“En toda América Latina hay resistencia contra las represas” – Gustavo Castro, ecologista

Activista señala que desarrollo continuo de megaproyectos hidroeléctricos agrava el cambio climático.

Por Vinicio Chacón, Semanario Universidad (Costa Rica) | vinicio.chacon@ucr.ac.cr

Sep 21, 2016

Palabras claves: Berta Cáceres; COPINH; criminalización; hidroelectricidad; cambio climático; Protocolo de Kioto; tratados de libre comercio.

El ecologista mexicano Gustavo Castro ganó notoriedad por ser el único testigo del asesinato de la líder indígena y ambientalista hondureña Berta Cáceres, el pasado 2 de marzo [2016].

Castro es dirigente de la organización Otros Mundos – Amigos de la Tierra y con calma pero con contundencia abordó el asesinato y la increíble manipulación del caso que hizo el sistema judicial hondureño, buscando inculpar a activistas del Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (COPINH).

Desde esa organización, Cáceres lideró la lucha del pueblo indígena lenca contra el proyecto hidroeléctrico (PH) Agua Zarca, de la empresa desarrollos Energéticos S.A. (DESA).

De vista en Costa Rica para participar en el II Congreso Latinoamericano sobre Conflictos Ambientales (COLCA), Gustavo Castro conversó con UNIVERSIDAD en una entrevista coordinada a través de la Federación Conservacionista de Costa Rica (FECON).

¿Cómo despertó su conciencia ecologista?

-Fue un proceso de muchos años de pasar en la participación en cooperativas, trabajé mucho tiempo con refugiados guatemaltecos que habían venido de la guerra. El salto a la lucha ambiental se da en la década de los 90, cuando empiezan a llegar al país muchos proyectos de inversión después del Tratado de Libre Comercio de América del Norte (ALCA), favoreciendo obviamente a las transnacionales y al saqueo del país.

-Eran de la nación el petróleo, el gas, el uso del agua, la electricidad, etc. No es que no habían conflictos, pero cuando pasan a manos de las corporaciones, exigen todavía más condiciones favorables de inversión. Empiezan a modificarse la ley de Aguas y la ley Minera para entregar a las grandes empresas mineras la explotación del oro, de la plata, de minerales estratégicos del país; ahora con la reforma energética, también el petróleo y el gas. Esto de alguna manera empieza a impactar cada vez más el medio ambiente, ahí empieza una lucha con mayor fuerza en torno a la defensa de los territorios; pero también cuando empezamos a ver la deforestación que causa la infraestructura para favorecer las inversiones, no solamente en mi caso, sino también en comunidades campesinas e indígenas empieza a haber una consciencia más grande sobre el impacto ambiental.

¿Cuándo se empiezan a dar los contactos con el COPINH y Berta Cáceres?

-A Berta la conocí en 1999, cuando empezamos a convocar muchos procesos de resistencia, entre ellos la creación de la Convergencia de Movimientos de los Pueblos de las Américas, el Encuentro Hemisférico Contra la Militarización, o el encuentro contra el Plan Puebla Panamá. Organizábamos todos esos encuentros en Chiapas; después los replicábamos en Honduras. Se hizo toda una relación en torno a los procesos de resistencia en los que participábamos no solamente nosotros y el COPINH, sino toda la región en Mesoamérica. Había mucha afinidad en el proceso de construcción del movimiento con Berta y el COPINH desde hace más de quince años.

¿Cuál es la lección más importante que se puede extraer de la historia de Berta Cáceres?

-Se me hace muy difícil decir una sola cosa, porque era una persona muy compleja, en el sentido de que era muy rica, una persona muy coherente que tenía la capacidad de análisis estructural; también podía tener una interlocución muy fuerte tanto con académicos como con congresistas, y al mismo tiempo estaba en la movilización con la gente.

-Fue sumamente respetuosa y muy tenaz, era una mujer muy valiente, siempre estaba al frente de todas las manifestaciones del COPINH. Berta fue muy coherente en su análisis, su discurso y su actitud con los pueblos y con el movimiento.

-Con el asesinato de Berta, su personalidad renace en todos lados. Como decimos, Berta no murió, se multiplicó, su presencia es muy fuerte.

-Fue una persona muy feliz, era muy optimista pese a todas las adversidades, ya que recibió muchas amenazas e intentos de asesinato.

Luego de perpetrado el asesinato y de que los sicarios le dieran a usted por muerto también, ¿qué actitud tuvieron las autoridades?

-Creo que lo primero que sorprende es que hubiera un testigo, que no esperaban. Llegué un día antes a La Esperanza (donde vivía Cáceres), entonces creo que nadie más que el COPINH y Berta sabía que yo iba a estar ahí. Me parece que pretendían que fuese un asesinato limpio, donde ella estaría sola en su casa. Cuando se dan cuenta de que hay un testigo, tienen que modificar el escenario y empezar a inventar ya la forma cómo criminalizar al mismo COPINH. No lo logran, entonces buscan cómo criminalizarme a mí.

-No pudieron presentarle a la familia, al COPINH y tampoco a la comunidad nacional e internacional una versión creíble, cuando había tantos antecedentes y estaba tan claro el origen del problema.

-Es por ello que de alguna manera intentan retenerme de manera ilegal en el país para buscar la forma en cómo imputarme. Al final a los que acaban sacrificando es al gerente de la empresa, al ejército y a los sicarios. Sabemos que no son los únicos que están involucrados.

-El trato que me daban era como de una ficha, como de objeto de prueba, violando mis derechos humanos pero también muchos procedimientos judiciales. Todo el mundo sabe porque en la prensa salió cómo se alteró la escena del crimen. En todos esos primeros días hubo muchísimas irregularidades en el proceso de investigación.

Incluso cuando hace el retrato hablado, el artista dibuja a otra persona.

-Yo no sabía que mientras estaba en el Ministerio Público, habían detenido a un miembro del COPINH a quien intentaban culpar. Efectivamente, mientras yo estaba sin dormir, herido y con toda esa tensión, me traen a la persona que hace el retrato hablado. Yo le decía que así no era, lo borraba y volvía a dibujar lo mismo.

-Me dijeron en varias ocasiones que me podía ir. Yo obviamente estaba dispuesto a ayudar en todas las diligencias, aunque me tuvieran sin comer, sin dormir, sin una frazada si quiera; de cualquier manera yo iba apoyando, dejé mi ropa ensangrentada. Una forma como intentaron imputarme es que me robaron la maleta, que dejé en la casa de Berta, había obviamente la posibilidad de sembrar cualquier cosa que me pudiera inculpar – hasta la fecha no me la han entregado.

-No hicieron ninguna cadena de custodia aunque yo lo reclamé ante a fiscal, el Ministerio Público, la abogada de la Comisión de Derechos Humanos de Honduras, todo el mundo es testigo de que pedía copia de mi declaración ministerial y no me la daban – la copia de mi declaración ante la juez, y no me la daban; pedía que me regresaran mi maleta, igual. Era un cinismo de violación total al Código Procesal, al Código Penal, a los derechos humanos.

