Dozens of Indigenous Q’eqchi Mayans came from several towns along the Cahabon River, in the northern Guatemalan department of Alta Verapaz, to the capital Monday, to protest against hydroelectric projects carried out by the Spanish group Cobra, owned by Real Madrid's President Florentino Perez.
“Yes to life, no to extractivism!” read the banners as dozens of activists demanded that the courts respect the community’s right to consultation prior to the construction of the projects and that authorities investigate Perez.
Protesters marched to the Spanish embassy, as well as the presidential house, the constitutional court and the Supreme Court.
Indigenous leader Bernardo Caal Xol told reporters that the firm has left about 50 communities without water, whose survival directly depended on the Cahabon River, among many other negative environmental impacts.
Guatemalan firm Oxec, S.A. owns the hydroelectric dams Oxec and Oxec II, which is funded by investments from Panama-Based Energy Resources Capital Corp. The works are carried out by the Spanish company Grupo Cobra, owned by Florentino Perez, the president of Spanish soccer giant Real Madrid.
Florentino Perez visited Guatemala in 2014 to inaugurate the Renace 2 project, also located on the Cahabon River.
Guatemala's' Supreme Court suspended the Oxec I and Oxec II projects on Jan. 17, because local communities had not been previously consulted, and the ruling was upheld again Friday by the Constitutional Court. However, construction has not stopped, said Caal Xol.
Last October, the firm built at least 6 miles of a tunnel, directly affecting the Cahabon River's flow.
The final project is expected to cost about US$270 million and will extend along some 19 miles of the Cahabon River, one of the largest in the country, deeply affecting the lives of 30,000 Q’eqchi people.