Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Peaceful blockade in Barillas celebrates one-year anniversary

Tired of being ignored and disrespected by the Guatemalan government, and determined to halt a hydroelectric project approved without their free, prior and informed consent, the men and women of Santa Cruz Barillas founded the peaceful blockade, Nuevo Amanecer on April 6, 2013. Nuevo Amanecer, or New Dawn, is a permanent encampment located on a communal road leading to the proposed project site where community members maintain a constant presence. The bold action has served to halt the construction of the Canbalam Dam, owned by Spanish company Hidralia Energia and its Guatemalan subsidiary Hidro Santa Cruz.

Nuevo Amanecer celebrates its one year anniversary. Photo: PrensaComunitaria

Last Sunday, members of the resistance celebrated the one-year anniversary of Nuevo Amanecer and reiterated their commitment to continuing the peaceful opposition to the project. 

“While 365 suns and moons, and 8,760 hours have gone by [since establishing the peaceful encampment], the People continue to remain hopeful and committed to the struggle, despite immense sacrifices and hardships.” - Press Release from the Plurinational Government and the Western Peoples' Council (CPO), April 2014

Communities and leaders at the forefront of the resistance movement have suffered an onslaught of criminalization, repression and violence at the hands of the Guatemalan state, which instead of protecting the interests of the people, has time and again acted in defense of the Spanish company.

The costs suffered by the communities and families that stand to be impacted by the project have been high. Two community leaders have been killed since May 1, 2012 and three others, Saúl Méndez, Rogelio Velásquez and Mynor López, remain in prison facing charges related to the opposition to the Canbalam Dam. Eleven additional members of the resistance have collectively spent more than one year in preventative prison on accusations filed against them by the company, which were later dismissed.

As the conflict caused by the imposition of mega-projects in Huehuetenango drags on, international solidarity with communities and individuals standing up for their right to self determination continues to be vitally important and appreciated. Last year, NISGUA and partners gathered nearly than 3,0000 signatures demanding the release of political prisoner, Rubén Herrera. Spanish solidarity organization and members of the International Accompaniment Project in Guatemala (ACOGUATE), Plataforma de solidaridad con Chiapas y Guatemala de Madrid, launched an online popular consultation in support of communities in Northern Huehuetenango resisting the imposition of large-scale projects. Nearly 2,000 people echoed the results of local referenda saying NO to the instalation of mega-projects and YES to communities' right to self determination.

Plataforma submits their consultation results to the Guatemalan Embassy in Madrid.

"The Q'anjob'al and Mestizo People of Barillas infinitely thank the national and international solidarity of many individuals and organizations that have unconditionally reached out to us in this struggle. We also believe that this struggle affects us all and for this reason we say WE ARE ALL BARILLAS."
- Press Release from the Plurinational Government and the Western Peoples' Council (CPO), April 2014

NISGUA and ACOGUATE work closely with partners in Huehuetango in their efforts to defend the right to consultation, promote self-determination and stand up for human rights in the region.

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