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TOPIC: Guatemala's Oxec hydro project: July update
Guatemala's Oxec hydro project: July update 5 months 3 weeks ago #35994
Hello river friends,
I wanted to share some positive developments in the fight against the Oxec dam projects on the Río Cahabón in Guatemala. The fight has continued along the same two primary legal fronts all year: the legal challenge to the project authorizations, and the related issue of a lack of consultation with the local residents. Both are advancing:
* Bernardo Caal, one of the main community organizers, actually won a preliminary injunction in the Supreme Court against the Oxec II project back in April, in the name of the communities. This was a huge victory, as it showed that, despite the power of the business partners, the courts were appalled enough at the irregularities in the licensing process to rule against them. Work was actually stopped at the site in April for a short amount of time. However, the project backers flexed their muscles and had the injunction suspended. The case remains open and the Court has asked for a community referendum (!) to be held.
* Staging the popular referendum has been a battle in itself, the project backers used their leverage with the city council to postpone it, but it has finally been authorized by the mayor/council and will be carried out on July 31! A well-organized referendum will be key to make the communities' intentions clear and binding, and obviously the courts will consider the results important. Here is what the director of Madre Selva wrote me about the upcoming date:
"The referendum will take place Sunday the 31st of July in all 165 communities of Cahabón. Referendum assemblies will be held led by the referendum council which is made up of members of the COCODE (elected Community Development Council). It is hoped that by noon all the assemblies will have voted. The members of the referendum council will take the official results to the county seat (Cahabón town) where the final results will be tallied. The referendum question is: "Do you agree that the water of the Cahabón and Oxec rivers may be utilized for the installation and funcioning of hydroelectric plants in the county of Santa Maria Cahabón, Alta Verapaz department?" "
By the way, they are very confident that the answer will be a resounding NO.
Colectivo Madre Selva, Bernardo, and the other tireless community organizers deserve all the credit for the progress made to date. The support from many of you has been instrumental. Of course a referendum on this scale implies some relatively big costs, which are not included in the budgets of these impoverished communities. More donations are needed and would go directly to the effort to save the River in case you are so inclined. If you are wondering how the $1500 that we have raised so far has been used, CMS was kind enough to send me a simple spreadsheet which I've attached (in Spanish). To summarize: all money has gone to transportation/logistics costs and to the PR campaign (so far the legal costs CMS has had to cover with other funds).
Again, this effort is the best and only hope to stop the Oxec project (and potentially other projects) on the precious Río Cahabón. Thanks for all your support.
To donate (please write "Rio Cahabon Fund" in the transfer notes):
1. Directly to Madre Selva: deposit to "Asociacion Colectivo Madre Selva," quetzal account 017-015960-8 or dollar account 017-010451-3 in Banco Industrial (both are checking accounts), Guatemala (for international wire transfer details click here)
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