More than 60 communities spanning across the southern Mexican state of Chiapas and Guatemala have voiced outrage over a hydroelectric project that threatens to displace them, the Mexican daily La Jornada reported Saturday.
The Boca del Cerro dam is one of five hydroelectric projects planned for the waterway that straddles the border between Mexico and Guatemala. Leaders from community organizations, including groups in Chiapas aligned with the Zapatista army, have spoken out against the dam that is already under construction on the Usumacinta River.
At a forum for resistance and community alternatives in Chiapas on Saturday, community leaders warned that the dam threatens to “immediately disappear the community of San Carlos Boca del Cerro,” La Jornada reported.
“The government will not compensate us for our land, it will increase the cost of living, and it will disappear us as Chol and Tzeltal Indigenous people of the region,” movement representatives added in a statement about their concerns over the impending but unwanted development.
Without the approval of local affected communities, the Boca del Cerro project violates the International Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, known as ILO 169, which enshrined the right of Indigenous peoples to free prior and informed consent for all development on their traditional territories.
Representatives said that their communities will fight to stop the construction of the dam to halt a possible eviction from their land and to protect their right to self-determination against the whims of corporate interests.
The groups gathered also expressed solidarity with Honduran movements in mourning over the assassination of environmental activist Berta Caceres, renowned for her resistance against unwanted hydroelectric projects on Indigenous land, and reiterated demands for her murderers to be brought to justice.
According to researchers, some 200,000 people have been displaced by the construction dams across Mexico, while advocacy groups warn that the country’s new water law will only continue to make the situation worse. Many of Mexico’s 4,462 dams registered in official records are in Indigenous and campesino communities.
Resistance against dam projects also takes a heavy toll. Since 2005, over 40 activists fighting to defend rivers have been killed in Mexico, Central America and Colombia, according to GeoComunes.
Among those killed in connection with dam projects in the past decade, at least eight were killed in Mexico and 13 in Guatemala.