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20 December 2018

Statement against the double murder, physical aggression & ongoing risk of the communities of the Microregion of Ixquisis, Guatemala

Organizations, groups and other signatories express our deep concern about the situation of risk faced by communities and human rights defenders (HRDs) in the Microregion of Ixquisis, San Mateo Ixtatán, Huehuetenango, Guatemala.

The defenders of the territory and the environment in the Ixquisis Microregion have faced human rights violations since 2009 in the context of their opposition to the San Andrés, Pojom I, Pojom II hydroelectric projects. The three projects are promoted by the company Energía y Renovación S.A. (formerly PDH SA), which is currently owned by the Mata Monteros and Mata Castillo families, linked to the corporate group The Central America Bottling Corporation (CABCORP), and are financed by the Bank's private arm, IDB Invest, of the Bank Central American Economic Integration (BCIE) and Cordiant Cap, a Canadian financial intermediary that has funding from, among others, KfW, a German bank.

Since May of this year, the Peaceful Resistance of Ixquisis has carried out a series of public actions, and demonstrations to express and reiterate its opposition to hydroelectric projects in its territory. Currently three actions of protection against the operating licenses of the Pojom II hydroelectric plant are awaiting resolution in the national courts. In June, the Ixquisis communities received the Front Line Defenders award in recognition of their collective efforts and peaceful struggle. In August, the affected communities filed a formal complaint with the IDB's Independent Consultation and Investigation Mechanism, requesting the investigation and withdrawal of their investment due to non-compliance with the bank's own operating policies.

In this context, human rights organizations that accompany the case have observed a significant increase in defamation and aggression against the population that participates in the Peaceful Resistance and the population of the microregion, which culminated in the murder of two residents of the region, the brothers Neri Esteban Pedro and Domingo Esteban Pedro, on December 16th. Their bodies were found on the banks of the Yal Witz River, near the San Andrés hydroelectric plant on the highway of the Northern Transversal Strip with bullet holes in their heads. These killings recall the assassination of defender Sebastián Alonso Juan, who died as a result of shooting during a peaceful demonstration in January 2017; a murder that remains unresolved.

In addition to this double murder, the following events occurred in 2018:

  • July and October: Violation of the right to demonstrate and the right of free movement by the PNC; and excessive use of force against protesters, resulting in six injured people, three of them in need of hospitalization;
  • October 12: During the day two members of the Peaceful Resistance suffered armed attacks; Alfonso Miguel Francisco Pedro, from the Pojom village had to be hospitalized for seven days;
  • October 20 and November 7: Harassment and use of tear gas against community members, causing intoxication in children and a pregnant woman.
  • December 9: Physical aggression against Lucas Jorge García, president of the Second Level Development Council of the Ixquisis Microregion and two women from his family, one of them pregnant. Two men attacked the HRD in his house, hitting him on the head with stones and sticks. When trying to defend him, his daughter Maria Jorge Gómez and her daughter-in-law, Ana Gómez Domingo, were also beaten.

The constant campaign of defamation and discrediting undertaken against the Peaceful Resistance for more than a year has again increased in intensity, also impacting on allied organizations such as the Plurinational Mayan Ancestral Government of the Akateko Chuj, Popti ', Q'anjob'al and Mestizo peoples, and in particular one of its coordinators, Rigoberto Juárez.

At the beginning of November 2018, the signing of an "Agreement for Peace and Development" was announced in different media in the municipality of San Mateo Ixtatán, an agreement that only included actors from the communities that are in favor of hydroelectric plants and with direct links with the company Energía y Renovación, SA. The legitimacy of this agreement and the representativeness of the people who signed this agreement on behalf of the Microregion of Ixquisis, has been questioned repeatedly by the Peaceful Resistance, which since the beginning of this dialogue process, has registered an increase of attacks against it.

In view of this serious situation of risk, the organizations, collectives and undersigned people express our solidarity with the defenders of the Ixquisis Microregion, and we request:

- The Public Prosecutor's Office to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators and intellectual authors of all the attacks committed against the Peaceful Resistance of Ixquisis, including the physical aggressions against Lucas Jorge García, President of the Second Level Development Council of the Microregion of Ixquisis, as well as the murders of the brothers Nery and Domingo Pedro Esteban and Sebastián Alonso Juan.

- The State of Guatemala to adopt all the necessary measures to guarantee the life and integrity of the members of the Ixquisis communities and the right to demonstrate and defend rights.

- The State of Guatemala to take all measures to ensure that women have a life free of violence and to take specific protection measures for women and leaders of the communities of the Ixquisis Microregion.

- To the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of the Interior to comply with the withdrawal of the state security forces, the National Civil Police and the Guatemalan Army, from the private facilities where the company Energia y Renovación operates, which owns the hydroelectric projects they build in this Microregion, to guarantee the independence of the public forces in the Microregion of Ixquisis.

- To the international community present in Guatemala, to closely observe the situation of human rights defenders, visiting the territory in question.

