60 Mexican and Guatemalan Communities Reject Hydroelectric Project

Almost 300 people from 60 communities in Chiapas and from the Peten Front Against Dams of Guatemala rejected the construction of a hydroelectric dam on the Usumacinta River, which would represent an invasion and therefore an eviction from their lands.

During the Forum of resistances and alternatives of the peoples of the north of Chiapas, attendees reported that work on the binational hydroelectric dam Boca del Cerro has already started with the construction of embankments on both sides of the river.

Boca del Cerro is one of five planned dams in the watershed that divides Mexico from Guatemala. The Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) said that the works are planned to last for four years and will have a limit of 55.5 metres maximum height.

Of the 1,799 hectares which will make up the total area of the reservoir, 707 belong to the municipality of Tenosique, Tabasco, and 1,092 to Palenque.

The work will lead to “the disappearance of the community of San Carlos Boca del Cerro, Tenosique, which will become the offices and camp of the company building the dam,” said the representatives.

They are also sure that “the government will not compensate us for our lands, the cost of living will increase and we, the Chol and Tzeltal indigenous peoples of the region, will disappear.”

The representatives of the communities know that the imposition of the dam by the government violates Article 2 of the Constitution and Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization (ILO), which deals with the autonomy of indigenous peoples and their right to consultation.

Given this, they pledged to implement a work plan to stop the construction of the hydroelectric project which will pollute their land and river, besides the effect of the weight, and expressed their solidarity “with the actions of sister organizations struggling to stop mining projects, highways, hydroelectric schemes and to expel from our lands the large companies who want to deprive us of our lands “.

Finally, they demanded justice for the murder of the coordinator of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), Berta Caceres, “and respect for the human rights and the lives of those who fight against megaprojects and against dams in Mexico, Central America and other parts of the world.”

With Information from La Jornada
Translated by the UK Zapatista Translation Service

Dam Threatens to Displace 60 Communities in Mexico and Guatemala

Communities from both sides of the Mexico-Guatemala border are saying “No” to the mega-project that violates their Indigenous land rights.

More than 60 communities spanning across the southern Mexican state of Chiapas and Guatemala have voiced outrage over a hydroelectric project that threatens to displace them, the Mexican daily La Jornada reported Saturday.

The Boca del Cerro dam is one of five hydroelectric projects planned for the waterway that straddles the border between Mexico and Guatemala. Leaders from community organizations, including groups in Chiapas aligned with the Zapatista army, have spoken out against the dam that is already under construction on the Usumacinta River.

At a forum for resistance and community alternatives in Chiapas on Saturday, community leaders warned that the dam threatens to “immediately disappear the community of San Carlos Boca del Cerro,” La Jornada reported.

“The government will not compensate us for our land, it will increase the cost of living, and it will disappear us as Chol and Tzeltal Indigenous people of the region,” movement representatives added in a statement about their concerns over the impending but unwanted development.

Without the approval of local affected communities, the Boca del Cerro project violates the International Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, known as ILO 169, which enshrined the right of Indigenous peoples to free prior and informed consent for all development on their traditional territories.

Representatives said that their communities will fight to stop the construction of the dam to halt a possible eviction from their land and to protect their right to self-determination against the whims of corporate interests.

The groups gathered also expressed solidarity with Honduran movements in mourning over the assassination of environmental activist Berta Caceres, renowned for her resistance against unwanted hydroelectric projects on Indigenous land, and reiterated demands for her murderers to be brought to justice.

According to researchers, some 200,000 people have been displaced by the construction dams across Mexico, while advocacy groups warn that the country’s new water law will only continue to make the situation worse. Many of Mexico’s 4,462 dams registered in official records are in Indigenous and campesino communities.

Resistance against dam projects also takes a heavy toll. Since 2005, over 40 activists fighting to defend rivers have been killed in Mexico, Central America and Colombia, according to GeoComunes.

Among those killed in connection with dam projects in the past decade, at least eight were killed in Mexico and 13 in Guatemala.