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NEWS: Groups demand suspension of construction of Cambalam dam in Guatemala

The Asamblea de los Pueblos de Huehuetengo por la Defensa del Territorio (Assembly of Peoples of Huehuetengo for the Defense of Territory) from Guatemala has been invited to participate in the ‘Shout Out Against Mining Injustice’ conference this June 1-2 in Vancouver. They have been expressing concern about plans by the Spanish company Hidro Santa Cruz to build the Cambalam hydroelectric dam to the north of Huehuetenango, affecting El Paraje Poza Verde, a community located in Barillas municipality.

Prensa Latina reported late yesterday, “Army troops and the police were sent (after the government decreed a) state of siege (when) about 200 or more residents in Santa Cruz Barillas, north-western department of Huehuetenango, rioted yesterday after the death of a person. It all started when a company that undertakes the construction works of a hydroelectric plant in the area, to which the indigenous communities are opposed because it implies the seizure of lands belonging to Mayan natives. …In accordance with the Guatemalan Constitution, the state of siege ends all constitutional rights…”

The Western Peoples’ Council has stated, “Yesterday, at around one o’clock in the afternoon, armed men ambushed three community leaders as they returned from the municipal center to their nearby community of Posa Verde, where the Hidro Santa Cruz company plans to build a hydroelectric dam. In the attack, Andrés Francisco Miguel was killed, and Pablo Antonio Pablo and Esteban Bernabé were seriously injured. One of the men had refused to sell his land and had suffered legal persecution by the company. According to the people injured in the incident, their aggressors were traveling in vehicles similar to those used by the Hidro Santa Cruz company. …It should be noted that the social conflicts in Barillas are directly related to the project authorization and operations of Hidro Santa Cruz, S.A. The company has been favored by multiple governments, but has failed to respect the affected population’s right to free, prior and informed consultation.”

In response, the Western Peoples’ Council, along with human rights and environmental organizations (including the Assembly of Peoples of Huehuetengo for the Defense of Territory) have demanded: “The immediate revision of the respective file and the suspension of the construction and operation licenses for the Cambalam hydroelectric dam; The withdrawal of the company from the area and an investigation into (potential) company responsibility for the incident; The formation of a high-level commission, with the participation of civil society organizations, to support the investigation and the assignment of responsibility for the events that took place on May 1 of this year in Barilla; Government-provided protection and security for the population of Barillas, according to the concept of democratic security laid out in the Peace Accords, rather than the suspension of constitutional rights.”

The Council of Canadians and Blue Planet Project support this statement and stand in solidarity with the Asamblea de los Pueblos de Huehuetengo por la Defensa del Territorio and all peoples and groups impacted by this planned dam and this state of siege.

The full Western Peoples’ Council statement can be read at http://nisgua.blogspot.ca/2012/05/urgent-communique.html.