According to a secret contract signed between Guatemala's National Electrification Institute (INDE) and Brazilian Intertechne Consultores S.A., geological studies necessary to begin construction on the Xalalá dam are to begin in March 2014. Communities organized in defense of territory, who have opposed the dam's construction for years, denounced the arrival of a military and police convoy to the region on February 25. They roundly reject the government's suggestion of drug activity in their communities and question the timing and location of the incursion.
Read the full communiqué from the Association for Development, Defense of Territory and Natural Resources (ACODET) below.
This past Tuesday, February 25, 2014, [Guatemalan radio station] Radio Sonora reported an announcement by the Minister of the Interior stating that he had received a complaint regarding the presence of drug traffickers in the community of Xalalá, in the municipality of Ixcán. He stated that Mr. Enrique Cajbón had filed the complaint. Radio Sonora began circulating this information before noon.
Around 5 PM the same day, a convoy made up of one truck and four army pick-ups, together with two National Civilian Police (PNC) vehicles, arrived at the crossing near the Copón River bridge, near communities threatened by the construction of the Xalalá dam.
Our community authorities approached those in charge of the army and police contingent to ask for an explanation of their presence in our territory. They responded that they had received a citizen complaint denouncing a supposed shipment of drugs destined for the community of Xalalá. After Mr. Enrique Cajbón presented himself to the authorities, the police admitted that Mr. Cajbón was not the person who filed the complaint and they promised to present a copy of the complaint to our community authorities the next day. After signing an agreement of clarification with our community authorities, the army and police returned to Playa Grande, Ixcán. The next day, local authorities went to the National Police station in Ixcán, but were not provided a copy of the complaint. As a result of our authorities’ instance that they be given a copy of the complaint, the agent, who the day before had promised to produce the document, warned that helicopters might land in our communities in the coming days.
It is relevant to mention that last November the Guatemalan National Electrification Institute (INDE) signed a contract with Brazilian company, Intertechne Consultores S.A., to complete feasibility assessments for the Xalalá dam. The geological feasibility studies are scheduled to be carried out in March 2014 in the communities that make up our territory. The community of Xalalá, in the municipality of Ixcán, is the precise location that INDE used at the beginning of the 80s to carry out the first geological studies on the Xalalá hydroelectric project.
In light of these events, we, the Maya Q’eqchi’ communities threatened by the construction of the Xalalá dam, organized in the association ACODET express:
- In our communities we all know one another. We use our lands to produce our food, we do not know of, nor do we accept, the presence of organized crime groups or use of our territory by such groups.
- No clandestine landing strip exists in Xalalá. There is a green space in the center of the community that was previously used as a landing strip but is currently used as a football field and communal space for grazing our domesticated animals. It is not equipped for small plane landings.
- Mr. Enrique Cajbón, a Maya Q’eqchi’ member of the ancestral indigenous authority of the community of Xalalá, never filed the alleged complaint. No other members of our local authorities were informed of such a complaint, nor was the army’s protection requested.
- We find it very strange that the Ministry of the Interior published via the radio, and with anticipation, plans for an operative supposedly intended to capture drug traffickers.
- Based on these events, we believe that the government is trying to frighten our communities, delegitimize our resistance to the imposition of the Xalalá dam and justify a military presence in our territory.
- The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states: “Military activities shall not take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples, unless justified by a relevant public interest or otherwise freely agreed with or requested by the indigenous peoples concerned. States shall undertake effective consultations with the indigenous peoples concerned, through appropriate procedures and in particular through their representative institutions, prior to using their lands or territories for military activities.” (Article 30)
Association for Development, Defense of Territory and Natural Resources
Playa Grande, Ixcán February 28, 2014