Guatemala's Santa Eulalia municpality has filed an appeal to cancel the license for the San Luis Hydroelectric project, granted by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN), because the local Mayan Q'anjob' people were not properly consulted.
In a hearing on Thursday, prosecutor Etel Judith Rodas explained how the MARN, siding with the San Luis project, published an edict in a newspaper rather than conduct a proper consultation. Lawers are now demanding the magistrates grant the appeal and revoke the licenses of the Cinco M company.
The MARN approved the Environmental Impact Study without taking into account the municipality, which was ignored during the process. Mayor Diego Pedro Domingo, who is filing the appeal, said the municipality has no record of the legal processes regarding the project.
During the hearing, Cinco M's representative remained silent, but the firm's lawyer Carmen Mesa Rodas demanded the appeal be rejected.
Lawyer Sonia Marina Gutierrez Raguay, from the Asociation of Mayan Lawyers of Guatemala, said Cinco M broke the law by falsifying the consultation. According to the project records, the company carried out a poll instead of a consultation, questioning 15 people who weren't even from the Santa Eulalia municipality, but from Barillas.
The community of Santa Eulalia, northern Huehuetenango, is opposing the hydroelectric project on the Ibal river partly because the electricity generated would be exported, instead of being made available for local consumption.
The municipality, known as Jolom Konob' in the Q'anjob'al Mayan language, is mostly inhabited by Indigenous Q'anjob'al Mayans, a group spread through several municipalities and across the border with Mexico.
The Plurinational Ancestral Government has demanded the Guatemalan State cancel every hydroelectrical project in northern Huehuetenango.
Local resistance has led to the criminalization of community leaders opposing large-scale projects carried out without their consent, with more than 20 such leaders arrested in recent years.