Justice for the victims of Guatemala’s Chixoy Dam massacre

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By Gary Wockner

After decades of work and struggle—and with support from Global Greengrants Fund and other international nonprofits—the villagers near the Chixoy Dam have finally received partial reparations for their loss.

La PrensaOn October 15, 2015, the Guatemalan government handed over the first check to Teodora Chen (pictured), a survivor of the 1982 Chixoy massacre.

The check from the Guatemalan Vice President was the first of over $20 million that will be given to members of 33 affected communities, who were murdered, exploited, or displaced by the dam project.

In 2014, Guatemala’s President, Otto Perez Molina, asked the communities’ forgiveness for the government’s role in the social, cultural, and environmental destruction caused by the Chixoy Dam (pictured).

Global Greengrants has made $37,500 in grants since 2001 to a handful of groups working to get justice and reparations. Our most recent grant went to the Association for the Integral Development of the Victims of Violence in the Verapaces, Maya Achi (ADIVIMA) in 2013. The grant helped community leaders travel to Washington, D.C., to meet with policy makers and development-bank officials.

The meetings helped generate pressure by the U.S. Congress and the World Bank—which originally funded the Chixoy Dam construction—on the Guatemalan government. International pressure was key to pushing the government to agree to implement the reparations plan, negotiated in 2010.

But here’s the bad news: Even after all the struggle and a semblance of justice moving forward, ADIVIMA’s leader has been forced to flee Guatemala. As the criminalization of environmental activists increases in Guatemala and around the planet, he and his family have been targets of threats as a result of his activism.

“This reparations victory in Guatemala must be amplified because it symbolizes the problems facing indigenous villagers and activists around the world,” said Terry Odendahl, President and CEO of Global Greengrants. “We will remain as vigilant as possible in Guatemala to support local villagers and activists, and we will continue to support fights for environmental rights and justice everywhere our resources allow.”

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Photos: Tico Times / Orlando Sierra CFP, La Prensa, INDE / CC BY-SA 3.0

Global Greengrants Fund

Global Greengrants Fund

Global Greengrants Fund believes solutions to environmental harm and social injustice come from people whose lives are most impacted. Every day, our global network of people on the frontlines and donors comes together to support communities to protect their ways of life and our planet. Because when local people have a say in the health of their food, water, and resources, they are forces for change.