Guatemala: Agrofuel company represses Indigenous communities

Issue 

Rights Action calls for protests against Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) policies that fund agrofuel monoculture.

The IADB is promoting and funding agrofuel monocultures across Latin America. This is being done under the bank's Sustainable Energy and Climate Change Initiative, even though agrofuel monocultures are clearly unsustainable and make climate change considerably worse.

US$3 billion of loans are under preparation. In January, the IADB announced a $400,000 grant to the government of Guatemala "to develop a technical and regulatory framework to spur investment in domestic ethanol and biodiesel production."

Agrofuel expansion in Guatemala is linked to human rights abuses, to indigenous peoples' loss of their land and rights and to serious environmental destruction.

One of the sugar ethanol companies in Guatemala is the agribusiness firm Ingenio Guadelupe. For the past three years, it has been deforesting large areas of land and planting for sugar cane ethanol in an area known as Finca Los Recuerdos. Indigenous farmers are strongly opposed to the invasion of their territory and the environmental destruction this causes.

On June 30, 60 Keqchi families tried to recover some of the land and re-plant it. They were attacked by paramilitary security forces associated with the company. They were shot at from a helicopter, hospitalising one protester.

The following day, the families and representatives of the farmers' organisation CUC held a peaceful protest that was again attacked by paramilitaries, joined by two Ingenio Guadelupe managers. Shots were fired, death threats issued and two women were unlawfully arrested.

In Coatepeque, oil palm expansion for biodiesel is causing pollution and desertification. There have been attacks against the sons of a CUC National Committee member in this region and one CUC member has been assassinated.

These events are emblematic of what is happening across Guatemala, where the government acts in complicity with large landholders and agribusiness to illegally obtain land belonging to indigenous communities, and where violence, committed by paramilitaries or even by State security forces is used to evict communities.

Rights Action is calling for the IADB to immediately suspend all support and funding for agrofuels in Guatemala. It has appealed for concerned people to sign a letter of protest to the IADB. To add your signature, visit ;http://www.regenwald.org.