In an exciting development, Chixoy Dam affected communities met with officials from Guatemala’s new administration of President Otto Perez Molina on November 22nd. This is the first time communities have met with the new government to address the legalization and implementation of the Reparations Plan for affected communities. During the three prior administrations, communities have been negotiating to find concensus on a Reparations Plan which was finalized in April 2011. The implementation of the Plan has been delayed due to political and economic interests.
“We are hopeful, because government officials from the President’s office promised to sign the legal agreement that would allow all of us proceed with the Reparations Plan by the end of this year,” said Carlos Chen, who has for a long time worked to ensure that the damages caused by the construction of the dam are repaired. For years, Chixoy Dam affected communities have been fighting to obtain reparations from the government of Guatemala and from financiers of the project, the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.
2012 might finally be a good year for Maya-Achi communities, who have suffered displacement from their ancient lands and the massacres of hundreds of children, women and men due to construction of the dam and Guatemala’s civil war. In October communities heard the long-awaited judgment from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on the Rio Negro massacres case, which began as a petition to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission in 2005. Communities of Rio Negro are some of the 33 communities that were affected by the construction of the Chixoy Dam.
“The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling is mandatory for Guatemala since Guatemala recognizes the jurisdiction of the Court. The case will not be concluded before the Court until the judgment has been satisfied in full,” said Lewis Gordon, Executive Director of the Environmental Defender Law Center. “There should be no obstacles to the execution of the judgment, if we consider that Guatemala had already recognized, even before the judgment, its international responsibility for some of the violations in the Rio Negro case. In addition, all measures of satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition, and allowances that were determined by the Court are perfectly executable within the deadlines that were set. However, it is recommended that civil society is attentive and requires compliance with the judgment.”
“This Court’s ruling is transcendental and opens a way for other communities or individuals whose rights have been violated by the State, and allow recourse from international bodies, when the internal justice system fails and States lean in favor of impunity,” said Juan de Dios Garcia, director of The Association for the Integral Development of the Victims of the Violence of the Verapaces, Maya Achí (ADIVIMA). “Perhaps one of the lessons we should learn from Guatemala is that you must ensure that such violations do not continue to be repeated. Unfortunately the attacks against people affected by dams and other human rights defenders are still too frequent in Guatemala.”
The community is now waiting for a meeting with the government on December 4th to address the reparations deal, which they are ready to sign. And they are determined to ensure that the legal agreement gets published in the Central American Daily, the official newspaper.
Barbara Rose Johnston, an anthropologist with the Center for Political Ecology who has been for years working on issues of reparations, and wrote the Chixoy Dam Legacy Study said: “While thousands of people, literally, have been moved by this history and have worked to uncover the evidence that the Rio Negro massacres occurred in ways that produced immense profit and power in Guatemala and beyond, it is the massacre survivors – many of whom were children, and their children – whose passion for justice and whose desire for a life and future with dignity that must be celebrated. And, for the tens of millions of people in this world similarly displaced and abused in the name of hydrodevelopment, this news offers a glimmer of hope that historical injustices can be acknowledged and meaningful remedy can be secured.”