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23 de enero de 2017 | | | |

Attack against peaceful mobilization in Guatemala results in 72-year-old activist killed

Environmental defender who fought against timber companies murdered in Mexico

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Two environmental activists who were mobilizing against transnational corporations that exploit indigenous territories without their consent in Guatemala and Mexico were killed early this week.

In Guatemala, armed forces of Proyecto de Desarrollo Hídrico SA company opened fire against a peaceful demonstration held by inhabitants of San Mateo Ixtatán, Huehuetenango department, who were demanding the withdrawal of this company due to the environmental damage caused in their territories.

On Tuesday, January 17, the demonstrators were leading a peaceful mobilization against a hydroelectric dam in Guatemala. But during the demonstrations, the paramilitary groups shot and killed 72 year-old activist, Sebastián Alonso.

The march had begun early in the morning in Chuj and Q’anjob’al cities in San Mateo Ixtatán, a municipality located in the high lands of the Western area of Guatemala.

The demonstrators were marching to Pojom I hydroelectric project, which is being built without the local indigenous people´s consent. The groups have been protesting against the project for five years, without any action by the authorities. Violence is part of the history of this project. In 2014, two people died in conflicts related to it.

According to Telesur through its correspondent in Guatemala, Santiago Botón, the paramilitary groups that responded to the promoter of the dam or the State itself opened fire against the demonstrators, injuring several people and killing Alonso.

Both the Pojom I and Pojom II dams are financed by CIFI, an intermediary of the International Finance Corporation, a World Bank Group member. Pojom II is directly financed by the Inter American Investment Corporation (IIC) of the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB).

A few days before the murder of Alonso, another environmental activist was murdered in Mexico: Isidro Baldenegro López, Goldman Prize winner in 2005. López was fighting against the unregulated forest logging in Sierra Madre mountains, in the ancestral lands of its people, Tarahumara. López was not the first environmental defender killed in his family: his father was shot to death in front of him decades ago for leading massive protests against timber companies.

Speech by Isidro Baldenegro López during the Goldman Prize ceremony in 2005

Also in Huehuetenango, Guatemala, the Santa Cruz Barillas community managed to make Spanish company Hidralia leave their territories, when they rejected the Hidro Santa Cruz hydroelectric project.

The WUXHTAJ People Council is demanding the government authorities to stop the attacks against the community and take those responsible for the murder to justice. The group is also demanding that the Energy and Mining Ministry cancel the licenses granted to Pojom I and Pojom II hydroelectric projects that are being built without the consent of the local population.

Diversion tunnel for the hydroelectric project. The communities demand their right to water.

More images available in the photo gallery attached, with photos by Telesur´s correspondent in Guatemala, Santiago Botón.


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