Attacks on communities resisting dam construction in Guatemala.
4 May 2012 - Friends of the Earth International strongly condemns the violence and repression against residents of the Santa Cruz Barillas in the Department of Huehuetenango, Guatemala, because of their opposition to the operations of the Spanish company Hydro Santa Cruz, SA.
At noon on the 1st of May a group of gunmen ambushed three local community leaders who because of their refusal to sell their land had been persecuted by the company. Precisely in this region the Hydro Santa Cruz company are intent on building a dam which has been strongly resisted by the communities affected, including through community consultations in which the project was rejected. In the attack Andrés Francisco Miguel was killed, while his colleagues and neighbours Paul Antonio Paul and Esteban Bernabé were seriously injured.
What you can do: Condemn the violence in Santa Cruz Barillas
The injured and witnesses of the death of Francisco Andres Miguel reported that their attackers were driving vehicles similar to those of the Hydro Santa Cruz company, reinforcing the conclusion that this event was organized by people linked to the company. This is furthermore connected with the report that was made two weeks before the proper authorities of the existence of homemade explosives on the premises of the company. These events are compounded by the actions of intimidation that has driven the company's assertion of their interests such as legal persecution, co-optation of leaders and threatening phone calls.
Confronted with this situation there has been an indignant reaction demanding justice, causing unrest in the area. The government of President Otto Perez Molina reacted to this by declaring a state of emergency in the region of Santa Cruz Barillas, authorizing arrests and searches against leaders of the protests.
Meanwhile, community- and other organizations (of Human Rights, environmentalists, among others) have expressed concern over the handling of the information being skewed in favor of the company.
It should be noted that social conflicts in Barillas are directly related to the authorization and operations of Hydro Santa Cruz, SA which has been favoured by successive governments, without giving effect to the right of the people affected to be informed freely and priorly.
Given the seriousness of the situation, we appeal to human rights organizations and green groups, and international public opinion to put pressure on the Guatemalan and Spanish authorities to support the claims of indigenous and peasant affected by conflict in Guatemala following the plans and acts of intimidation by the Spanish company Hydro Santa Cruz, including:
-Immediate suspension of license construction and operation of the hydroelectric Cambalam.
-The withdrawal of the Hydro Santa Cruz company from the area, responsible for social unrest in Barillas and to investigate its responsibility in this.
-The formation of a high-level commission with participation of civil society organizations to support research and ascertainment of responsibility for what happened.
-That the Government of Guatemala, provide protection and security to the population of Barillas and not the suspension of its constitutional rights on the basis of democratic security in the framework of the Peace Accords.