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Chixoy Struggle for Reparations. Photo by International Rivers (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).
The Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam, a project financed by the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in the 1970s and ‘80s in Guatemala, led to the forcible displacement and deaths of thousands of people across the region. Despite a 2010 agreement to provide reparations for the victims, they have yet to be compensated more than thirty years later. The 2014 US Consolidated Appropriations Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama on January 17, makes strides toward obtaining redress for the victims by instructing the US Executive Directors of the World Bank and the IDB to regularly report on how their institutions are implementing the 2010 agreement.
The 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act (page 504) directs “the United States executive directors of the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank to report to the Committees on Appropriations… on the steps being taken by such institutions to support implementation of the April 2010 Reparations Plan for Damages Suffered by the Communities Affected by the Construction of the Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam in Guatemala.”
Built during the outbreak of civil war in Guatemala, the dam displaced over 3,000 Maya Achi indigenous people and was the trigger for further violence. When people refused to be relocated, the military government massacred some 440 indigenous people in the village of Rio Negro in 1978, and the project led to the death of over 5,000 across the region. Survivors of the violence that was caused in large part by the Chixoy Dam filed petitions with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights demanding reparations and holding the World Bank responsible for the violence. In April 2010, the “Reparations Plan for Damages Suffered by the Communities Affected by the Construction of the Chixoy Dam” was agreed upon and signed by all parties, but the government of Guatemala refused to make the plan legally binding.
Provisions in the Reparations Plan include:
- Allocation of US$ 154.5 million in compensation for damages and losses to the communities affected by the Chixoy Dam
- The construction of 191 homes in the community of Paxus and repairs to 254 homes in other communities; improvements to roads, water and sewage systems, and other urgent infrastructure projects
- An apology by the president of Guatemala, and access of the communities to documents in the Historical Archive of the National Police
- An integrated watershed management plan for the Chixoy Basin
Resources:Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014. Reparations Plan for Damages Suffered by the Communities Affected by the Construction of the Chixoy Dam. (Plan de Reparación de Daños y Perjuicios Sufridos por la Comunidades Afectadas por la Construcción de la Hidroeléctrica Chixoy.) Reparations Due For Chixoy Dam Atrocities. International Rivers.