Indigenous peoples’ rights and hydro-electric projects in Guatemala: The case of the Ch’orti’ in Chiquimula


We were born here,
We did not come here
Aquí hemos nacido,
no hemos venido
Machiwar kayopá temeyum
Iranon kuxpon tará

The indigenous Maya Ch’orti’ community in Chiquimula, Guatemala, is in conflict with the companies Las TresNiñas and Jonbo which plan to build hydro-electric dams on the Jupilingue river (also known as Río Grande). The Ch’orti’ claim that these projects will affect their livelihoods and threaten their way of life. The stalemate has lasted 7 years and escalated into conflict with the local authorities and members of the community being criminalized.

The above report was prepared by an independent delegation at the request of the Guatemalan NGO Nuevo Día, which works with the Ch’orti’ communities. The delegation was invited to review the human rights impacts of the two proposed hydro-electric dams on the Maya Ch’orti’ communities.

In brief, the key findings: the collective rights of the Ch’orti’ were ignored by key actors in the conflict such as the hydro-electric companies, as well as local and national government; the Ch’orti’, as an indigenous group, collectively hold the right to property to their ancestral lands; the right of the Maya Ch’orti’ to their land has not been implemented but rather denied in practice in Guatemala; Guatemala is under an obligation, by virtue of its constitution and international conventions, “to consult with indigenous peoples and guarantee their participation regarding any measure that affects their territory”; the failure to recognize and respect Ch’orti’ collective rights to their land and to be consulted with regard to the use of natural resources on their land is at the root of the conflict unfolding in Chiquimula; and the resistance of the Ch’orti’ to the construction of dams on their land, and to a form of development which they do not espouse, has led to chronic social conflict.

The report recommends that the government ensure that an independent social and environmental study is undertaken with the full participation of all actors and in particular the indigenous communities likely to be impacted through their own decision-making bodies and calls upon the company to re-engage with the communities, address their concerns through open dialogue, and respect the outcomes of the consultations.

You can read the full report from PBI by clicking on the image above.

Categories: Environment, Indigenous peoples, Land, Report, Resource Extraction, Solidarity in Action/Guatemala


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