Thousands of indigenous and campesino Guatemalans marched the 35 kilometers from the town of San Juan Sacatepéquez to Guatemala City on July 13-14 as part of a continuing struggle against the construction of the Cementos Progreso cement plant about 15 kilometers from the town. Organizers said more than 10,000 residents marched in the protest, which also demanded the release of imprisoned campesino leaders and was supported by a number of social organizations, including Vía Campesina and the National Coordinating Committee of Guatemalan Widows (CONAVIGUA).
Clashes over the plant began in December 2007, when 12 police agents were injured and 17 campesinos were arrested. One campesino was killed during a protest on June 23, 2008, and 43 were arrested. San Juan Sacatepéquez residents say the plant will damage the environment and deprive the community of water. Environment Minister Luis Ferrate insists the $690 million plant will comply with environmental impact recommendations. After arriving in the capital, a delegation of protesters met with President Álvaro Colom and Congress President Roberto Alejos. Community representative Juan Saban said the president agreed to appoint a group to make a thorough review of the issues with the plant.
In other demonstrations, hundreds of people blocked roads in San Marcos, Huehuetenango, Petén, Sololá and Quetzaltenango departments on July 14 to protest mining concessions. (EFE, July 14; Adital, July 15)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 26
See our last post on the mineral cartel in Guatemala.