Latin America River Defenders Gather in Solidarity

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More than 530 men and women from 14 different countries from Patagonia to Mexico met from in October for the 5th Meeting of the “Latin American Network Against Dams and for Rivers, Their Communities and Water” (REDLAR).  Dozens of people, part of the Petén Front Against Dams, worked day and night to give us shelter, prepare our meals and guard our proceedings to ensure a peaceful gathering. 

We came together near the Usumacinta River in Retalteco, a forest community that is part of the Maya Biosphere Reserve, in northern Petén, Guatemala, to share stories and experiences of struggle and resistance against large dam projects.  

We began with representatives of each country describing the threat they are facing.  It soon became obvious that we are all facing the same problems – the theft of our natural resources, the privatization of our land and waters, the silencing of protest (too often, violently), and a rise in corruption.

Some of the event’s strongest statements rang true for all:   

  • “Dams and extractive activities (mining, oil exploitation, etc.) promise jobs and cheaper energy, but they are false promises.” 
  • “Rivers are veins the veins of the planet.”
  • “They come offering money and development but what we are left with is more poverty, more pollution, the loss of land and water.” 
  • “They claim that dams provide cheaper energy, but they don’t consider the cost to people or to nature. Their energy model is one of exploitation and expropriation.”
  • “Humanity’s main enemy is imperialism.”
  • “We were invaded by the cross and the gun; we must remember our indigenous roots to seek a better world for all.”
  • “Trans-national corporations use our governments and corrupt our leaders.  We cannot wait for someone to lead us but must blaze our own path.” 

We discussed the need to protect life and rivers.  Dam projects and extractive industries take away our rights – the right to be consulted, the right to have our voices heard. The rights of the people become subservient to that of the trans-nationals.  

That is why we must craft a new tomorrow, which involves the people in decision-making and denounces the criminalization of those who bravely defend the rivers and water.  We must share our stories and support each other’s struggles.  

We must create a movement, with fronts in each of our countries, and involve every sector of our populations.  We want energy in service of the people, not the benefit of a few.  We realize how important alliances are.  We can strengthen and multiply to create unity amongst us to create a more just world.