GUATEMALA - CHIXOY DAM REPARATIONS CAMPAIGN Denigrating response from the World Bank and lack of response from the Inter-American Development Bank
Re: "Swift" and "Satisfactory" Justice and Reparations for the Chixoy hydro-electric dam project?!
December 1, 2011
President, World Bank
1818 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20433
Vice-president of Latin American and the Caribbean Regional Office,
Luis Alberto Moreno
President, Inter-American Development Bank
1300 New York Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20577
Dear Mr. Zoellick, Mr. Moreno, Ms. Cox and other responsible parties at the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank,
As you know, in September 2011 we filed an appeal to the IACHR (Inter-American Human Commission on Human Rights) concerning the responsibilities of the WB (World Bank) and the IDB (Inter-American Development Bank) for widespread harms and destruction, including illegal evictions and massacres in indigenous Mayan communities caused by the Chixoy hydro-electric dam project in Guatemala (1975-1985) that you funded.
This followed an Open Letter sent in June 2011 to the WB, the IDB and the OAS (Organization of American States) concerning the same project.
We were dismayed by the lack of any meaningful and substantive response from the WB and the IDB, except a dismissive one-paragraph letter dated November 2, 2011 from Pamela Cox, vice-president of Latin American and the Caribbean Regional Office of the World Bank, saying:
"we [the World Bank] share your desire for a swift resolution of this process and a satisfactory outcome for the affected Chixoy communities."
This is a shockingly insensitive response from the WB. As set out in the Appeal sent to the IACHR, almost 30 years have elapsed since the forced evictions and atrocities caused by the Chixoy dam project. No justice has been done for the illegal evictions, massacres and other human rights violations. No reparations have been paid to the Chixoy dam harmed communities and families for all that was taken from them or destroyed.
Although the atrocities were committed almost three decades ago, the affected communities continue to suffer, as thousands of Mayan campesinos from 32 harmed and destroyed villages subsist today in conditions of poverty and despair due to the violence and illegal forced evictions for which they have not been made whole.
Even as we proceed with our Appeal to the IACHR, we again call on the WB and the IDB to stop hiding behind the walls of impunity and immunity from accountability. Irrespective of the outcome of the legal process, it is time to do the right thing and fund and implement, in collaboration with the Guatemalan government, a comprehensive reparations plan for the harmed villages along the Chixoy river.
We look forward to hearing from both banks with a response that is positive in terms of providing full and proper reparations for the long suffering victims of your Chixoy dam project.
Grahame Russell, Co-Director
Washington DC, 20091, USA
Box 552, 351 Queen St. E
Toronto ON, M5A-1T8, Canada
Bret Thiele, Co-Executive Director
Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
8 N. 2nd Avenue E., Suite 208
Duluth, MN, 55802, USA
Lauren Carasik, Director
International Human Rights Clinic
Western New England University School of Law
1215 Wilbraham Road
Springfield, MA, 01119, USA
cc: COCAHICH (Coordinator of Communities Affected by the Chixoy Dam), and to OAS, WB and IDB officials.
OPEN LETTER - June 13, 2011
CHIXOY HYDRO-ELECTRIC DAM: JUSTICE & REPARATIONS DELAYED, 30 YEARS & COUNTING, FOR MAYAN-ACHI PEOPLE OF GUATEMALA that were illegally & forcibly displaced, harmed & massacred to make way for the 1975-1983 Chixoy hydro-electric dam project
Roberto Menéndez, Mediador de la OEA de la mesa política de negociación caso Chixoy, RMenendez@oas.org
Sr. Víctor Rico, Secretario de Asuntos Políticos de la OEA, Vrico@oas.org
Sr. Christopher Hernández, Director del Departamento de Sustentabilidad Democrática y Misiones Especiales Chernandez@oas.org
Sr. José Miguel Insulza, Secretario General de la OEA, Jinsulza@oas.org
Copias a: Oficiales del gobierno de Guatemala, del Banco Mundial, del Banco Inter-Americano de Desarrollo
Dear OAS officials:
With urgency, we write.
Since 2005, the OAS has been mediating the Chixoy Dam Reparations and Compensation negotiations. As of today, while many meetings have been held, while much has been achieved, on paper, nothing has come from this!
The OAS must to everything it can to pressure the government of Guatemala, the WB and the IDB to provide full compensation and reparations to the Chixoy dam affected communities.
It is wrong that the government of Guatemala, 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.
This was a project of government of Guatemala, and of the two banks. This was the banks' investment financing. Both banks profited financially from these investments.
Along the Chixoy river in central Guatemala (bordering the departments of Baja Verapaz and Quiche), where the 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 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
There would not have been a Chixoy hydro-electric dam without the investment funds and initiative of the IDB and WB. Between the banks, they provided hundreds of millions in investment funds and partnered in the project with a series of military regimes. At that time, Guatemala was not controlled even by the fiction of a civilian government.
Furthermore, as is widely known, the banks partnered with Guatemalan military regimes during the very worst years of their State terrorism, repression and genocide carried out against their own population.
The Rabinal municipality, where they 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.
The banks should never have invested in and pushed for this project, partnering with this brutal military regime.
What kind of "development" was this regime interested in?
Once the banks started this project, they should have stopped this project when the repression predictably began in the villages in the dam basin area.
They did not. Well after the massacring of 444 Rio Negro villagers (the last massacre was in September 1982), the 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 hydro-electric dam cases hi-lighted by the World Commission on Dams (1998-2001, http://www.dams.org/). Yet, neither the government of Guatemala nor the banks have taken the steps necessary 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 the OAS may 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. It appeared then that 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 their wealth and influence, and because the 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, a struggle 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, some 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 - exercising their wealth and clout - refused to sit at the negotiation table as partners alongside the government of Guatemala, across the table from the dam affected communities.
They should have. The banks partnered with the military government of Guatemala to implement this project. The banks are co-responsible for the entire project, along with the government of Guatemala. The project was an initiative of the banks, with their investment funds and their oversight.
Even as both banks profited from these investments, they refused to be considered partners when it came to addressing legacy and liability issues.
However, the banks did agree to sit as "observers" at the negotiation table, moderated by the Organization of American States.
And while the "negotiations" have gone on for 7 years, the government of Guatemala and the banks have still not ensured 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 even 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. (At www.adivima.org, you can find this report: http://www.adivima.org/documentos/informes/informedeidentificacionyverif...) The 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. The banks signed on to this report, as "observers".
2011 - STILL WAITING
And still the 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 government of Guatemala, the IDB and WB stop hiding behind their walls 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 more information about this issue and would be glad to respond to your questions or queries ... but, in fact, the OAS knows very well about this issue. The OAS knows who, in Guatemala and the Chixoy Dam affected communities, that you must respond to and you know what to do.
To the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, with copies to your own elected senators, members of congress and parliament, demanding their full support for a complete reparations program for the victims of their Chixoy dam project. (Feel free to include copies of this "Open Letter" in your letters)
- 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 Mayan Achi communities demanding reparations & compensation for the harms & destruction caused by the Chixoy dam, make check payable to "Rights Action" and mail to:
UNITED STATES: Box 50887, Washington DC, 20091-0887
CANADA: 552 - 351 Queen St. E, Toronto ON, M5A-1T8