-Incluso no había una formalidad en el reconocimiento de las caras. Me pusieron al principio fotografías y videos del COPINH para que dijera si ahí estaba el culpable del asesinato.

-Se dan muchas irregularidades en este proceso y por ello el gobierno decreta que todas esas diligencias ministeriales se mantienen en secreto.

-En el caso del secuestro de Estado en el aeropuerto, me regresan otra vez a que hiciera más careos. Luego estuve en la casa del Embajador de México un mes, hasta el último día, sin que me dieran ninguna explicación de para qué me querían, sin que me entregaran incluso copia de la resolución de la juez donde decretaba mi prohibición de salir del país, y ante la insistencia de la abogada ante tal anomalía jurídica, tal ilegalidad, la juez suspende a mi abogada de su ejercicio profesional.

Posteriormente las autoridades relacionaron a funcionarios de la empresa DESA  y de la institucionalidad militar con el asesinato, pero usted ha dicho que va más allá?

-No lo digo yo, lo dice la prensa, lo dice COPINH, lo dice la familia, incluso hubo un atentado contra un periodista que explicó muchas de las relaciones y vinculaciones de jueces y de políticos en el problema.

Ha afirmado que considerar la energía hidroeléctrica como limpia es una “estúpida idea”, lo cual es un gancho directo a la quijada del orgullo costarricense de producir energía de esa manera.

-No solamente en Costa Rica, sino en toda América Latina, que por décadas asoció siempre las hidroeléctricas con el  desarrollo limpio.

-Si en Costa Rica no lo saben, que sepan que hay una resistencia impresionante en toda América Latina, de cantidad de pueblos que han sido desplazados y asesinados, que no ha habido una experiencia de reubicación adecuada ni tampoco de indemnización. Incluso la misma Comisión Mundial de Represas que financió el Banco Mundial, en el 2000 sacó un informe donde dicen que el 60% de las cuencas del planeta han sido represadas, que el 30% de los peces de agua dulce se han extinguido por causa de las presas que generan el 5% de los gases de efecto invernadero, que se han construido más de 50.000 grandes represas en el mundo, que los países quedaron sumamente endeudados con el Banco Mundial, que el 30%  de las represas en el mundo no han generado la energía que debían generar, que desplazaron a 80 millones de personas en todo el mundo inundando pueblos y ciudad. Eso lo dice toda la evidencia en el mundo y en toda América Latina, en Chile, en Argentina, en Colombia, en Uruguay, en Panamá y en México hay resistencia contra las represas.

-A partir de ese informe el movimiento social contra las represas dijo “tenemos que desarticular ese discurso”, un discurso en donde hidroelectricidad es igual a energía limpia, cuando ha generado todos esos desastres, incluso desaparecido manglares, han desaparecido cuencas enteras por la construcción de represas.

-Con el Protocolo de Kioto vuelven  otra vez a intentar reposicionar a las represas como energía limpia, en el sentido de que los países del Norte, para intentar reducir los gases de efecto invernadero, buscan suplirlo con inversión en energía limpia. Entonces si tengo que eliminar en el Norte diez toneladas de CO2, no lo elimino; mejor construyo una represa que según yo va a eliminar esas diez toneladas, las va a ahorrar en energía limpia.

-Los efectos de las represas en el mundo son desastrosos. ¿Cómo generar entonces otro paradigma de energía limpia? Ese es el gran problema; pero no construyendo, bloqueando más cuencas, desplazando más pueblos, lo que además favorece a las empresas constructoras de represas en todo el mundo. Hay otras formas y mecanismos de generar energía limpia. Incluso en Europa y Estados Unidos están desmantelando represas. Pero sí hay que construirlas en el Sur con la idea de que es energía limpia, sustentable y verde, pero es la energía más sucia que ha generado todos estos impactos socio-ambientales.

¿Están la mentalidad ecologista y ese nuevo paradigma para producir energía que usted menciona perdiendo el pulso contra la ideología extractivista, de la cual la construcción de represas es parte?

-Creo que más bien se está fortaleciendo mucho la resistencia. Incluso ha logrado detener muchos proyectos hidroeléctricos en Brasil, México, en muchos lugares.

-El gran reto que tenemos es cómo las mismas comunidades van construyendo alternativas distintas de desarrollo. Fui al COPINH como invitado para que reflexionáramos sobre otros modelos y mecanismos de generar energía limpia, autónoma, comunitaria que sirva a los pueblos, no inundando los territorios del COPINH para las zonas económicas especiales, para los proyectos mineros. Por ejemplo, la lixiviación del oro puede gastar según el tamaño de la mina, unos dos, tres millones de litros de agua cada hora. Necesitan represas y grandes cantidades de energía.

-El uso de energía y de agua se requiere para monocultivos, para parques industriales, para ciudades modelo, para incluso grandes centros turísticos, grandes hoteles, para la industria automotriz; y al final de cuentas los pueblos son los que pagan el precio de ese supuesto desarrollo.

¿Hasta qué punto todo ese proceso es impulsado por tratados de libre comercio? ¿Es realista esperar que los países denuncien esos tratados y se de espacio a un nuevo paradigma de generación de energía?

-Es un reto. La responsabilidad no es solamente de las poblaciones indígenas y campesinas de advertir y resistir a esto. Ciertamente los tratados de libre comercio aceleran este proceso y no solo los tratados, sino el supuesto Protocolo de Kioto.

-Los tratados de libre comercio abren las puertas a las inversiones: si antes no había diez parques industriales, ahora ya los hay y requieren agua y energía; si antes no había una empresa automotriz europea, japonesa, norteamericana en nuestro país, ahora ya hay tres, cuatro o cinco, y requieren agua y cantidades de energía. Si antes no había plantaciones de monocultivos y ahora sí, como Monsanto en zonas que requieren grandes cantidades de agua, pues ahora ya los hay. Si antes no existían proyectos mineros que requieren grandes cantidades de agua y energía, ahora ya los hay.

-Los tratados de libre comercio aceleran la necesidad de agua y energía, porque aceleran la inversión en todo este tipo de megaproyectos que requieren de estos insumos.

¿Está el acuerdo de París en la misma línea que el protocolo de Kioto?

-Sí, al final de cuentas no tocan de fondo el problema y siguen viendo la manera de cómo seguir dando paliativos, como pasó con el Protocolo de Kioto: quince años después lo aprueban, después de que se anuncia la urgencia, y aceptan reducir 5% el gas efecto invernadero no tras esos quince años, sino de quince años atrás – cosa que se pasa de absurda.

-Luego ese 5% ni siquiera lo voy a reducir; voy a buscar como lo compenso. Sigo produciendo toneladas de CO2 y mejor compro la selva de Costa Rica, los servicios ambientales, que respire diez toneladas. Entonces contaminación igual a cero: acá produzco diez, allá respiro diez; compro para respiración y le ponemos bonos de carbono o muy elegantemente economía verde.

