of the people and communities mentioned in this statement, including ACODET, Rigoberto Juárez, and the Peaceful Resistance of Ixquisis.
2018: A year of horizontal exchange
In both the U.S. and Guatemala, communities fighting for justice, environmental defense, and indigenous self-determination have faced growing repression from administrations that prioritize corporate interests over the well-being of their people and the Earth.
In this context, NISGUA has spent this year mobilizing our greatest strengths -- long-standing, deep relationships and a commitment to internationalist movement strengthening -- to create mutually-resourcing opportunities for political education and horizontal exchange between the movements and communities most directly impacted by global systems of oppression. Our fall tour is one example of this effort, prioritizing direct exchange between Indigenous leaders at each tour stop. Our invited speaker, José Gómez, shared about the value that international exchange adds to his organizing: "As Indigenous people, creating international links with communities from other countries strengthens our struggle for the protection and stewardship of our common resources. Solidarity helps us acquire information about, and intervene in, the capitalist system’s plans against our people."
We're excited to continue this work with you in 2019! Learn more about what we've accomplished together this year in our year-end report.
In 2019, we celebrate People Power! Stay inspired all year long with beautiful photos depicting Guatemalan communities making decisions according to ancestral practices, affirming their identity, honoring nature, forging memory, and defending their rights.
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We're in this for the long haul.
At the center of each of our Solidarity Updates are people facing real risks for speaking out against impunity, state and corporate violence, and working towards justice. We provide international accompaniment and/or advocacy support to all of the organizations and individuals that we write about, as one attempt to dissuade further attacks human rights defenders face for speaking out.
Make a donation to NISGUA today to help answer the calls of our partners for ongoing accompaniment support and much needed advocacy on the long road to justice.