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On April 7, hitmen hired by landowner Sandino Ponce, of Alta Verapaz department, Guatemala, shot against q´eqchies community members of Nueve de Febrero, injuring 5 of them. Last Sunday, April 20, one of them died due to the injuries.
Both Sandino and his father, Leonel Ponce Ramirez, are linked to the Hidro Santa Rita S.A. project, whose implementation in the area of Monte Olivo, Coban municipality, has been resisted for over two years.
The resistance by the communities to the hydroelectric project, that started with popular assemblies, has been met with repression, persecution and murders against the inhabitants. In an interview with Real World Radio, Juan Humberto Botzoc, of the Mayan Association for Integral Community Development (ASOMADIC) said that the first actions taken by the company to silence the resistance were “accusing community leaders of different crimes, from robbery to promoting illegal activities”.
But this escalated to extreme violence: in August 2013, hitmen hired by the company to murder community leader David Chen, ended up killing two children of the community. In November, 2013, security officers of the landowners mentioned above opened fire against the community members, seriously injuring one of them. In the following month, four young people were injured after a new attack.
The State has not responded for these crimes, and on the contrary, as Juan Humberto
said “far from the authorities taking actions against this project (…), the governor has been saying on the radio that “these communities are problematic, these communities do not want development”.
RENACE, another hydroelectric project tainted with blood
“Guatemala is suffering many problems related to the defense to life, water and territories”, said Juan Humberto with reference to another hydroelectric dam that will be built in Alta Verapaz department. This is RENACE 3, a project that would impact eight communities of the San Pedro Carcha municipality.
Through COCODE (the Community Development Council), the communities have expressed their rejection to the implementation of RENACE 3. As a response, COCODE´s secretary, Carlos Vicente Chub was threatened in the past weeks, and in the evening of April 21st he was attacked and shot in one of his legs.
“This is part of what the Mayan community is suffering in the framework of their defense of life and the territory” said Juan Humberto.
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