- To the international financial institutions involved in the financing of these hydroelectric projects, to adopt measures so that their investments are made under conditions of full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Accountability Counsel, USA
ACODET, Guatemala
Alerte Honduras, France
Asamblea Departamental de Huehuetenango (ADH), Guatemala
Asociación Ambiente y Sociedad, Colombia
Asociación Civil El Observador, Guatemala
Asociación Interamericana para la Defensa del Ambiente (AIDA), Regional
ALIANZAS Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, USA
American Jewish World Service, USA
Asociación Civil Verdad y Vida, Guatemala
Asociación para la Justicia y Reconciliación (AJR), Guatemala
Asociación para la Promoción y el Desarrollo de la Comunidad (CEIBA), Guatemala
Bank Information Center, USA
Bank Information Center Europe, Regional
BC CASA-Cafe Justicia, Canada
Both Ends, The Netherlands
Anne Bordatto, Guatemala
Lorena Bugueño, Chile
Cadena para un Retorno Acompañado (CAREA), Germany
Carlos Alfaro Aldana, Guatemala
Carlos Salamanca, Investigador Adjunto Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones
Científicas y Técnicas, (CONICET), Argentina
Cataylst Project, USA
Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), USA
Center for Participatory Change, USA
Alejandro R. Chan S. Politólogo, Guatemala
Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America, USA
Sandra Elizabeth Chuc Norato, Guatemala
CISPES, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, USA
Collectif Guatemala, France
Colectivo Madreselva, Guatemala
Columban Mission Center, USA
Comite Campesino del Altiplano-CCDA, Guatemala
Comité por los derechos humanos en América Latina (CDHAL), Canada
Community Alliance for Global Justice (CAGJ), USA
Consejo Mam te Txe Chman San Marcos, Guatemala
Consejo De Mujeres Mayas Ixmucane, Guatemala
Consejo de Pueblos Wuxhtaj, Guatemala
Coordinación de Ong y Cooperativas (CONGCOOP), Guatemala
The Copper Country Guatemala Accompaniment Project (CCGAP), USA
Crude Accountability, USA
Derecho, Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (DAR), Peru
Development International, USA
Earth Guardians, USA
Nelson Escobar Ruiz, Guatemala
Festivales Solidarios, Guatemala
Fondo de Acción Urgente para América Latina y el Caribe, América Latina
FONGI – Foro de ONGs Internacionales en Guatemala, Guatemala
France Amérique Latine, France
Friends of the Earth United States, USA
Friendship Office of the Americas, USA
Front Line Defenders, Ireland
Frontera Water Protectors, USA
Fundación para el Debido Proceso/Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF), USA
GegenStroemung–ContraCorrientes, Germany
Gender Action, USA
Global Labor Justice, USA
Global Witness, United Kingdom / Internacional
Guatemala Human Rights Commission, USA
Guatemalanetz Bern, Switzerland
Guatemala-Netz Zürich, Switzerland
Guatemala Partnership Committee, Congregational Church of Needham, USA
Heart of the Sky Fair Trade, USA
Human Rights Defenders Project, USA
Indigenous Climate Action, USA
Indigenous Goddess Gang of the Diné (Navajo) Nation, USA
International Rivers, USA
International Accountability Project, Global
InterReligious Task Force on Central America and Colombia, USA
Jennifer Casolo -geógrafa, USA
JusticiaYA, Guatemala
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, Canada
Kickapoo Guatemala Accompainment Project (KGAP), USA
Km207 Guatemala-Suisse, Switzerland
Leocadio Juracán, Diputado, Guatemala
The Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network, Canada
Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN), Canada
Movimiento de Reconciliación, Austria
Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA), USA
Parlamento del Pueblo Xinka, Guatemala
El Projet Accompagnement Québec-Guatemala (PAQG), Canada
Peace Watch Switzerland (PWS), Switzerland
Perifèries del Món, Spain
Plataforma Internacional contra la Impunidad, Switzerland
Prensa Comunitaria, Guatemala
Programa Interdisciplinario de Investigación en Espacios, Políticas y Sociedades del Centro de Estudios Interdisciplinarios de la Universidad Nacional de Rosario, Argentina
Protection International, Belgium
Protection International Mesoamérica, Guatemala
Public Service Alliance of Canada, Canada
Red por la Justicia Ambiental, Colombia
Resistencia Pacífica La Puya, Guatemala
Resistencia Pacífica Santa Rosa, Jalapa y Jutiapa, Guatemala
Sandra Sanchez, Guatemala
SEFCA, Guatemala
Solidaridad de Austria con Guatemala, Austria
Südwind Entwicklungspolitik, Austria
Terre et Liberté pour Arauco, France
The Santa Elena Project of Accompaniment (SEPA), USA
TreeSisters, USA
urgewald, Germany
Welthaus Viena, Austria
WIDE – Red de Mujeres y Desarrollo, Austria
WoMin African Alliance, South Africa