Aug 192010
 

Excerpt from Guatemala’s Indigenous Women in Resistance: On the Frontline of the Community’s Struggle to Defend Mother Earth and her Natural Assets 2010
Authors: María Giovanna Teijido and Wiebke Schramm, Peace Brigades International

Full Report here

This report attempts to follow up on another one published by PBI in 2006 on the impacts of mining operations in Guatemala, providing a broader perspective that includes other business activities to exploit natural resources in Latin American countries such as Guatemala, and specifically addresses the reality of Guatemalan indigenous women in this regard…

 The Guatemalan government has favored the exploitation of natural resources by private enterprise in the country, by contrast with initiatives in other Latin America countries to preserve and recover those resources for local benefit under the control of the people. The Guatemalan government more often approves such mega-projects against the will of the people who are directly affected by them. According to information available on the website of the Ministry of Energy and Mines, about 400 mining permits were granted in 2009, 15 hydroelectric plants are up and running, and there are 20 more in the planning, most of which are ready to start up, for a total of 35. In addition, there are monoculture projects for the growing of oil palms, maize and sugarcane.

Indigenous peoples have consistently opposed these projects and megaprojects and have expressed that opposition in many forms over time. The key issue has always been the aforementioned cosmovision and territorialism of the indigenous peoples, which are necessary for their survival as a people. Given the transcendence of the territory and its natural assets, this issue is always on the agendas of indigenous civil society coalitions at the Latin American and international level, as well as organizations at the local and community level…

In this context, indigenous women have played and continue to play a very important role. One particular case that has drawn a lot of international attention was that of eight Maya Mam women accused in June 2008 of aggravated encroachment to cause damage to power cables supplying electricity to the Marlin mine, owned by the company Montana Exploradora de Guatemala S.A., a subsidiary of the Canadian company Goldcorp. The arrest warrants against these residents of San Miguel Ixtahuacán (San Marcos) remain in effect. San Miguel Ixtahuacán is one of the towns most affected by gold mining in Guatemala. One of the accused women told PBI that she decided to interfere with the electrical wires passing through her property several months after asking the company to remove the utility pole from her land…

The report begins with a general explanation of the reality of women in Guatemala, followed by case studies which attempt to highlight the involvement and the organizational efforts of women in their communities. Later, we include an example serving as an illustration of the problem in an international context, the emerging opposition and the impacts of these mega-projects, which have been denounced by civil society organizations. Finally, we explain some of the obligations of state institutions, as well as private domestic and international interests, as well as some recommendations made to them by the organizations and communities we interviewed for this report.

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