Pronouncement on the Fourth Anniversary of the Good Faith Community Referendum in Ixcan
PRONOUNCEMENT OF THE ORGANIZATIONS AND COMMUNITIES OF IXCAN ON THE FOURTH
ANNIVERSARY OF THE GOOD FAITH COMMUNITY REFERENDUM.
Four years after having carried out the good faith community referendum in the municipality of Ixcan, in which the majority rejected the construction of hydroelectric plants and petroleum exploitation in our territory, as communities and organizations from across the municipality we have come together in the community of Ascencion Copon to reaffirm that to which we agreed to via the referendum.
Currently, grave threats to our land and natural resources continue to exist, among them,
a) The contamination of the Copon river as a consequence of the construction of the Palo Viejo hydroelectric plant, in the Finca San Francisco plantation, which has hurt thousands of families from the municipalities of Uspantan, Ixcan and Coban which use river water for their basic needs, especially during the summer. The government claims that hydroelectric plants do not pollute but it is not true. The environmental impact study, elaborated by the Italian company ENEL and approved by the MARN (Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources) [claims] that only 500 or 1,000 meters of the river [would be] dirtied, but what we are seeing is that the construction dirties the entire Copon river and reaches the Chixoy river.
b) Ecological impact on the Xalbal river. As of the construction and operation of the Hidroxacbal plant in the municipality of Chajul, the flow of of the Xacbal river, which gives life to hundreds of communities in the municipalities of Chajul and Ixcan, has been changed. Currently, the water arrives dirty and the river rises and falls unpredictably, putting the lives of the women and children who use the water at risk.
c) Xalala hydroelectric project. In spite of the telling rejection expressed in the community referenda carried out in the municipalities of Uspantan and Ixcan, the government insists on the construction of the Xalala dam, which will flood the best lands of 50 Q'eqchi communities in the municipalities of Coban, Uspantan and Ixcan. Currently, the INDE (National Electrification Institute) is carrying out a social study with the goal of convincing the communities to accept this project through trickery and supposed development projects. Even when the companies give us zinc roofing and electricity, what are we going to eat if they flood our best lands?
d) San Luis hydroelectric project. The Generacion Limpia de Guatemala company, a subsidiary of Union FENOSA, attempted to construct the San Luis hydroelectric project on the Xacbal river, between the municipalities of Chajul and Ixcan. The project is now suspended thanks to the resistance of the affected communities which denounced the tricks and threats. This project left an open wound in the communities, and people who do not agree are still threatening to cut the water supply to the communities that opposed this megaproject.
e) Petroleum exploration license. Last October 25, 2010, the MEM (Ministry of Energy and Mines) emitted an exploration license for two petroleum exploration areas, affecting two thirds of the territory of the municipality. The government is inviting foreign companies to invest in our territories, but at no time have we been consulted. The government has disregarded the results of our community referendum.
f) Sale of land for the planting of African palm. The government and the companies are promoting the planting of African palm, which brings about drying and infertility of the earth. This economic policy is provoking the re-concentration of the land [in few hands] in El Peten, Alta Verapaz and El Quiche.
g) Regulation of referenda. The government and companies are promoting a regulation to control community referenda, without taking into account that ILO Convention 169 and the Declaration of the United Nations on the rights of Indigenous Peoples recognize our right to decide regarding our development priorities and the obligation of the State to obtain our free, prior and informed consent before authorizing any license or project. Likewise, the government looks to leave without effect the referenda carried out in 50 municipalities, in which the population has manifested its rejection of megaprojects. What the government should regulate is its duty to consult and protect indigenous territories against the voracity of companies, and not the right we have to decide regarding our own development.
In view of these facts, we, the communities and organizations of Ixcan
We unite ourselves with the just struggles of our brothers and sisters in Huehuetenango, Quiche, San Marcos, Alta Verapaz, Peten, Chiquimula, Jalapa and other departments in defense of our Mother Earth.
We call upon neighbor communities and municipalities not to let themselves be
deceived by companies in exchange for zinc roofing and assistance projects. The
health, food, and life of our communities are worth more than all the gold in
Likewise, we must not let ourselves be divided or allow ourselves to be deceived by the promises made by the traditional political parties. We demand of the candidates their commitment to respect the results of our community referenda.
WATER, LAND AND ENERGY ARE NOT MERCHANDISE!
FOR LIFE, LAND AND DIGNITY!
Comision de Seguimiento Consulta Comunitaria Ixcan
Ixcan, El Quiche, May 6, 2011
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