Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Communiqué denouncing recent repression in Northern Huehuetenango

On September 28, conflict erupted again in Northern Huehuetenango in response to the imposition of Spanish-owned Cambalam hydro-electric project in Santa Cruz Barillas. Despite ongoing criminalization and repression, community members continue to demand respect for the 2007 community consultation rejecting large-scale development projects in their territory.

During his September 3 visit to Barillas, President Otto Pérez Molina hailed hydro-electric projects as the future of development in the region and announced the establishment of a dialogue round table, supposedly to address ongoing community opposition to the projects. In the end, the promise of dialogue remained unfulfilled; the conversation did not take place, as the president failed to attend the meeting scheduled for September 19. While the public discourse has advocated for negotiation with communities, in practice, the government has consistently responded to popular opposition with militarization, repression and criminalization.

In the communique below, the Western Peoples' Council and the Departmental Assembly of Huehuetenango denounce this new wave of violence and militarization and call for international solidarity, the cancellation of licenses for controversial mega-projects and respect for community right to consultation.

We denounce before the international and national community:
The current aggression against the Q'anjob'al, Akateko, Chuj and mestizo peoples in Northern Huehuetenango by the President and Commander of Chief of the national army, General Otto Fernando Pérez Molina, who in a recent press conference highlighted the importance of water, mineral, oil and forest resources.

These aggressions are part of a new process of transnational invasion, protected by the government in power, who take turns implementing projects of plunder in the name of false development. These actions are framed within a strategy of counterinsurgency and make us remember and relive the internal armed conflict of the 1980s during which the army orchestrated plans of aggression and violated civil society's fundamental human rights.

On September 28-30 of this year, the government used low flying helicopters, armored vehicles, army troops and National Civil Police (PNC) special forces units to terrorize the population. This strategy of invasion, which disproportionately uses police and military forces characteristic of a state of war, resulted in one civilian death and many injured.  This result is the unforgivable responsibility of the government.

This repressive and terrorist behavior attempts to paralyze communities' pacific and legitimate struggle in defense of territory. The licenses [for mega-projects] have been granted to companies in territories where we exist and live, and that we have been caring for during thousands of years. We will not allow our territories to be destroyed.

THEREFORE: We call on the international and national community to speak out and show solidarity with the people of Guatemala. We will remain vigilant and in permanent observation of the human and collective rights of the people, as attacks against the civilian population of Barillas continue.

1. The government and its ministries respect the human and collective rights of the people, and that they stop lying to and confusing the national and international community.
2. The withdrawal of all army and PNC special forces troops in Northern Huehuetenango in order to guarantee the protection of human rights and not to serve transnational companies.
3. The cancellation of mining, hydroelectric, oil and other mega-project licenses that have been granted in Huehuetenango and which are responsible for undermining peace and liberty.
4. Respect for community consultations carried out   from 2006 to the present.

The Q'anjob'al, Chuj, Akateko and mestizo people have historically cared for territory for the benefit of everyone, including future generations. We only want to be treated as people and to be allowed to live freely in peace and harmony with Mother Nature.

Departmental Assembly of Huehuetenango (ADH)
Members of the Western Peoples' Council (CPO)

Huehuetenango, September 30, 2013

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