-Lo mismo está pasando con todas las Conferencias de las Partes de la Convención Marco de las Naciones Unidas sobre el Cambio Climático (COP) que ha habido. No ha sido otra cosa más que ir posponiendo y posponiendo sin llegar al fondo del problema.

¿Cuál es el fondo del problema?

-Tenemos que cambiar el paradigma del sistema; tenemos que detener desde el origen el cambio climático y eso implica no solamente este capitalismo atroz, sino la contaminación que generan los países más desarrollados: entre el 60% y el 66% de los gases de efecto invernadero del planeta.

-Tenemos que detenerlo y como decía Berta, ya no hay tiempo. Dijo una frase muy bonita: “despertemos humanidad”. Creo que el problema es sistémico, es planetario y tenemos que tomar consciencia de la necesidad de cambiar este paradigma de desarrollo.

©2015 Semanario Universidad. Derechos reservados. Hecho por 5e Creative Labs, Two y Pandú y Semanario Universidad.

Reproducido aquí con permiso de Vinicio Chacón

Agua Para El Pueblo / Water For The People

I first learned of the Honduran non-governmental organisation (NGO) Agua Para El Pueblo (APP) in 1999 when the Catholic Institute for International Relations (later to become Progressio and even later, 2017, to cease its development work) hired me to make an evaluation of the effects of Hurricane Mitch on its development work programmes in El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. Amongst other results of that work I wrote a case study about APP for the book ‘Storm Warnings’ (published by the CIIR in 2001).

In essence, APP supports community initiatives and efforts to improve the conditions of life through the provision of clean water and sanitation systems. It does so through a mechanism of community participation and through cooperation with appropriate organisations and institutions that are present in the community. Its ultimate aim is to improve the health of the community.

In 2015, I visited APP again, this time simply to put myself up-to-date with the organisation’s programmes, principles and practices. I do my best not to be overly cynical about development work – yet often I know that I fail in that effort because so many relatively small-scale development initiatives fade and disappear after a few years and changes of personnel, ideas and circumstances. So it was an extremely pleasant surprise to find that APP not only continues to exist, but is also as dynamic and energetic as it had been seventeen years earlier.

One of their most impressive and recent programmes has the title AguaClara which has support from Cornell University in the United States. The programme is briefly described below.

AguaClara

The AguaClara treatment plant is an efficient solution to reduce turbidity and to disinfect water from surface sources in communities which have piped water. The plant:

  • produces clear and disinfected water;
  • does not need electricity or machinery and functions solely with the force of gravity;
  • is built using local materials;
  • generates employment in the community through the post(s) of community operators;
  • is very economical.

Communities selected for participation in the scheme:

  • have a problem of turbidity of their water supply;
  • are motivated to resolve the problem;
  • are disposed to participate in all aspects of the programme from planning and design to measuring and monitoring;
  • must have space enough to build the plant and enough volume and hydraulic pressure to raise the water two meters above the water supply tank;
  • have no alternative supply of clean water;
  • must carry out tests for heavy metals and chemicals in the water.

More details of all aspects of APP can be found on their website at: www.apphonduras.org  and details of the AguaClara  programme can be found at: http://aguaclara.cee.cornell.edu

The AguaClara programme gives an indication of how far APP’s work has developed. Back in 1999, I travelled with Andrew Trevett, a British water and sanitation engineer who worked with Agua Para El Pueblo during Hurricane Mitch in 1998, after which he sought and got funding from the British Embassy to clean out and improve many of the wells in the Honduran departments of Valle and Choluteca.

Andrew explained:

 “The vast majority of the communities in this area around Nacaome especially out in the

campo‚ do depend on community wells. It’s really vital. I go regularly to quite a few communities and they have one well with one hand pump between forty to sixty households. So it has a tremendous load on it. And if the water’s dirty, then it will affect all of them, not just one.

Building a gravity-fed system with a tank and a long pipeline takes a lot longer [than digging a well], and the idea is that every house will have a tap. So it looks like a step up in terms of development. And there’s no doubt that all of these communities in the south [of Honduras] would much rather have that sort of system. But the problem in the south is the lack of readily available water sources. You could certainly build that kind of water system if the community has an electricity supply and can afford a pump system. But very few communities have an electricity supply.”

[Andrew Trevett in interview with Martin Mowforth, 1999.]

APP continues to focus its work on one of the most basic principles of human development, the provision of clean water and effective sanitation systems. Moreover, it continues to be a source of hope for many communities in Honduras.

  • Agua Para El Pueblo: www.apphonduras.org 
  • AguaClara : http://aguaclara.cee.cornell.edu
  • ‘Storm Warnings: Hurricanes Georges and Mitch and the lessons for development’ (2001) by Martin Mowforth, Catholic Institute for International Relations. [Not available in e-book; hard copies available from the author.]

Belize: Little Rain; Stagnant; polluted rivers; dengue

Sad state of our Belize rivers.  

Editorial Amandala— 31 August 2019

We are grateful to Amandala, in the form of editor Russell Vellos, for permission to reproduce this editorial piece here. Amandala is a Belizean tabloid newspaper; published twice weekly, it is considered the “most widely circulated newspaper in Belize”. https://www.amandala.com.bz 

On the environment and health fronts, it has not been a good year. We are a little past halfway through 2019 and we are in a drought that’s beginning to compare with 1975:  at least two of our rivers have never been this unhealthy, and we are in the middle of a frightening dengue outbreak. We are also in the midst of making final preparations for that time of year, our nervous annual storm watching season. We normally don’t look favourably at weather systems coming off the west coast of Africa, but this year we might welcome a storm, if it doesn’t reach Category 1, and if it throws some, not too much, water our way.

The big drought of 1975 drove a lot of small farmers backward because, at the encouragement of the Marketing Board and the Ministry of Agriculture, they had taken loans from the DFC to expand their farms using improved technology. Farmers in the Cayo District, especially, borrowed money to bulldoze small parcels, prepare the land with rubber wheel tractors, and purchase fertilizers and seeds. They ended up owing, and many of them never recovered. The interest on their loans ate them up. They would never venture past plantation (milpa) agriculture again.

Grain production has largely been taken over by the Mennonite group, and they have been hard hit by the lack of rain this year. The good news is that many in this group are not as vulnerable as were the small farmers in Cayo back in 1975. It has been a bad season, especially for farmers producing crops in the grass family.

For nearly three decades citizens living along or near the Macal River have been pointing out that the river was in danger. The Macal has been dammed three times, with the Mollejon in the 1990s, the Chalillo in the 2000s, and the Vaca, around 2010.

There were some questions asked when the Mollejon, a run-of-river dam with limited water storage capacity, was built, but when the talk began for the construction of the Chalillo dam, designed to store water to be released to the Mollejon in the dry season, there were major challenges.

Some experts knew that this second dam could seriously impact the Macal River, negatively, and some argued that the impacts would be catastrophic, that the beauty and the quality and the life of the river would be ruined. Many also expressed concerns about the site of the dam. It was argued, some say proven, that claims that the dam was being constructed on granite rock were false.

