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News > Latin America

Guatemalan Activist Killed Protesting Hydroelectric Project

  • Guatemalan police clashed with environmental protesters, leaving one dead in Ixquisis.

    Guatemalan police clashed with environmental protesters, leaving one dead in Ixquisis. | Photo: Policia Nacional Civil de Guatemala

Published 18 January 2017

A peaceful demonstrator was shot dead during a protest in an Indigenous community.

An activist was killed Tuesday in Guatemala during a clash between protesters and police at a demonstration led by Indigenous community members who oppose the construction of a hydroelectric plant in San Mateo Ixtatan, a municipality in the country's western highlands.

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During a peaceful manifestation against the Pojom hydroelectric plant, 72-year-old Sebastian Alonso from Yulchen was fatally wounded by gunshots.

According to activists in the area, armed paramilitary groups serving the company or state security forces opened fire on demonstrators and injured protesters.

The police said that criminal groups infiltrated the protest and burned down heavy machinery owned by the company running the hydroelectric plant project.

Guatemala's Popular and Social Assembly, or ASP, condemned the attack against Chuj and Q'anjob'al Indigenous groups in Ixquisis, in the western state of Huehuetenango.

"The population of San Mateo Ixtatan has repeatedly expressed concern and disagreement over the development of the hydroelectric project to different municipal and state authorities. However, there was never an answer," said ASP in a statement.

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The Indigenous rights organization demanded that the government of Guatemala avoid confrontation with the groups that expressed their rejection of the project in a previous plebiscite.

Near Huehuetenango and throughout Guatemala, there are several extractive and infrastructure projects being carried out against the will of the communities, which are criminalized and repressed.

"Residents warn that tension will continue in the area because the company seeks to provoke a new confrontation among locals, or with security forces, which is why residents fear other sad events," said the statement.

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