Guatemala News Update: November 23 – December 6

chixoy-photoINDE secretly approves company for hydroelectric dam

News came through international sources this week that the National Institute for Electricity (INDE) secretly granted the Brazilian company  Intertechne Consultores rights to the Xalalá hydroelectric project. In January of this year, INDE requested bids for the project, but in April they declared to have deserted the request. The proposed Xalalá hydroelectric dam on the Chixoy River, along the border of the departments Quiché and Alta Verapaz, has been contentious since the plan was first proposed in 2004. It would affect more than 50 communities, and approximately 18,000 residents said no to the project in a community consultation in 2007. In the last few months, state institutions, especially those involved in energy, have been active in Xalalá. For example, some testified that INDE representatives attempted to bribe leaders for the support of the community. The presence of the army has also increased.

2014 budget would leave victims without reparations

The proposed budget for 2014 does not include reparations for the victims of the Internal Armed Conflict, part of the National Compensation Plan. The agreement that originally created the program expires on December 31.

Tahoe Resources looks to expand

Canadian mining company Tahoe Resources, owner of the Escobal mine, announced that it is looking to add a second mine in Guatemala. CEO Kevin McArthur said that “Guatemala is a good place to do business,” referring to President Peréz Molina’s recent clamp-down on opposition. He added that “It is a noisy place, there’s a very strong left contingent and we had some violent events around our project. But the president stepped in and established law and order.” The second mine would be constructed on the large land package that Tahoe already owns.

Community holds ceremony for the return of victims

On Friday November 22, the Forensic Anthropology Foundation (FAFG) returned the skeletal remains of six victims of the internal armed conflict to their families in the Poqomchi’ Mayan Pambach hamlet. The men were taken from their village by the military on June 3rd, 1982, when the army captured 60 men and brutally killed them near the town of Tactic. Their remains were recently exhumed from CREOMPAZ base in Cobán.

UN adopts landmark resolution for protection of women human rights defenders

The UN General Assembly’s Third Committee adopted the first-ever resolution on women human rights defenders, which several organizations — including Amnesty International and JASS (Just Associates) — recognize as a historical step forward. The resolution urges States to enact gender-specific policies for the protection of women human rights defenders, recognizing that they often face violations and abuses specific to who they are and the nature of their work. However, these organizations also criticize the resolution for excluding certain contested language which is crucial to the protection of women human rights defenders. Specifically, provisions for women working on issues of reproductive rights and sexuality were left out of the resolution.

Mayors want to link community consultations with mining licenses

The mayors of Totonicapán and Quetzaltenango asked the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the Human Rights Ombudsman to connect community consultations to the approval process of mining licenses in those regions. Diego González, the mayor of Totonicapán, stated that during the community consultations more than 135,000 people have rejected mining activity and want to be included in the final decision.

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