FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Juan de Dios Garcia, firstname.lastname@example.org
Heidi McKinnon, email@example.com
THE ASSOCIATION FOR THE INTEGRAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE IN THE VERAPACES, MAYA ACHÍ
Communities Affected by the Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam Sign Historic Political Accord for Reparations with Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom Caballeros
November 10, 2008 Rabinal, Guatemala- After months of stalled political negotiations with the Office of Vice President of Guatemala, the Coordinator of the Communities Affected by the Construction of the Chixoy Dam (COCAHICH) and the office of President Álvaro Colom Caballeros have signed a new agreement for the recently failed negotiations on reparations to continue. The new accord will end on June 30, 2009, the result of a long, patient struggle by the displaced communities to open a dialogue with the Guatemalan government regarding the disastrous effects of forced displacement and human rights violations that occurred and have left them in extreme poverty.
With the signing of this new political accord, the communities, the government of the Republic of Guatemala, and the Organization of American States (OAS) mediators have proposed to facilitate and accelerate the verification process and design a plan for reparations during the next seven months. Yesterday, President Colom stated, “I appreciate the patience and assistance of all parties and hope that this proceeds well. We would like to move this process forward with more than simply signatures and make sure it does not slow down.”
By signing the new accord, the government of Guatemala and President Colom assume responsibility to offer reparations for the damages and violations that occurred during the construction of the Chixoy Dam. This accord signals the first time the Guatemalan government has acknowledged that these damaging events took place. “Twenty-five years after Chixoy was built, we now expect to see concrete results and reparations for all of the damages and violations in 2009,” a representative of COCAHICH said.
Official negotiations between the Republic of Guatemala and COCAHICH began in December of 2004, following a non-violent takeover of the Chixoy Dam by hundreds of community activists in September 2004. After the signing of two preliminary agreements to study the case in 2005 and 2006, the Vice President of the Republic of Guatemala, Dr. Rafael Espada, and representatives of COCAHICH signed a political accord on March 17, 2008 to negotiate reparations for the damages which occurred during the construction of the Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam, which was built by the National Institute of Electrification (INDE).
Since March 2008, representative from the OAS, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Guatemalan Human Rights Ombudsman, or PDH, have served as international observers for the reparation negotiation process. The process stalled in late October 2008 due to a perceived lack of will on the part of the Vice President. For COCAHICH, “the political negotiation collapsed and the process needed to be restructured.”
All parties involved understood the dire political and economic consequences of a failed negotiation, as the next step in this case would be to send it to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The grave human rights violations which occurred during the construction of the dam caused forced displacement and resulted in five genocidal massacres in which 444 men, women and children were killed. According to a recent COCAHICH census, over 13,000 people in 28 communities have been directly or indirectly affected by Chixoy Dam, many of whom are still living in poverty following their forced displacement.
Posted By Heidi McKinnon
Posted Nov 21st, 2008