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guatemala: mapping and resisting transnational corporations and capital

Guatemala is a focus for transnational companies and capital seeking to access Guatemala’s rich natural resources and commercial potential. The Guatemalan government’s support for this trend is reflected in its willingness to construct vast megaprojects, and to open Guatemala’s markets to other countries’ goods and capital through free trade agreements. The serious social and environmental consequences that these projects and pacts can have on Guatemala’s communities and people are overlooked.

guatemala: mapping and resisting transnational corporations and capitalAlong with other Central American countries, Guatemala is now committed to the Central America-Dominican Republic-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR). In 2009 Guatemala was also engaged in negotiations with the EU to establish a free trade-style ‘Association Agreement’ between the EU and Central American countries (which was concluded in May 2010).

what happened

FoE Guatemala/Ceiba aims to influence public policy and government programs, with a view to bringing about the fundamental transformations that society needs. It has campaigned to denounce the abuses and impacts of new megaprojects; and to warn Guatemalans about and work with them on the potential negative impacts of free trade agreements.

As part of this effort, FoE Guatemala has mapped the presence, activities and impacts of European transnational companies active in Guatemala. This has generated a wealth of information that is strategically important both at the national level, and in terms of FoEI’s global campaign to dismantle the excessive power of corporations.

In 2009, the focus was on consolidating and publishing the information gathered, and disseminating it to communities and organizations throughout the country. The resulting report was distributed to various social organizations and national leaders. In addition, five workshops were held in different regions of Guatemala, to discuss and analyze the report’s contents. More than 200 people including community leaders, peasants, and participants from Community Development Councils (COCODES) participated and provided important feedback, which was added to that already received from various communities.

Specific campaigns are also underway in collaboration with affected communities. These include support to communities resisting the Cementera Cementos Progreso, in San Juan Sacatepequez, which involves Swiss company Holcim.

FoE Guatemala is also working with community leaders, religious leaders and local social organizations in San Marcos, supporting community resistance targeted at Spanish company, Union Fenosa. Community leaders have been criminalized for their resistance, and five have died in suspicious circumstances. It is hoped that the presence of international observers will make it ever harder for such repression to continue.

what changed

The information contained in the report was an important contribution to the planning and positioning processes underway within social and popular organizations, especially in relation to the Association Agreement under negotiation with the EU. It provided them with concrete information about commercial developments and free trade negotiations underway.

The information gathered also provides a detailed and informative foundation for the specific company-related resistance campaigns being conducted by communities and indigenous peoples determined to defend their territories.

with thanks to our funders: the dutch ministry of foreign affairs

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