CHIXOY DAM (1975-1983) harmed communities in Guatemala to protest lack of compensation and reparations, 29 years later and counting; Project managers and investors remain silent
COCAHICH (COORDINATING COMMITTEE OF COMMUNITIES AFFECTED BY THE CONTRUCTION OF THE CHIXOY HYDROELECTRIC DAM)
PRESS RELEASE - March 16, 2011
GIVEN THE GOVERNMENT'S LACK OF WILL TO SIGN THE GOVERNMENT AGREEMENT TO IMPLEMENT THE REPARATIONS PLAN FOR THE HARMS AND DAMAGES TO OUR COMMUNIITES CAUSED BY THE CONSTRUCITON OF THE CHIXOY DAM, WE HEREBY DELCARE THAT:
In 1975, the State of Guatemala initiated a project to construct the Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam. The project received final approval in 1980, with the financial support of the World Bank the Inter-American Development Bank.
Since construction of the dam began, there have been serious violations of the human rights of 33 indigenous and campesino communities. These violations include threats, intimidation, forced displacement and massacres that have reached the level of genocide.
As well, communities have lost all their possessions - their homes, 74 caballerías of land, crops, their harvest and cattle, amongst other things. This has resulted in the destruction of the social fabric of these communities.
In September, 2006, negotiations began between the Government of Guatemala, represented by the Vice-President of the Republic, and representatives of COCAHICH. The negotiations were facilitated by the Organization of American States and observed by the Human Rights Ombudsman's Office, the UN High Commission on Human Rights, the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. The Government agreed to follow up on these negotiations by having the President of the Republic sign an agreement to implement reparations.
After five years of negotiations, in 2009, the harms and damages caused to the communities were documented in an official report and President Álvaro Colom recognized the serious violations to the human rights of the affected communities. This report was the basis for the development of a reparations plan.
In April, 2010, the Government and COCAHICH agreed on a reparations plan to help restore the quality of life of the communities affected by the construction of the Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam. The plan stipulated that in order for these reparations to be implemented, a Government Agreement would have to be signed, and the President made a commitment to ensure this step was taken.
To date, one year later, the President has shown no interest in honouring his commitment. Consequently, the reparations plan cannot be implemented.
Sadly, the affected communities are being victimized and treated with distain once again - they have received no response to a dozen requests for a meeting to put the issue of reparations back on the table.
LET IT BE KNOWN NATIONALLY AND INTERNATIONALLY THAT:
The 33 communities affected by the construction of the Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam have decided to stage a peaceful demonstration on the Ruta al Atlántico, at kilometre 81, on Thursday, March 17, at 6:00AM. We are taking this step because President Álvaro Colom has failed to honour his commitment to sign the Government Agreement to implement the Reparations Plan.
WE DEMAND THAT:
President Álvaro Colom Caballeros immediately sign the Government Agreement for implementation of the Reparations Plan and for payment of 200 million Quetzals in reparation, by 2011, as stipulated in the reparations plan.
WE REQUEST THAT:
* the Human Rights Ombudsman's Office, the UN High Commission on Human Rights and the Organization of American States demand that the Government, in particular, the President of the Republic, act on the stipulations of the reparations plan and carry out agreements made during negotiations.
* international and national human rights, campesino, union and indigenous organizations join our struggle to receive reparations for the damages and harms caused by the construction of the Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam to our communities.
* the international community observe the situation and denounce to its governments that this government is victimizing its people by not following up on the stipulations of the Reparations Plan.
WE HOLD RESPONSABLE:
The State of Guatemala, for any attacks on our compañeros during the demonstration planned for March 17.
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OPEN LETTER TO the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank
February 24, 2011
CHIXOY HYDRO-ELECTRIC DAM REPARATIONS & COMPENSATION Campaign
30 YEARS DELAYED & COUNTING
Justice, reparations & compensation delayed, 30 years & counting,
for Mayan-Achi communities in Guatemala,
that were illegally & forcibly displaced, harmed & massacred
to make way for the Chixoy hydro-electric dam project
President Robert B. Zoellick
The World Bank
1818 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20433
President Luis Alberto Moreno
Inter-American Development Bank
1300 New York Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20577
Tel: (202) 623-3100
Office Number: NE1204
With urgency, we write on behalf of Rights Action (www.rightsaction.org).
