Paula Garcia Tufro

Paula (ADVIMA, Guatemala): Paula was studying for a Master’s degree in the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown, at the time of her fellowship on Guatemala. Her full name is being withheld at her request.

First Few Days at ADIVIMA and in Rabinal

30 May

First impressions, Day 1 at ADIVIMA:

I arrived in Rabinal on Wednesday with no contact info other than that I would be working at ADIVIMA. Soon after I checked into my hospedaje (pension) someone from ADIVIMA came by to get me. Bekki, from Rights Action, had called after dropping me off at the bus station to let them know I was coming and had no contact info and did not know where the office was. I got there and Don Juan was in a meeting. I waited.

He seems a little surprised at the sight of me there as if he did not know what to do with me. He tells me that that Don Carlos Chen is who I needed to speak to. He was not around. I waited for about an hour I was told that he would be back after lunch. So I wandered off, walking aimlessly around the town still with no contact info or point of reference. I came back shortly before 2. He was not there. After waiting for a while I was told that in fact he was in Cobán, a town northeast of Rabinal which is probably 3 hours away, and he would not be back until the afternoon. I was to return at 5.

So I went back on my way, walked around some more and eventually ended up back in my pension. I found my room, and particularly my bathroom, to have a serious mosquito infestation problem. They offered to fumigate and apologized for giving me that room as apparently the better rooms were all booked.

I returned to ADIVIMA, and after waiting for a while, Don Carlos finally returned. In the meantime, I was given some background reading on the Coordinadora de las comunidades afectadas por la construcción de la hidroeléctrica Chixoy (COCAHICH) (Coordinator), it´s forming and purpose.

The Coordinadora de las comunidades afectadas por la construcción de la hidroeléctrica Chixoy (COCAHICH) led a protest on September 7 and 8, 2004 in order to present their demands for damages they have suffered based on their own story and investigation of the events occurred, damages suffered, and shortcomings on the part of the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank in terms of their initial promise regarding compensation and relocation, as a re-vindication of the indigenous and rural communities that were affected.

The government interpreted this protest as a violent and subversive act instigated by foreigners, resulting in the demand for an order of capture of the leaders of the protest. (My direct supervisor, Carlos Chen, being one among those included on that list)

I met with Carlos for about 5-10 minutes. He did not give me any better sense as to what I would be doing or any other information. We decided I should return in the morning. Day 2 at ADIVIMA

Rose early, by 6, as the roosters had by then been up and vociferous for a while! I arrived at the office at 8, and met with Don Juan and Don Carlos to discuss how I could help them and try to determine what my role and responsibilities should be. Again, we discussed somewhat abstract things including several forums and meetings that are being planned in the longer-term, but did not get much closer to a work plan.

They discussed having me put together a proposal for the two Forums against Dams, and for Life, Communities and Water, planned for mid-October, after a brief 5 minute chat. I explained to them that I was happy to help but would need more information on what the forum is about before I would write a proposal about it, but got little in terms of additional information in return. I continued reading a report created last year by Monti and Barbara Johnston regarding the damages caused on the communities affected by the construction of the Chixoy Dam. After that I decided that despite feeling hampered and frustrated by the lack of knowledge on the topic, I would give the proposal a first rough go at it.

I wrote out an objective, goals/purpose, some additional concerns, and listed the participants based on my brief conversation with Don Juan and Don Carlos. In the meantime, Carlos and Juan held a meeting with a group of women from some surrounding villages. I did not take part in their meeting, but joined the group for lunch. The women were very welcoming and invited me to join them for lunch.

By the afternoon, I had reached a dead end on the proposal so I called Rights Action in Guatemala City to try to reach Annie. To this point I had not spoken to or met Annie, who seems to be the one and only person that works on this project with the Chixoy Case and thus my only source of information.

I was eager to have finally found her and to gain as much information as possible and advice! I once again found it hard to get information from Annie. Much to my relief, she mentioned that there are several proposals that have already been created for the October Forums and promised to send them along.

My job on this proposal will thus be to share the existing proposals with Juan and Carlos and edit the existing documents based on their comments, which seems like a much more attainable goal. She also mentioned that I might be able to work with Rolando, who works for Rights Action, on some additional investigations that he has been doing on the affected communities below the Dam, who no longer have any access to water and who were formerly excluded from last year´s study of the affected communities.

This would give me an opportunity to leave Rabinal and visit some of the affected communities outside of the town. I would be helping him redact/synthesize his findings. She also mentioned the lack of communication and collaboration that exists between Rolando and ADIVIMA, which became apparent to me immediately upon arrival when I asked about Rolando, and no one seemed to know who he was or what he was doing.

In theory, Rolando should be working in conjunction with ADIVIMA, and they should be kept up to speed as to the status of the work he is doing with the affected communities. In practice, each has worked independently of one another operating under a certain level of disinterest and mistrust. One of my goals will also be to facilitate a meeting between Rolando, and the people here at ADIVIMA as a first step towards the establishment of a cooperative relationship.

I met some of the forensics experts working with ADIVIMA on an exhumation in the nearby locality of Guatipilín and spoke to them about heading out to the site where they are excavating what they think was a mass grave containing approximately 6 people in the coming days. Thus far they had not reached actual evidence based on witness accounts, but the trip out to the site will be well worth it in order to watch the work the work that they do in the field.

Posted By Paula Garcia Tufro

Posted May 30th, 2005

Enter your Comment


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *