Guatemala: wins, threats for peasant ecologists

On Sept. 11, a judge revoked 10 arrest warrants that had been issued against community leaders in the Guatemalan municipality of Barillas, Huehuetenango, for alleged crimes against the Spanish firm Hidro Santa Cruz, which plans to build a dam on a river outside the village. A civil court in Santa Eulalia found the warrants were issued in violation of proper procedures. The 10 were accused by the company of property destruction, kidnapping and terrorism, among other charges, after riots broke out following the murder of a community leader, Andres Fransisco Miguel, who had been an outspoken opponent of the plans to dam the Río Q’am B’alam (also rendered Canbalam). Nine community members still remain detained in Guatemala City’s central prison. Saturnino Figuero of the Assembly of Peoples of Huehuetenango for the Defense of the Territory expressed hope that these would be released too, saying, “We are convinced that because this case has become national and international news, the actors in the justice system will begin to align their actions more closely with the law.” (Cultural Survival, Sept. 17)

On Sept. 16, peasant leader Domingo Hernández Ixcoy was accosted in the central plaza of San Martín Jilotepeque, Chimaltenango, by two men who told him he was on a “list”—popularly understood in Guatemala to mean he is marked for death. The men disappeared after making their threat, but this was not the first such incident. On July 10, Hernández Ixcoy’s house was broken into, valuable items broken and stolen, and a menacing note left, saying the attackers had come “to leave the note on your cadaver.” Hernández Ixcoy is a co-founder of the Campesino Unity Committee (CUC), Guatemala’s oldest peasant organization, and a leader of the Maya Waqib Kej National Coordination, which has played a leading role in the struggle against the Barillas hydro-electric project and corporate mining projects in Gatemala’s Maya Highlands. (Política Sociedad blog, Peru, Sept. 17; DesInformémonos, Mexico, July 12)