Guatemala News Update: June 2-6

Chixoy reparations to be handled by Executive branch

A six hour-long meeting between communities affected by the Chixoy Dam and government officials determined that the Executive Branch will be the only entity to handle the communities’ promised reparations. This decision was a victory for community members, as earlier in the week government officials had suggested the reparations be fulfilled via the Legislative Branch. Communities viewed this as a tactic to withhold the economic portion of the reparations plan. Although a formal plan has not yet been agreed upon, communities say that they are making progress and will move forward with the negotiation process.

The World Bank decided to postpone its vote on a requested $340 million loan to Guatemala; the discussion will likely take place within the next few weeks. The Guatemala Human Rights Commission was among the 34 NGOs that wrote to the World Bank requesting the delay.

Mining company feels impact of community resistance

Tahoe Resources, the mining company that owns the Escobal mine in Guatemala, may be considering a second mining project in Guatemala. However, according to Tahoe’s Director General of operations, Rob Clayton, the company is also considering the option of locating future projects outside of Guatemala due to ongoing opposition to mining projects in the country, particularly community resistance and environmental concerns, which can negatively impact share prices.

The controversial Escobal Mine gained notoriety last year after incidents of violence and intimidation were carried out by mine employees against non-violent local protesters. A BBC article provides an overview of the conflict.

Update on La Puya

In response to the violent eviction of protesters last month and a social media campaign launched by student Victor Roblero, roughly 200 people traveled to La Puya to show solidarity with community members peacefully resisting the El Tambor mining project. The supporters protested along with local community activists and shared food and drink.

According to a report by US hydrologist and geochemist Robert Moran, the environmental impact study for the El Tambor mining project is “unacceptable” and “the worst” study he has seen in his 42 year career. In an interview with Plaza Pública, Moran explains the studies weaknesses and inaccuracies.

Renace II hydroelectric plant to open

The Renace II hydroelectric plant in the Department of Alta Verapaz will begin operating at the end of the month. Local community leaders have raised concerns regarding the pollution of the Cahabón River as a result of the project and the Marcha Indigena Campesina y Popular has called for the revocation of the project’s license.

Exhumation at ex-military base returns six corpses home

Six corpses from the 1982 massacre in Pambach were identified and returned to their families. The corpses were found buried in the Zone 21 military base, which is now a UN Peacekeepers training base. Of the 533 corpses that have been found there, 49 have been identified, 13 of which are from the village of Pambach.

Obama names new ambassador for Guatemala

President Obama has nominated Todd D. Robinson to be the next US ambassador to Guatemala. Robinson previously served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala from 2009 to 2011 and currently holds the position of Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement at the US State Department.

Sperisen sentenced to life in prison

The Criminal Court of Geneva sentenced former General Director of the Guatemalan Police, Erwin Sperisen, to life in prison for being the co-author of six murders and the direct author of a seventh. The victims were prisoners in Pavón prison in 2006.

However, the same court dismissed the charges against Sperisen for the murder of three prisoners in “El Infiernito” prison in 2005.

Retired members of the military sentenced for embezzlement

Jacobo Salán Sánchez and Napoleón Rojas were sentenced to five years and three months in jail for embezzling 3.8 million dollars to benefit the Guatemalan army.

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