After successfully navigating through the courts – the challengers to the Chalillo dam took the matter all the way to the Privy Court – another dam to store more water, the Vaca, was constructed on the Macal. The experts might know if it is one, two, or all three that killed the river.

A very famous Belizean said, “Progress Brings Problems.” Many knew the dams would cause problems, and a few of them have never wavered from keeping their concerns in front of the authorities and the Belizean people.

For a long time the leaders for the protection of the Macal River have been George and Candy Gonzalez of BELPO (Belize Institute of Environmental Law and Policy). They were among those who challenged the construction of the Chalillo dam, and they were upfront with their views when the Vaca dam was proposed too.

The website, www.waterpowermagazine.com, in the story, “Vaca dam challenge goes to court”, said that BELPO had “gone to the court for an injunction, as well as a compliance order (or writ mandamus), ordering the Department of the Environment to enforce the country’s environmental laws. The plaintiffs maintain that there should be no talk about building a third dam at Vaca when the environmental compliance plan for the second dam, Chalillo, is not being complied with.”

In a March 29, 2019 letter to the Amandala, “20 Years of Misinformation”, one of many letters that BELPO has sent to this newspaper over the years, the organisation said, “Those who pushed for the deal to build the dams on the Macal River, three politicians and a senator, have no shame as to what their actions have cost the people along the Macal and Belize Rivers.

“The water in the Macal River is polluted and people shouldn’t drink it or swim in it. Many of the fish in the river have high levels of mercury, which affects the central nervous system and is most dangerous to children and pregnant women. There is still no workable dam break early warning system.”

A footnote to the letter pointed out that Dr. Candy Gonzalez was “one of two NGO representatives on the National Environmental Appraisal Committee (NEAC) for over 7 years and was the sole ‘no’ vote in the 10-1 decision to give environmental clearance for the Chalillo Reservoir/Dam.”

The water is behind the dams now, a done deal, and the Macal River has become a stagnant waterway, with the beauty gone, with fish with mercury levels that make them inedible, with water lilies growing in pools of dead water where once there was a vital, flowing stream. All that can be considered at this time are measures to mitigate the damage, as much as possible. This calls for honesty and urgency on the part of our environmental and agricultural scientists, and engineers.

The New River has been spitting up dead fish during the dry season for decades, and everyone knew that there were things going on in that river that were similar to what happens sometimes to the Crooked Tree Lagoon. Whenever rains are below normal, especially in periods that can be considered as drought conditions, there is oxygen starvation and this is evidenced by fish dying.

On the New River it goes a lot deeper than oxygen starvation. The story there is also about serious pollution. When the crocodiles have belly ache you know you have a very serious problem. Dr. Marisa Tellez, the Executive Director of the Crocodile Research Coalition, in a story reported on Channel Seven News, said she has been studying the crocodile population in Belize and what they found with the crocodiles in the New River was disturbing.

Dr. Tellez said, “We were finding crocodiles that were highly lethargic. Their skin was peeling off. Their skin was turning a whitish-bluish tone. We found many young crocodiles with no teeth.”

Most everyone knew there were things going on with the New River that were different from what was going on in the Crooked Tree Lagoon, and the lack of rain this year has forced these issues to the fore. The New River is being assaulted by factory effluent, human waste, and waste from agricultural developments. There is another task here for environmental and agricultural scientists, and engineers.

The problems on the Macal and New rivers are not the only environmental concerns for this country. There are other rivers/creeks that are under siege, there is concern for the quality of the sea in front of Belize’s largest population centre, Belize City, and there is concern that ships coming to our country might not be respecting our environmental laws.  Our authorities have their triumphs, one of them being a far more advanced system for solid waste disposal, but for the most part they seem overwhelmed, and failing.

Another huge problem for Belize at this time is a scary dengue epidemic that is already a horror story. Reports are that we have nearly 2,000 cases this year, far more than double any previous year, and the experts are saying that when the rains come, to help our farmers, we might see an increased incidence of dengue.

Dengue is a debilitating, sometimes fatal disease. The WHO (World Health Organization) says that in 1970, “when Latin America lived largely dengue-free, the region only had the DEN-2 serotype. Then DEN-1 entered the scene in 1977, followed by DEN-4 and a new strain of DEN-2 in 1981, this last virus triggering the Cuban epidemic. DEN-3 was the most recent virus to reappear, after many years absence.

“While infection by one dengue virus provides lifelong immunity to that serotype, it increases the risk of severe illness when an individual is later infected by any of the other dengue serotypes. As a result, hyperendemicity – the circulation of multiple serotypes – produces more DHF cases and more deaths.”

The problems with the Macal and New Rivers, and the dangerous dengue situation, are not going away by themselves. The response of our authorities is wanting.

https://amandala.com.bz/news/rain-stagnant-polluted-rivers-dengue/

Water privatisation protests in El Salvador

Public protest against water privatisation increased dramatically in El Salvador from 2006, when former President Tony Saca’s ARENA party proposed a new General Water Law. The law, not yet passed, would decentralise water administration from the national to municipal levels where local governments would have to contract private firms to manage water for up to 50 years. Civil society groups in the country continue to argue that this is tantamount to privatisation.

In September 2006, residents of Santa Eduviges – a small community of 300 near the San Salvador suburb of Soyapango – blocked the Gold Highway that leads into the capital. Protesters were demanding the de-privatisation of the town’s water supply system with its management to be taken over by the national water agency, ANDA.[1] They occupied the road from morning until evening when police fired tear gas to dislodge the crowd and arrested five people.[2] They were later released.

Then in March 2007, on World Water Day, approximately 5,000 people took to the streets of San Salvador to protest against the high cost of water and its unjust distribution.

On July 2, 2007 another anti-privatisation demonstration took place in the town of Suchitoto. El Salvadoran police used rubber bullets and tear gas and arrested 14 protestors. Thirteen were charged with acts of terrorism and became known as the ‘Suchitoto 13’. Jason Wallach, writing on the Upside Down World website, said that after six months of deliberation, all charges were eventually dropped. On 2 May, 2008, however, the youngest protestor – 19 year old Hector Antonio Ventura – was murdered by unknown assailants in a house in Valle Verde, Suchitoto.[3]

His death is thought to have been politically motivated considering that just days earlier, he had agreed to speak at the Day Against Impunity to be held on July 2, the first anniversary of the arrest of the Suchitoto 13.[4]

Human rights groups including Amnesty International accused the government of unjustly using anti-terrorism legislation in order to quell future public protest.[5]


[1] Jason Wallach (27 September 2006) ‘El Salvador’s Water: Not for Sale’, Upside Down World, http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/1276/68/ (Accessed 21/07/09)
[2] North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA) website https://nacla.org/node/1499 (Accessed 21/07/09)
[3] Op.cit. (Jason Wallach)
[4] UNHCR website, http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4a6452bc8.html (Accessed 21/07/09)
[5] Amnesty International website, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR29/002/2007/en/a09ac5c1-5055-47ff-b2fa-7ba042d9e6ab/amr290022007en.html (Accessed 21/07/09)

“In all of Latin America there is resistance against dams” Gustavo Castro, ecologist

The activist points out that development of hydroelectric megaprojects continues to aggravate climate change.

