Blog | Criminalization and violence in natural resource conflicts in Guatemala | By Elisabet Dueholm Rasch

July 4, 2012 (Santa Cruz el Quiché). The CPK (K’iche Peoples Council) is attacked by armed individuals during a peaceful manifestation, saying they are looking for Lolita Chávez, environmental human rights activist.

September 18, 2015 (Sayaché, Petén). Rigoberto Lima Choc, environmental activist, is shot dead in front of local court house.

July 22, 2016 (Guatemala City). Seven ancestral authorities from Santa Eulalia who were detained because of their advocacy against two electric power dams in their community, are released from prison after sixteen months of detention.

Violent past, violent present

The above cases are exemplary for conflicts over natural resource extraction in Guatemala (and Latin America in general) today. Whereas the Guatemalan government advocates large-scale ‘development’ projects such as open-pit gold mining and hydroelectric power dams, people that live on or near proposed extraction sites, often value their land as indigenous territory, as part of their livelihood, in terms of biodiversity and as combinations hereof. There is a growing, well-organized, multi-scaled resistance towards such ‘megaprojects’. At the same time the use of penal law and anti-terrorism legislation as a way of disqualifying social protest increase, as do human rights violations and violence in conflicts over megaprojects. Activists are portrayed as ‘against development’ and their resistance is treated as a threat to internal security. Acting up as citizens, they are turned into criminals.

….Read the rest of this blog here.