Today, January 17, 2017, the communities of the Micro Region of Ixquisis, San Mateo Ixtatán, Huehuetenango, who defend human rights, their territory, life and natural resources, carried out a peaceful protest to express, once again, their rejection and disagreement with the construction of hydroelectric projects owned by the company Promoción y Desarrollos Hídricos, Sociedad Anónima (PDH, SA)
Months before this protest, the communities had made various efforts before the municipal, departmental and national authorities to express their disagreement over the diversion of the rivers Yalwitz, Pojom and Río Negro by the company PDH, S.A. These projects have been authorized despite various anomalies, such as the use of explosives, without authorization from the Ministry of Defense, and the promise of providing electric power to the population.
At around 14:00, as the peaceful protest was taking place without incident, suddenly by surprise armed men, who were hiding behind bushes, fired against the demonstrators severely wounding the 72-year-old Sebastián Alonso Juan, a neighbor of the community of Yulchen Frontera. After four hours of agony Sebastián Alonso Juan passed away without having received medical attention.
There are also reports of the burning of machinery at the company premises around the same time in unclear circumstances, similar to what occurred in 2014.
We would like to draw attention to the fact that these acts were carried out with high presence of public security forces; at that precise time, there were three vehicles in the Micro Region with military personnel, their faces covered with balaclavas, as well as 6 patrol cars of the National Civil Police with approximately 60 personnel.
Faced with this new repressive act, the signatory organizations demand:
1. an investigation, as soon as possible, into the murder of Mr. Sebastián Alonso Juan, to find who is responsible.
2. that the Human Rights Ombudsman (Procuraduría de Derechos Humanos) officially carry out a verification of the continuous violation of human rights, a request made by the communities of the Micro Region of Ixquisis in April 2016 without having received any response to this demand.
3. that international organisations and institutions form a verification commission look into the situation of human rights violations in the Micro Region of Ixquisis.
4. the implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, including a monitoring and sanctioning of those companies that operate with international funds and where human rights violations occur.
5. that the international community denounces the human rights violations described in this statement to the international financial institutions which have investments in the three projects of the company PDH, S.A.
6. of the authorities of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and those of the Ministry of Energy and Mines, to take into account the different anomalies that have prevailed in the licenses granted, especially the use of public domain goods without consulting the communities, to which the State is bound, according to international treaties.
7. An immediate end to the process of criminalization against communities that defend human rights, life, and natural resources.
8. That the will of the communities, who are exercising their right to defend their territory, be respected, in terms of:
– Immediate cancellation of the construction licenses for the Pojom I-II and San Andrés hydroelectric projects.
– the immediate realisation of an in-depth investigation aimed at identifying the responsibility of the National Civil Police and private security agents at the service of the PDH company. S.A. as well as the involvement of military elements in this new aggression against community members and human rights defenders by the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Defense.
– the withdrawal, as part of the investigation process, of both the military detachment and the substation of the PNC out of the Ixquisis Micro Region, for having demonstrated in this latest act of repression, that its presence does not contribute to peace and harmony in this Micro Region.
Guatemala January 17, 2017
To view the communiques in both English and Spanish, including the list of signatories, go here.