By Vinicio Chacón, Semanario Universidad (Costa Rica), vinicio.chacon@ucr.ac.cr 

Sep 21st 2016. | Translated by Rick Blower

 Key words: Berta Cáceres; COPINH; criminalization; hydro-electricity; climate change; Kyoto Protocol; free trade treaties.

 The Mexican ecologist, Gustavo Castro, gained notoriety by being the sole witness to the assassination of Berta Caceres, the Honduran indigenous leader and environmentalist, on March 2nd [2016].

Castro is the leader of the organisation Other Worlds – Friends of the Earth and with calm but with forcefulness took on the Honduran judiciary, who, with incredible manipulation, sought to charge activists of the Civic Council of Popular Organisations and Indigenous Peoples of Honduras (COPINH) with the assassination.

From COPINH, Cáceres led the Lenca peoples’ fight against the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric Project (PH), a project of the company Desarrollos Energeticos S.A. (DESA).

In Costa Rica to participate in the II Latin American Congress on Environmental Conflicts (COLCA), Gustavo Castro spoke with Semanario Universidad in an interview coordinated through the Conservation Federation of Costa Rica (FECON).

What awakened your ecological conscience?

“It was a process of spending many years participating in co-operatives; I worked a lot with Guatemalan refugees who had come from the war. The jump to the fight for environmental causes came about in the nineties, when many investment projects came into the country after the North America Free Trade Agreement (NALCA), which obviously favoured the transnationals and the plunder of the country.

They were the country’s oil, gas, use of water, electricity, etc. It was not that there were no conflicts before, but when these pass into the hands of the corporations, they demand yet more favourable conditions for investment. They begin to modify the Water and the Mineral Laws, to hand over to the large mining companies the exploitation of gold, silver, strategic minerals of the country; now with the energy and also oil and gas reforms. This, in one way or another, begins to impact more and more on the environment, then begins a fight with more force about the defence of the territories; but also when we begin to see the deforestation that causes the infrastructure to favour the investments, not only in my case, but also in the peasant and indigenous communities you begin to have a greater awareness on the environmental impact.”

When did you begin to have contact with COPINH and Berta Caceres?

“I knew Berta in 1999, when we began to call for many processes of resistance, amongst them the creation of the Convergence of the Movement of the Peoples of the Americas, the Hemispheric Meeting against Militarisation, or the meeting against the Plan Puebla Panamá. We used to organise all of these meetings in Chiapas, later we repeated them in Honduras. A connection was made around the process of resistance in which we and COPINH not only took part but the whole region of Mesoamerica. There was much affinity in the process of putting together the movement with Berta and COPINH for more than 15 years.”

What is the most important lesson that you can take from the history of Berta Caceres?

“It is very difficult to name just one, because she was a very complex person, in the sense that she was very lovely, a very coherent person who had the capacity of structural analysis; also she could communicate strongly both with academics and members of congress, and at the same time she was involved in mobilization with the people.

“She was extremely respected and very tenacious, a very brave woman, always at the front of all COPINH demonstrations. Berta was very coherent in her analysis, her speeches and her attitude with the people and with the movement.

“With Berta’s assassination her personality was reborn on all fronts. As we say, Berta did not die, she multiplied, her presence is very strong.

“She was a happy person, she was very optimistic in spite of all of the adversity, even though she received many threats and assassination attempts.”

After the assassination was carried out and the hitmen took you for dead as well, what was the attitude of the authorities?

“I believe that what first took them by surprise was that there was a witness, they did not expect that. I arrived a day earlier at La Esperanza, (where Berta lived), so I think that only COPINH and Berta knew that I was going to be there. I believe that it was intended to be a ‘clean’ assassination, where Berta would be alone in her home. When they realised that there was a witness, they had to modify the scene of the crime and begin to make up a way to criminalize and implicate COPINH. They failed, so they begin to look at how to criminalize me.

“The authorities were unable to present to Berta’s family a credible version of events leading to the assassination, COPINH, the national community or the international community, when there was so much background information and the origin of the problem was very clear.

“For this reason they somehow tried to detain me in an illegal way in the country in order to find a way to impute me. In the end those who ended up being sacrificed are the manager of the company, the army and the hitmen. We know that they are not the only ones who are involved.

“The deal that they gave me was like a record card, as an object of proof, violating my human rights but also many judicial procedures. Everyone knows why, in the press, it emerged how the crime scene was altered. In those first days there were very many irregularities in the investigative process.”

Even when they produced an artist’s impression, the artist drew another person.

“I didn’t know that while I was in the Public Ministry, they had detained a member of COPINH on whom they were intent on placing the blame. Effectively, whilst I had not slept, was wounded, and with all this tension, they took me to the person who produced the ‘artist’ portrait. I told him that it was not like that, he erased the image and began to draw the same thing.

“They told me on various occasions that I could leave. I was obviously willing to help in all the proceedings, even though they had left me not having eaten, no sleep, without a blanket even if I had wanted one; anyway I went on supporting, left in my bloodied clothing. One way in which they tried to implicate me is that they stole my suitcase, which I left in Berta’s house, there was obviously the possibility to plant whatever thing which could implicate me – to date they have not returned it to me.

“They did not carry out any process of justice even though I appeared before the fiscal, the Public Ministry, the lawyer of the Honduran Commission of Human Rights, everyone is witness to me requesting a copy of my ministerial declaration, yet they wouldn’t let me have it – the copy of my declaration before the judge, and they did not give it to me; I asked that they return my suitcase, the same response. It was a total cynical violation of the Procedural Code, the Penal Code, and human rights.

“There wasn’t even a formality in the recognition of the faces. In the beginning they showed me photographs and videos of COPINH as if to say that the person responsible for the assassination was there.

“Many irregularities occurred in this process and so the government ruled that all of these ministerial formalities be kept secret.

“In the case of the state kidnapping at the airport, they took me back again for more meetings. Later, I stayed at the Mexican Embassy’s house for a month, up until the last day, without them giving an explanation as to why they wanted me, without even giving me a copy of the judge’s resolution which decreed the prohibition of my being allowed to leave the country, and before the insistence of the lawyer in the face of such judicial anomalies, such irregularity, the judge suspended the right of my lawyer to practice.”

Subsequently the authorities connected officials from the company DESA and the military institution with the murder, but you have said that it goes further?

“I did not say that, the press said it, COPINH said it, the family said it, there was even an attack against a journalist who explained a lot about the relationship and links between the judges and politicians in the problem.”

You have argued that to consider hydroelectric energy as clean is a ‘stupid idea’, which is a direct hook to the jaws of the proud Costa Ricans who produce energy in this way.

“It is not only Costa Rica, but the whole of Latin America, which for decades has always associated hydro electric as a clean development.