It is sad, distressing and outrageous that the World Bank (WB) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) have not done everything possible to ensure that full compensation and reparations are paid to the thousands of impoverished Mayan-Achi campesinos illegally and forcibly evicted from their villages along the Chixoy river, 30 years ago, to make way for the construction of the Chixoy hydro-electric dam, a project of the WB and the IDB.
This was your project. This was your investment financing. Both your banks profited from these "investments".
It is urgent that the IDB and WB do everything possible to make this right.
Along the Chixoy river in central Guatemala (bordering the departments of Baja Verapaz and Quiche), where your dam was built, some 32 remote, poor Mayan villages were devastated by this project (1975-1983).
Most harmed villages were in the "flood basin", up river from the 125 meter high dam wall. Many were illegally forced to leave; others lost much of their lands and/or were cut off from and isolated by the existence of the flood basin.
Seven villages are down river from the dam wall. As this "development" project completely diverted the river, drying up some 40 kilometers of the Chixoy river, they have lived in dry conditions ever since. These 7 communities were not "forcibly evicted", their river and livelihood simply dried up.
COMPREHENSIVE LOSSES & DESTRUCTION - INCLUDING MASSACRES
In varying degrees, the 32 communities lost: homes and personal property; land and territory; access to water and arable land; animals and trees - everything. Not one of the communities was ever properly or legally relocated to homes and lands of equal or better quality than what they were forced to leave.
In the community of Rio Negro - that peacefully resisted being illegally and forcibly evicted -, 444 villagers were massacred over the course of 5 massacres in 1981 and 1982. There is no doubt this targeted repression was linked directly to the level of community organization and opposition to being forcibly relocated.
For all of the above, no justice has been done for the forced evictions and comprehensive losses, let alone for the repression and massacres. No adequate reparations or compensation have been provided to the victims for loss of homes, land and territory, access to water and arable land, animals, trees, personal property.
In every community, their lives today remain considerably worse, in every way, than they ever were before this project.
PARTNERSHIP WITH & PROFIT FROM A MILITARY REGIME
This was your project. There would not have been a Chixoy hydro-electric dam without the investment funds and initiative of the IDB and WB. Between your banks, you provided hundreds of millions in investment funds.
Moreover, you chose to partner in this project with a military regime. At that time, Guatemala was not controlled even by the fiction of a civilian government.
Furthermore, as is widely known, you partnered with the Guatemala military regime during the very worst years of its State terrorism, repression and genocide carried out against its own population.
The Rabinal municipality, where you built the Chixoy dam, is one of the 4 regions in Guatemala where the United Nations Truth Commission determined (1999) that genocide was planned and carried out by the regime against the local Mayan population.
Your banks should never have invested in and pushed for this project, partnering with this brutal military regime. What kind of "development" do you think this regime was interested in? Once you started this project, your banks should have stopped this project when the repression predictably began in the villages in the dam basin area.
You did not. Well after the massacring of 444 Rio Negro villagers (the last massacre was in September 1982), your banks made further investment dispersals to this project in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
30 YEARS LATER
Now, all this is known. The Chixoy dam case was one of the disasterous hydro-electric dam cases hi-lighted by the World Commission on Dams (1998-2001, http://www.dams.org/).
All of this is known by your banks, and yet still you have not done everything in your power and authority to ensure that reparations and compensation are paid to the affected communities and families.
1993 - THE LONG ROAD OF TRUTH, MEMORY & JUSTICE
It has been 30 years since the debacle began and the forced evictions and atrocities occurred.
It has been 18 years since the Rio Negro massacre survivors began to exhume the mass graves where their loved ones were dumped and, in this way, begin to break years of silence since the massacres of 1981-1983, and since the Chixoy dam was completed and their lives and communities were destroyed.
Soon after the exhumations in 1993, the survivors from Rio Negro and other dam-harmed communities began the long process of telling the truth about all that was done to them, about all that they lost, and about getting justice, compensation and reparations.
As your banks probably know, Rights Action has been supporting these efforts since 1994 - beginning first with support for the Rio Negro survivors to build a monument to commemorate the lives of 177 children and women, victims of the 2nd big Rio Negro massacre, March 13, 1982.
