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Guatemalans protest over extractive industries

by Krista Stryker — last modified Jul 23, 2009 03:27 PM

Thousands of indigenous Guatemalans took to the streets in July to demonstrate against a new mining law and a cement company threatening to damage rural communities.

Guatemala mining protestNearly 15,000 indigenous Guatemalans began a march this week to the country's capital and blockaded roads to demand the suspension of a new mining law, a law they say will be extremely damaging to rural communities.


The indigenous community had previously held consultations where the population expressed their rejection to mining extraction projects, and the new mining law would render these agreements void.


Furthermore, the community of San Juan Sacatepéquez is calling on cement company Holcim-Cementos Progreso to leave their territories. The company aims to install a plant that would start operating in 2012.

Members of the Friends of the Earth Guatemala/CEIBA said the residents that would be affected by the Holcim-Cementos Progreso project are mainly craftspeople and flower harvesters.

They claim that the cement company's plans to “mitigate” the environmental impacts including reforestation with eucalyptus, something that would have even more serious consequences on the water sources.


call to suspend mining licenses

Real World Radio interviewed Alfonso Morales, leader of the Maya Mam organization in Huehuetenango, on the north west border with Mexico. His organization and others calling for an immediate suspension of mining licenses, and for the approval of the Integral Rural Development Law, which promotes the local and peasant economy.

“Thousands of indigenous people have taken to the streets to defend the 25 mining consultations carried out in Huehuetenango”, said Morales. He also expressed concern about the criminalization of local leaders in the area as a result of their outspokenness.


Former presidential candidate and human rights advocate, Rigoberta Menchu, is warning about the possibility that the country's most powerful sectors might orchestrate a coup d'état against President Alvaro Colom due to the current climate of social agitation.


See the photos of the demonstrations here 

Listen to an the interview with Alfonso Morales here on Real World Radio

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