“If in Costa Rica they do not know it, they might know there is an impressive resistance in the whole of Latin America – the number of people who have been displaced and assassinated, who have not had an experience of adequate resettlement or redress. Even the same World Commission on Dams, which financed the World Bank, in the year 2000 published a report where they say that 60% of the basins in the world have been dammed, that 30% of fresh water fish have been killed as a result of the dams which generate 5% of greenhouse gases, that more than 50,000 large dams have been built in the world, that these countries remain extremely indebted to the World Bank, that 30% of the dams in the world have not generated the energy that they were meant to, that 80 million people have been displaced in the world at the same time flooding villages and towns. This is what the evidence tells us in the world, in all of Latin America, in Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay, Panamá and in Mexico there is resistance against the dams.

“Since this report the social movement against the dams said “we have to disarticulate that discourse”, a discourse in which hydro-electricity is the same as clean energy, when it has generated all these disasters, including the disappearance of mangrove swamps and whole basins as a result of the construction of dams.

“With the Kyoto Agreement they returned again with the intention to reposition the dams as a form of clean energy, in the sense that the countries of the North, in their attempt to reduce their output of greenhouse gases, are looking to replace it with an investment in clean energy. So, if I have to reduce 10 tons of CO2 from the Northern countries, I can’t do it; better I build a dam that according to me will eliminate these 10 tons, it can be saved with clean energy.

“The effects of the dams in the world are a disaster. So how do we generate another paradigm for clean energy? This is the big problem; but not building, blocking more basins, displacing more communities, that favours the construction companies of dams throughout the world. There are other ways and mechanisms to generate clean energy. Even in Europe and the United States they are dismantling dams. But if we have to build dams in the South with the idea that it is clean, sustainable and green energy, it is actually the dirtiest energy that has generated all these socio-environmental impacts.”

Is the ecological mentality and this new paradigm to produce energy that you mention losing the pulse against the ideology of extraction, of which the construction of dams is part?

“I believe rather that much of the resistance is strengthening. It has even managed to stop many hydro-electric projects in Brazil, Mexico and many other places.

“The big challenge that we have is how the same communities build alternative forms of development. I went to COPINH as a guest so that we could reflect on other models and mechanisms of generating clean energy, autonomous, community-led, serving the communities, not flooding the COPINH territories for special economic zones, for mining projects. For example, the leaching of gold can use, depending on the size of the mine, some 2 to 3 million tons of water every hour. They need dams and large quantities of energy.

“The use of energy and water is required for monoculture, for industrial parks, for model cities, even for large tourist centres, large hotels, for the automotive industry; and in the end, the people are those who pay the price of this so-called development.”

At what point in all of this process is it driven by Free Trade Agreements? Is it realistic to hope that these countries will denounce these agreements and make room for a new paradigm of energy generation?

“It is a challenge. The responsibility is not only for indigenous populations and peasants to be alert to and resist this. Certainly the commercial Free Trade Agreements accelerate this process and not only the agreements, but the so-called Kyoto Protocol too.

“The Free Trade Agreements open the doors to investments: if before there were not 10 industrial parks, now there are and they require water and energy; if before there was not a European, Japanese, North American automotive industry in our country, now there are 3, 4, 5, and they require water and large quantities of energy. If before there were no monoculture plantations and now there are, like Monsanto in zones which require large quantities of water, so now there are. If before there were no mining projects requiring large quantities of water and energy, today there are.

“Free Trade Agreements accelerate the need for water and energy, which is why they speed up investment in all of these types of mega-projects that require these inputs.”

Is the Paris Accord on the same lines as the Kyoto Protocol?

“Yes, at the end of the day they do not touch the root of the problem and they keep on seeing how to carry on giving excuses, as happened with the Kyoto Protocol: 15 years after its approval, after the urgency is announced, and they accept a reduction of 5% in greenhouse gases not after those 15 years, but 15 years further on – that is absurd.

“Then, that 5% I am not even going to reduce; I am going to look at how I can compensate for it. I continue producing tons of CO2, but I can buy the Costa Rican jungle, the environment services, which may breathe 10 tons. So the contamination balances out to zero: here I produce 10, there I breathe 10; I buy breath and we give carbon credits or elegantly a green economy.

“The same is happening in all of the Conferences of the Parties to the Framework Convention of the United Nations on Climate Change (COP) that there have been. It’s not been anything other than keeping on postponing and postponing without getting to the heart of the problem.”

What is at the heart of the problem?

“We have to change the paradigm of the system; we have to stop it at the source of climate change and that does not mean only this atrocious capitalism, but also the pollution generated by the most developed countries: between 60% and 66% of greenhouse gases that affect warming of the planet.

“We have to stop it and, as Berta said, there’s no time left. She said a lovely phrase: “wake up humanity”. I believe that the problem is systemic, it is planetary and we have to become aware of the necessity to change this paradigm of development.”

©2015 Semanario Universidad. Derechos reservados. Hecho por 5e Creative Labs, Two y Pandú y Semanario Universidad.

Reproduced here by kind permission of Vinicio Chacón.

International Human Rights Clinic submits brief addressing environmental and human rights violations in Belize

Included here is a blog from Santa Clara Law’s International Human Rights Clinic.  They submitted a brief in support of BELPO’s Petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. I am grateful to Chloe Tomlinson for permission to reproduce the blog entry in The Violence of Development website.

By Santa Clara Law student Chloe Thomlinson and Prof. Francisco Rivera

On June 13th, 2018, Santa Clara Law’s International Human Rights Clinic submitted an amicus curiae brief before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of communities affected by the construction of the Chalillo Dam in Belize. The brief addresses novel legal issues and provides the Commission with a unique opportunity to further develop the human rights obligations of States and businesses in the area of environmental harms caused by large development projects.

Chalillo Dam in Belize.

 

Fourteen years ago, the Belize Institute of Environmental Law and Policy (BELPO) submitted a petition before the Commission alleging human rights violations caused by the approval, construction, and operation of the Chalillo Dam in the Macal River basin. Construction on the Dam began in 2002 and was completed in 2005. The petitioners allege the dam was approved in violation of applicable regulations that required, among other things, further studies on mitigation of impacts to wildlife, archaeological ruins, and the environment, as well as publication of required water tests.

People living in the Macal River Basin depend on the river for drinking water, employment, bathing, fishing, and recreation. The dam’s construction has severely damaged the Macal River and caused major, irreversible, negative environmental impacts, destroyed unique and critical habitats, and submerged unexplored Mayan archaeological sites, which are of cultural importance to the Mayan communities in the region.

On October 27, 2015, the Commission declared this petition admissible and a decision is pending on its merits.

The Clinic’s brief supports the petitioners’ allegations and argues that:

(1) Belize violated the human rights to life, health, and water by contaminating the communities’ water and food supplies and by making clean water economically inaccessible to them;

(2) Belize violated the right of access to information by failing to comply with public awareness requirements under the dam’s environmental compliance plan, provide adequate responses to requests for information, and offer an effective mechanism to guarantee the right to access information;

(3) Belize violated the right to work by negatively impacting tourism, fishing and farming in the Macal River Valley, and

(4) Belize violated the right to access to justice and judicial protection by failing to provide an effective recourse to address violations of the dam’s environmental compliance plan.

