On August 6, PBI-Guatemala posted: “PBI accompanies the Retalhuleu Community Council (CCR) on a visit to Comunidad 20 de octubre where they discuss the problem of river pollution and lack of access to electricity.”

The Retalhuleu Community Council, made up of more than eighteen communities of Mam, K’iche’ and Ixil peoples, seeks “the transformation from an agricultural model of exportation to a model of food sovereignty, which would place respect and recognition for Indigenous identity at the center.”

On the issue of access to electricity, Prensa Comunitaria has reported that several communities around Champerico “have declared themselves in resistance, due to the high energy charges that the company Energuate.”

PBI-Guatemala has also reported on: “The adverse effects caused by the expansion of monoculture sugar cultivation and the use of large-scale agrochemicals and pesticides used by sugar mills in the region. In recent years there has been drought and contamination of wells, rivers and lagoons, as well as the destruction of livelihoods, causing lack of access to water and health problems such as malnutrition and respiratory and kidney ailments.”

In the photo, the brigadista can be seen distributing copies of PBI-Guatemala’s Bulletin No. 44. That bulletin includes an article on pages 9-12 titled: The sugar business in Guatemala: Sweet profits for exporters, bitter impacts for communities.

Violations of the right to water

That article notes: “Sugarcane production uses large amounts of water. Studies have shown that the mills use any and every means to guarantee their water supply, including diverting rivers and drilling wells for which they have not carried out adequate environmental impact studies.”

“This intensive agriculture which, striving for maximum economic yield, makes use of polluting products (insecticides, herbicides, and products that accelerate the process of sugar cane growth), often launched from small planes and which, therefore, also contaminate the population’s water reserves.”

“The scarcity of water due to the drying up of the wells forces women to travel farther (and more often) to collect water, exposing them to the risk of violence (of various types, including sexual violence), and damage to their physical health due to the weight of carrying the water. They are also more exposed to dermatological diseases caused by the toxic agrochemicals which have polluted the water they use for laundry and daily cleaning.”

That article also highlights: “The State has allowed the appropriation of water, due to the in-existence of normative and legal frameworks (water law and/or public policies in this respect) that recognize the right to water as fundamental, and which penalize the pollution, diversion, appropriation, and use of water to the detriment of human rights.”

Significantly, Canada is the largest importer of this export crop.

PBI-Guatemala has accompanied the Retalhuleu Community Council since April 2020.


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