1996 - CIRCLING THE WAGONS OF DENIAL & IMPUNITY
In 1996, Rights Action and Witness for Peace went to the first meetings with the World Bank to begin to re-dress the Chixoy dam debacle. Present at that meeting were a number of WB lawyers who sat in on the whole meeting, listening, saying not a word.
Soon after that meeting, the written response of the WB was that -1- the WB had no knowledge of the atrocities and illegal forced evictions, and -2- the WB complied with its responsibilities. Under no circumstances were the WB and, soon after, the IDB going to publicly acknowledge any past or on-going responsibility.
There are words for this: denial and impunity.
The WB and IDB have gotten away with your denial and impunity because of your wealth and influence, and because your banks are agents of the major investor countries. Presumably, the major investor countries do not want any direct and/or secondary liability for crimes, harms and/or violations committed directly or indirectly by WB and IDB projects.
* * *
To make a long story short (a story of work and struggle for memory, truth and justice, against denial and impunity), the growing clamour for truth and justice, compensation and reparations continued to grow from 1996 though to 2004. Still the government of Guatemala and your banks denied and delayed.
2004 - PEACEFUL DIRECT ACTION
On September 7, 2004, 3000 Mayan Achi campesinos from the Chixoy-dam harmed communities staged a protest on the Chixoy dam wall. Noone was hurt; no property was destroyed; and this time, finally, their voice was really heard. From that moment forward, there began a formal Chixoy Dam Reparations Campaign.
At the same time, the Guatemala government laid trumped up criminal charges (the 'criminalization of work for human rights and social justice') against some of the community leaders, trying to weaken their unity and demands. To make another long story short, this manipulative and abusive tactic of the government failed: national and international condemnation and activism finally got these trumped charges dropped.
Finally, the government of Guatemala agreed to establish a negotiation table, to deal with the Chixoy dam harms and violations legacy issues.
At this time, the WB and the IDB exercised your wealth and clout - your banks refused to sit at the negotiation table as partners alongside the government of Guatemala, across the table from the dam affected communities.
You should have. Your banks partner with the military government of Guatemala to implement this project. Your banks are co-responsible for the entire project, along with the government of Guatemala. The project was your initiative, your investment funds, your oversight.
Even as both your banks profited from your investments, you refused to be considered partners when it came to addressing legacy and liability issues.
However, your banks did agree to sit as "observers" at the negotiation table, moderated by the Organization of American States.
And while you have now "observed" for 7 more years, your banks have still not done everything you can and should to ensure that due compensation and reparations are paid.
2009 - OFFICIAL ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF REPORT ON HARMS
In 2009, after 5 long years negotiations (and many delays and deceptions from the government, all "observed" by the IDB and the WB), the government of Guatemala formally accepted the 'harms and damages' report that sets out all that was lost, destroyed, stolen or illegally confiscated. (Atwww.adivima.org, you can find this report:http://www.adivima.org/documentos/informes/informedeidentificacionyverificacionaprobado-final-.pdf) Your banks signed on to this report, as "observers".
2010 - OFFICIAL ACKNOWLEGEMENT OF REPORT ON REPARATIONS PLAN
In 2010, the government finally accepted a comprehensive reparations plan, complete with financial amounts, community re-building plans and projects, etcetera, setting out what must be done to compensate and provide reparations for the victims. Your banks signed on to this report, as "observers".
2011 - STILL WAITING
And still your banks "observe", and refuse to take direct action themselves and/ or pressure the Guatemala government to official release and set aside the funds for the plan.
ENOUGH / YA BASTA
It is long over due for the IDB and WB to stop hiding behind their wall of denial, impunity and immunity from legal accountability, and do the right thing.
The harms report and the reparations report are done. The communities are still suffering. They need and deserve to begin rebuilding new lives, 30 years later.
We have lots more information about this issue and would be glad to respond to your questions or queries ... but, in fact, you know very well about this issue, and you know what to do.
- Please re-publish and re-post this article, citing author and source
- Donate to support: victim and survivor, founded human rights organizations, and indigenous and campesino organizations.
- Create your own email and mail lists and re-distribute our information.
For indigenous and campesino organizations working for community-controlled development, environmental justice, human rights & justice in Guatemala & Honduras, make check payable to "Rights Action" and mail to:
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