Indigenous communities demand reparations for human rights violations

Publish Date: 
Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Indigenous communities, including ESCR-Net member Asociación para el Desarrollo Integral de las Víctimas de la Violencia en las Veraces, Maya Achi (ADIVIMA), have called on the President of Guatemala, Jimmy Morales, to comply with promises to ensure reparations for severe human rights violations in relations with the construction of the Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam.

The Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam was constructed in the 1980s, while Guatemala was immersed in an internal armed conflict, with backing from the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.

In order to construct the dam, the government violently displaced 33 indigenous communities from their territory, leaving more than 3,000 families without access to their land and basic services. Families that refused to abandon their land were faced with extreme violence by the military and the so-called Civil Defense Patrols. Between 1980 and 1982, five massacres occurred in the Rio Negro communities in the context of the construction of the Chixoy Dam.  Subsequent excavations of clandestine graves have since revealed that approximately 450 women, children and men were killed by the Guatemalan military and Civil Defense Patrols during these massacres.

Since then, the communities have sought justice in what they describe as a slow and inadequate process. After decades of organizing, the communities managed to secure an agreement with the former President Otto Perez Molina who signed a plan to grant reparation in 2014. The plan contained a variety of measures of reparations including monetary compensation of Q 1,000,000,000 (approximately US$ 160 million) to the affected communities.

However, the communities claim that the Guatemalan government still has not made any progress in implementing the plan to ensure reparations to the affected communities. In response, they recently convened in front of the presidential palace in Guatemala City and blocked streets in the city center to demand implementation. After hours of protesting, the communities met with the Vice President Jafeth Cabrera to present their demands.