PR – 30 Years Too Long to Wait for Justice in Guatemala

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Organizations Call on the World Bank to Delay Loan to Guatemala Until Reparations Are Paid to Communities Forcibly Removed by Chixoy Dam


Berkeley, US: Thirty-four organizations from around the world call on the World Bank to delay its vote on a $340 million loan to the Government of Guatemala until long overdue reparations are paid to communities that were terrorized by the army. In 1982, the Guatemalan army forcibly displaced Mayan communities to make way for the construction of the large-scale Chixoy Dam, killing 444, including 107 children and 70 women. The vote on the World Bank development policy loan to Guatemala is scheduled for June 4. 

The Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam was constructed during the height of Guatemala’s civil armed conflict in the 1980s. 33 Maya Achi communities were forced from their homes, and their lands were flooded. The community of Rio Negro was the site of five massacres, including the March 13, 1982 killing of 107 children and 70 women. The World Bank continued to provide loans for the Chixoy project despite evidence of violence and forced relocation. The final death toll was 444.

The United Nations Truth Commission found the massacres were directly related to the dam.

“Guatemala has ignored its contractual obligations to those whose lives were destroyed by the Chixoy Dam for over 30 years,” said Annie Bird, co-director of Rights Action.

After 5 years of negotiations, a reparations plan was signed between Guatemala and community representatives in 2010. The World Bank, Organization of American States, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the United Nations were observers of this process. The reparations plan, however, was never implemented and communities forced into extreme poverty have not recovered. 

Carlos Chen Osorio leads a procession to remember victims of the Chixoy Dam massacres.
Carlos Chen Osorio leads a procession to remember victims of the Chixoy Dam massacres.
Photo courtesy of James Rodríguez/

“The World Bank must ensure reparations begin for the survivors of this violent chapter in Guatemala’s history,” said Monti Aguirre, the Latin America Coordinator for International Rivers. “Thirty years is too long to wait for justice for the communities that were forcibly displaced by the Chixoy Dam and for the many lives lost.”

“The government is mocking our communities; there is no political will to repair the damages done,” says Juan de Dios Garcia of the Coordinating Committee of Communities Affected by the Construction of the Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam (COCAHICH). “The World Bank continued to fund this destructive project and turned a blind eye to inaction. It seems that human rights don’t matter to the World Bank.”

In a letter to the World Bank Executive Directors, the organizations call on the Bank to “make it clear that the World Bank takes compliance with its safeguards and respect for fundamental human rights seriously by instructing staff that the Board will not be able to review loans to the government of Guatemala” until reparations are legally formalized and are paid to communities.

“It is time for full implementation of the 2010 plan to restore dignity to the affected communities and support long-term sustainable development,” said Kelsey Alford-Jones, executive director of the Guatemala Human Rights Commission. “We must ensure that such egregious violations never again happen in Guatemala in the name of development.”

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