Chixoy Peaceful March for Reparations

Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Maya-Achí children at Chixoy Dam Reservoir
Maya-Achí children at Chixoy Dam Reservoir
Monti Aguirre

Thousands of Chixoy Dam affected people held a peaceful march on March 17 in Guatemala City to protest the government's delay in signing an executive order that would make binding a Reparations Plan for communities. The landmark agreement to give communities reparations for their losses was signed by the government in 2010. 

The Chixoy Dam struggle dates back to the 1970s when construction started on the Chixoy Dam, and the lives of the Maya-Achi indigenous peoples were utterly transformed. Displaced, impoverished and disrespected, the communities endured unthinkable hardships in the middle of a civil war. More than 400 of their women and children were massacred because of their opposition to the dam, and the project left them landless and without income or livelihood. Despite the circumstances, the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank financed the project to the tune of $400 million.

For decades, communities have bravely demanded that their dignity be restored, and since the late 1990s have been working to obtain reparations for their losses. A long negotiations process between communities and the government produced a Reparations Plan that was signed in 2010 and includes the following provisions:

  • US$154.5 million in compensation for damages and losses
  • Construction of 191 homes, repair of a further 254 homes, and improvement in roads, water and sewage systems, and other infrastructure projects.
  • An apology from the President of Guatemala to affected communities and,
  • Preparation of a watershed management plan for the Chixoy Basin establishing an ecological flow, and guarantees of minimum water quantity and quality.

Communities are protesting because the government still needs to make the reparations plan binding and ensure its completion. It is expected that the World Bank and the Inter-American Bank will finance part of the plan involving compensation and the integrated economic development of communities. Communities say that they will take their case to international courts if the government continues to drag its heels.