Clinic students Susan Shapiro, Chloe Thomlinson and Kyle Heitmann interviewing a local business owner in Belize.

 

Five Clinic students worked on the brief during a year-long process that included a fact-finding trip to talk to affected communities in the Macal River in Belize. “Interviewing the affected community members in Belize was an exceptional experience;” said clinic student Chloe Thomlinson, “it made the issues we were discussing all the more real and significant”. Students canoed down the Macal River with affected community members who described the negative effects the dam had on the river and on their livelihoods. Some community members, including children, developed skin rashes and stomach problems due to the contaminated water. For the community, the Macal was more than just a river; it was where they grew up, made memories, and worked, and it was a source of food and clean water.

The Clinic’s brief aims primarily to support and supplement the remarkable work that the petitioners and local NGOs have done to seek reparations for the damage done by the construction of the dam. Additionally, the Clinic expects the Commission to develop clear language on the relevant obligations States and businesses have in the area of economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights, particularly in the context of large development projects that contaminate rivers and cause harm to rural and indigenous peoples.

Read the amicus brief on Chalillo Dam in Belize.

http://law.scu.edu/ihrcblog/international-human-rights-clinic-submits-brief-addressing-environmental-and-human-rights-violations-in-belize/

Major types of Public-Public Partnerships (PUPs)

  • Partnerships between two public authorities
  • Partnerships between public authorities and communities (and/or NGOs as well as with trade unions)
  • Development partnerships (with an international dimension)
  • International associations

Source:
David Hall, Jane Lethbridge and Emanuele Lobina (2005) ‘Public-public partnerships in health and essential services’, Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU), London.

The Mayan resistance to private concessions of rivers sees some light in Guatemala: Review of ‘Let’s Free Our Rivers’ by Madre Selva

Published on 14 March 2018 by ACAFREMIN (Central American Alliance Against Mining).

We are grateful to ACAFREMIN for permission to reproduce the article here.

Translated by Pamela Machado

The Guatemalan ecological group Madre Selva recently published a book narrating the resistance of the Q’eqchí Mayan communities from Santa María Cahabón, in the northern department of Alta Verapaz, to the Oxec and Oxec II hydro-electric projects.

The book, entitled ‘Let’s free our rivers’ and edited by researcher Simona Violetta Yagenova, aims to inform the Guatemalan population about opposition to the ‘privatisation of the rivers’, emphasising the process of ‘defence’ by surrounding communities to stop the development of projects along the Cahabón river and its tributary, the Oxec. The book, supported by the Hienrich Boll Stifting Foundation, brings a historical analysis of the ‘social fight’ against hydro-electric projects.

Both projects belong to the Energy Resources Capital Corp group, registered in Panamá, and they received definitive authorisation to operate from the Ministry of Energy and Mines on 7 August 2013 and 12 February 2015 for Oxec I and Oxec II, respectively.

The investigation narrates how, from 2012 to 2015, the population of Santa María Cahabón had suffered from assassinations and evictions of community settlers, as well as the imprisonment of some of their leaders who opposed the installation of the two projects.

The movement grew from an extensive defamation campaign, which included the criminalization of one of the directors (Bernardo Caal, detained on 5 February [2017] for supposedly committing the offenses of illegal detention and robbery), charges orchestrated by the ‘corporate’ and ‘local powers’, with the connivance of the Executive and Judiciary bodies

Photo credit: latrillamediosindependientes.blogspot.com

The Cahabón river, which is 19,596 kilometers long and spans across the north and east of the country, is made up of over 50 rivers and streams, among those the Oxec,

Canlich and Chiacté, where six hydro-electric plants are currently operating: the Renaces I, II, III and IV (owned by Multiinversiones Corp), the Oxec I and II and the Chichaic.

The construction of many dams, says the document, “seriously changes the fluvial ecosystem” around the riverbeds, “destroying habitats, modifying the flow and changing the basic water parameters.”

After a detailed analysis of the different actions, previous consultations, support and resolutions by the Constitutional entity – that in May allowed the hydro-electric station to continue working despite the fact that a prior consultation, based on ILO Convention 169, had not been held – the Madre Selva publication affirms that there were contradictions in the resolution.

The book concludes that doing “community consultations in good faith are mechanisms of social regulation, conflict resolution and decision making that are collectively built.”

Last December [2017], the Guatemalan Chamber of Industry celebrated the end of a community consultation process led by the Ministry of Energy and Mines, between September and November in 11 neighbouring communities, where they supposedly reached agreements that were then transferred to the Supreme Court of Justice. However, this process was criticised by activist groups like Madre Selva.

When presented with the results, the Minister of Energy, Luis Chang, said that the agreements delivered to the Supreme Court focus on establishing “relationships in an atmosphere of harmony”, and that the company will comply with “environmental mitigations during and after the construction and operation of the project.”

That is a statement opposed by the book ‘Let’s Free Our Rivers’ which holds that the Guatemalan state has historically “deprived the local people in successive historical periods under the flag of development and progress.”

While the Oxec I and II hydro-electric plants are expected to generate around 100 MW per year, hundreds of people and activists warn that the project has left 50 communities without water.

El Salvador urged to declare environmental health emergency in Jiquilisco Bay

By Stephanie Williamson, ENCA Newsletter No.54, November 2011

The southern zone of Jiquilisco Bay has become the country’s priority concern for human health and environmental protection due to critical levels of contamination in the watercourses and saltwater mangrove swamps. A year ago health authorities were alerted to very high incidence of kidney disease, following a survey conducted by Cuban renal experts. The survey found that 11 out of every 100 inhabitants in the Jiquilisco and Bajo Lempa areas suffer chronic renal health problems and that the incidence is particularly high among men. This compares with an incidence rate of 2 per 100 in other countries. There are suspicions that the problem may be related to contamination of water sources, including wells, by insecticides and herbicides used in cotton production decades ago. The Mayor of Jiquilisco has called for the government to declare the zone a state of emergency so that all relevant government agencies prioritise efforts to address the health problems.

The Salvadoran Waterworks Board and the Ministry of Environment are working together to provide clean drinking water as a first step. Locals are demanding a water treatment plant to be set up as they fear that many of the artisanal wells used by rural communities may be contaminated.

The Jiquilisco Bay is one of the jewels of El Salvador’s ecological crown, providing home to over 1,500 species of animals and plants, and serving as an important wetlands for migratory birds. The Bay and its 18,000 hectares of mangroves, the most extensive in all Central America’s Pacific coast, have been declared an international RAMSAR site and Biosphere Reserve. José Acosta from the Salvadoran Centre for Appropriate Technology believes the Bay area deserves permanent special attention and should become a fully protected ecological reserve.

An independent Salvadoran research unit has now detected residues of 10 prohibited pesticides in water samples and evidence that empty pesticide drums are being used to store water for drinking purposes for humans and cattle. The expanding sugarcane cultivation is being blamed for a current wave of pesticide contamination, with run-off draining into the mangrove forests. Ecosystem degradation, along with deforestation by the large-scale shrimp farming industry, has led to an 80 per cent reduction in mangroves in recent years.

