Indigenous Communities Win Consulation Law in Guatemala

by Jeff Abbott, Upside Down World

On September 10, the Guatemalan Constitutional Court ordered the suspension of licenses for the construction of the Vega I and Vega II hydroelectric projects in the Ixil territory. The court made the order following the failure of the company to consult the indigenous communities prior to the issuing of permits for the project owned by the Spanish firm Hidroxil, S.A.

The Constitutional Court ordered the Ministry of Energy and Mining to "take the necessary measures to ensure that the consultation of affected and interested indigenous communities is practiced in accordance with applicable international standards, concerning the installation of hydroelectric power plant La Vega I." The court order stated that such consultation "should be seen as an intercultural dialogue in good faith, in which consensus and mutual accommodation of the legitimate interests of the parties is sought."

The two hydro projects were initially approved in 2011, and would have affected the Xamalá and Sumalá rivers in the municipality of Santa Maria Nebaj. Indigenous authorities had first issued filed the cases against the hydro projects in 2012. The authority had requested that the court annul Agreement 99-2011, which was signed during the administration of Álvaro Colom in 2011, and allowed the Spanish firm to construct the Vega project. The community leaders were troubled by the firm's lack of respect for the community's rights upon arrival.