9 Nov 2014

Guatemala apologizes to people displaced for dam

Guatemala's president has apologized to 33 communities of indigenous Achi people who were forced to abandon their homes to make way for construction of the Chixoy hydroelectric dam in the north of the Central American country (with funding from the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank).


President Otto Perez Molina (accused of human rights abuses himself) says he asks forgiveness for atrocities and other human rights violations suffered by those communities over the project, which occurred during Guatemala's civil war. Some people were assassinated and others had their land expropriated.

Otto Perez Molina ceremony

The apology was delivered Saturday to a gathering of Achi as officials provided details of an agreement to provide $153.8 million in compensation for the damage inflicted on them. The money will be distributed among the 33 communities over the next 15 years. (Yahoo News)


Chixoy Dam massacres

In 1978, in the face of civil war, the Guatemalan government proceeded with its economic development program, including the construction of the Chixoy hydroelectric dam. Financed in large part by the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank, the Chixoy Dam was built in Rabinal, a region of the department of Baja Verapaz historically populated by the Maya Achi. To complete construction, the government completed voluntary and forcible relocations of dam-affected communities from the fertile agricultural valleys to the much harsher surrounding highlands. When hundreds of residents refused to relocate, or returned after finding the conditions of resettlement villages were not what the government had promised, these men, women, and children were kidnapped, raped, and massacred by paramilitary and military officials. More than 440 Maya Achi were killed in the village of Río Negro alone, and the string of extrajudicial killings that claimed up to 5,000 lives between 1980 and 1982 became known as the Río Negro Massacres. The government officially declared the acts to be counterinsurgency activities - although local church workers, journalists and the survivors of Rio Negro deny that the town ever saw any organized guerrilla activity. (Wikipedia)