Indigenous Communities Resist Hydroelectric Dam Projects in Guatemala

by Sara R. Roschdi
The government of Guatemala has approved hydro electric dams to be built on indigenous territories.  Fitzpatrick-Behrens reports in the article, “Electrifying Guatemala: Clean Energy and Development” that these hydroelectric dam projects are expected to produce 181 megawatts of energy for the country [https://nacla.org/news/electrifying-guatemala-clean-energy-and-development]. For indigenous communities like the Ixcán community, these dams mean the pollution of their waters and the corporatization of their sacred lands. Telesur reports that on January 17th, two Indigenous Guatemalan activist, were assassinated by the state as they engaged in a peaceful protest against the building of a hydroelectric dam in San Mateo Ixatan, Guatemala [http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Guatemalan-Activist-Killed-Protesting-Hydroelectric-Project-20170118-0013.html].  The expansion of these hydroelectric dam projects are a result of foreign investments, that are increasing the funding of energy projects in order to meet the potential energy demands of a growing export economy, since the passing of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). These hydroelectric dams, are being built to reduce the cost of energy, for primarily international businesses and manufacturers.  Fitzpatrick-Behren finds in a study conducted by Guatemala’s El Observador that manufacturers spend approximately 40% of their cost on energy, paying on average 19 cents per kilowatt hour compared to the rate of 10 to 12 cents in countries with competing markets. These foreign investments are leading to the destruction of the environment, increased debt and the displacement of Indigenous and Afro-descended communities. The World Bank is advertising these energy initiatives as promoting environmental sustainability, though using “clean energy” sources while they are simultaneously funding mining projects, the building of highways and the extracting of petroleum across the region. This energy source that is advertised as a green alternative to the use of fossil fuels, is spreading across Latin America and Indigenous communities are resisting to save their territories, their water supplies, and protect Mother Earth.

 

 

 

Fitzpatrick-Behrens, Susan. “Electrifying Guatemala: Clean Energy and Development.” NACLA. N.p., n.d. Web https://nacla.org/news/electrifying-guatemala-clean-energy-and-development

 

Reeves, Benjamin. “Backlash Continues over Hydroelectric Power Projects in Guatemala -.” The Tico Times | Costa Rica News | Travel | Real Estate. N.p., 10 Apr. 2014 http://www.ticotimes.net/2014/03/10/social-discontent-swells-over-hydroelectric-power-projects-in-guatemala

 

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Amanda Alcantara, Geovanny Vicente, Ivonaldo Leite, and Tortilla Con Sal. “Guatemalan Activist Killed Protesting Hydroelectric Project.” News | TeleSUR English. Telesur, 18 Jan. 2017. Web. http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Guatemalan-Activist-Killed-Protesting-Hydroelectric-Project-20170118-0013.html

 

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