So far in 2011 the authorities have distributed 4,000 household water filter units and have submitted for presidential approval plans for a larger programme for drinking water supply. The government awaits news of a US$5 million World Bank project to restore ecological health in Jiquilisco and support employment and local fishing livelihoods.


Sources:
‘El Salvador: Bahía de Jiquilisco con residuos de plaguicidas’, La Prensa Gráfica, 7th October 2010.
‘ANDA en busca de solución de corto plazo’, La Prensa Gráfica, 7th March 2011.
‘Pobladores y autoridades preocupados por casos de deficiencia renal en Jiquilisco’, La Pagina.com 8th August 2011.

La resistencia maya a la concesión privada de los ríos ve la luz en Guatemala: Revista de ‘Liberemos Nuestros Ríos’ por Madre Selva

Publicado 14 de Marzo 2018 por ACAFREMIN (Alianza Centroamericana Frente a la Minería). 
Les estamos agradecidos a ACAFREMIN por el derecho de reproducir el artículo aquí.

El colectivo guatemalteco ecologista Madre Selva publicó hoy un libro en el que narra la resistencia de las comunidades mayas Q’eqchi’ de Santa María Cahabón, en el departamento norteño de Alta Verapaz, a los proyectos hidroeléctricos Oxec y Oxec II.

La obra, titulada ‘Liberemos Nuestros Ríos’ y editada por la investigadora Simona Violetta Yagenova, tiene como objetivo “nutrir” a la población guatemalteca sobre la oposición a la ‘concesión privada de los ríos’ con énfasis en el proceso de ‘defensa’ que han realizado las comunidades aledañas para impedir que se desarrollen los proyectos en los ríos Cahabón y su afluente Oxec. El libro, que contó con el apoyo de la Fundación Hienrich Böll Stiftung, realiza un análisis histórico de la ‘lucha social’ de los dos proyectos hidroeléctricos.

Ambos pertenecen al grupo Energy Resources Capital Corp., registrado en Panamá, y obtuvieron la autorización definitiva para operar del Ministerio de Energía y Minas el 7 de agosto de 2013 y el 12 de febrero de 2015 para Oxec I y Oxec II, respectivamente.

La investigación narra cómo desde el año 2012 al 2015 la población de Santa María Cahabón habría sufrido asesinatos y desalojos a pobladores de la comunidad, así como el encarcelamiento de algunos de sus líderes que se opusieron a la instalación de dichos proyectos.

Fotografia por: latrillamediosindependientes.blogspot.com

El movimiento, añade, emergió y se desarrolló a pesar de una extensa campaña de difamación, que incluye la criminalización de uno de sus dirigentes (Bernardo Caal, detenido el pasado 5 de febrero por supuestamente haber cometido los delitos de detención ilegal y robo), orquestada por ‘el empresariado’ y ‘los poderes locales’, con la connivencia de los organismos Ejecutivo y Judicial.

Del Río Cahabón, que cuenta con una longitud de 195,95 kilómetros entre el norte y el oriente del país, se desprenden más de 50 ríos y arroyos entre los que se encuentra Oxec, Canlich y Chiacté, en los cuales operan actualmente seis hidroeléctricas: las Renaces I, II, III y IV (de la Corporación Multiinversiones), los Oxec I y II y la de Chichaic.

La construcción de varias represas, señala el documento, “altera gravemente el ecosistema fluvial” alrededor de los cauces, “destruyendo hábitats, modificando el caudal y cambiando los parámetros básicos del agua”.

Tras un análisis detallado de las diferentes acciones, consultas previas, amparos y resoluciones del ente Constitucional -que en mayo pasado resolvió que la hidroeléctrica podría seguir trabajando pese a no haber esperado a la consulta previa basada en el Convenio 169 de la OIT- la publicación de Madre Selva asegura que hubo contradicciones en la resolución.

El libro concluye que “las consultas comunitarias de buena fe constituyen mecanismos de regulación social, resolución de conflictos y toma de decisiones que se construyen colectivamente.”

En diciembre pasado [2017], la Cámara de la Industria de Guatemala celebró el fin a un proceso de consulta comunitaria que encabezó el Ministerio de Energía y Minas entre septiembre y noviembre pasados en 11 comunidades aledañas, en los que supuestamente se llegaron a acuerdos que fueron trasladados a la Corte Suprema de Justicia. No obstante, dicho proceso no fue bien recibido por colectivos de activistas, como Madre Selva.

Según dijo al presentar los resultados el ministro de Energía, Luis Chang, los acuerdos entregados al poder Supremo se centran en constituir “relaciones en un ambiente de armonía” y que la empresa cumpla con “mitigaciones ambientales durante y posterior a la construcción y operación del proyecto.”

Una afirmación a la que se opone el libro ‘Liberemos Nuestros Ríos’, el cual sostiene que el Estado guatemalteco, históricamente, “ha despojado a los pueblos originarios en sucesivos periodos históricos bajo el lema del desarrollo y el progreso.”

Mientras las hidroeléctricas Oxec I y II guardan la esperanza de generar unos 100 MW anuales, han sido centenares de pobladores y activistas los que advierten que el proyecto ha dejado sin agua a unas 50 comunidades.

The power that makes pitchers overflow and rivers flood their banks

By Erasto Reyes, an organiser, lawyer and member of Bloque Popular, a national mobilising organisation in Honduras.

Extracts from ‘Changing the Flow: Water Movements in Latin America’, a report by Food and Water Watch, Red Vida, Transnational Institute, The RPR Network and Other Worlds, 2009.

We have been working on water since 2000, when we began our struggle against the privatisation of public services – energy and telecommunications. But water has been our greatest focus. Water ignited our struggles in Latin America: the struggles of the Bolivians, the Argentineans, the Uruguayans; the proposals that come out of Venezuela, the experiences in Brazil. These struggles have filled us with hope, and they are why there has been growing popular mobilisation throughout Central America.

… When Central America makes the news, it’s for serious and nasty issues like drug trafficking or natural disasters like Hurricane Mitch. But it doesn’t appear, for example, when in countries like El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and Costa Rica, people are reclaiming the human right to water.

In Central America, we have serious problems with sanitation and water supply. Honduras is one of the countries with the largest water reserves in Central America, but the state has no policies to ensure access to water and sanitation. … Water, from our point of view, is a heritage of humanity just like land.

Water is linked to land, and also linked to health. … You could say that the water wars of South America have arrived at our doorstep. The water war in Bolivia gave us a profound conviction to fight water privatisation. We have gone beyond simply protesting in the streets and are developing alternative proposals to meet the needs of our people. We are expanding the spaces where people can participate politically. … This has allowed the social movement fighting for water to cross borders, to move beyond the limits of our villages and towns. We are seeing this in the determined efforts of every country in South America, in Central America and Mexico, and – why not mention it? – in the United States and other countries as well. The people have governments but, until now, with only a few exceptions, the people do not have power. …

What a law says, what a decree says, what the UN says, or what divine grace says, is not enough. We have to make water a human right. …