Yesterday, Breaking the Silence signed on to a letter along with international and national organizations to express our concern at the repression suffered by community members in the Micro Region of Ixquisis, Huehuetenango. Community members were protesting the presence and construction of a hydroelectric dam in their community, owned by Promoción y Desarrollos Hídricos, Sociedad Anónima (PDH, SA). In an attack, 72 year old Sebastián Alonso Juan was shot and later died from his injuries. 

BTS staff had the opportunity to participate in a verification mission in April 2016 to the Mirco Region of Ixquisis, where community members spoke strongly of their opposition to the project and the repression they had faced by company forces.  To read the report back from the Caravan to Northern Huehuetenango, click here. 

Repression of communities defending their rights in the Micro Region of Ixquisis, San Mateo Ixtatán, Huehuetenango

Today, January 17, 2017, the communities of the Micro Region of Ixquisis, San Mateo Ixtatán, Huehuetenango, who defend human rights, their territory, life and natural resources, carried out a peaceful protest to express, once again, their rejection and disagreement with the construction of hydroelectric projects owned by the company Promoción y Desarrollos Hídricos, Sociedad Anónima (PDH, SA)

Months before this protest, the communities had made various efforts before the municipal, departmental and national authorities to express their disagreement over the diversion of the rivers Yalwitz, Pojom and Río Negro by the company PDH, S.A. These projects were authorized despite various anomalies, such as the use of explosives, without authorization from the Ministry of Defense, and the promise of providing electric power to the population.

The peaceful protest was taking place without incident, when all of a sudden, at approximtly 14:00,  armed men, who were hiding behind bushes, fired against the demonstrators. They wounded 72 year old Sebastián Alonso Juan, a neighbour of the community of Yulchen Frontera. After four hours of agony, Sebastián Alonso Juan passed away without receiving any medical attention.

In addition, there were reports of the burning of machinery on the company premises around the same time, similar to what occurred in 2014. The circumstances of the incident are unclear.

Very concerningly, these acts were carried out amidst a strong presence of public security forces; at that time, there were three vehicles in the Micro Region with military personnel, their faces covered with balaclavas, as well as six patrol cars of the National Civil Police with approximately 60 personnel.

Faced with this new repressive act, the signatory organizations demand:

1. An investigation, as soon as possible, into the murder of Mr. Sebastián Alonso Juan, to find who is responsible.

2. That the Human Rights Ombudsman (Procuraduría de Derechos Humanos) officially carry out a verification mission of the continuous violation of human rights. This request was made by the communities of the Micro Region of Ixquisis in April 2016 and have not received any response to this demand.

3. That international organizations and institutions form a verification commission looking at the situation of human rights violations in the Micro Region of Ixquisis.

4. In addition, that the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights be applied, including a monitoring and sanctioning of those companies that operate with international funds and where human rights violations occur.

5. That the international community denounces the human rights violations described in this statement to the international financial institutions that invest in the three projects of the company PDH, S.A.

6. To the authorities of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and those of the Ministry of Energy and Mines, to take into account the different anomalies that have prevailed in the licenses granted. This includes the use of public domain goods without consulting the communities, to which the State is bound, according to international treaties.

7. An immediate end to the process of criminalization against communities that defend human rights, life, and natural resources.

8. That the will of the communities, who are exercising their right to defend their territory, be respected, in terms of:

– Immediate cancellation of the construction licenses for the Pojom I-II and San Andrés hydroelectric projects.

– That the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Defence immediately carry out an in-depth investigation aimed at identifying the responsibility of the National Civil Police and private security agents at the service of the PDH company. S.A. as well as the involvement of military elements in this new aggression against community members and human rights defenders.

– To withdraw, as part of the investigation process, both the military detachment and the substation of the PNC of the Ixquisis Micro Region, for having demonstrated in this latest act of repression, and that its presence does not contribute to peace and harmony in this Micro Region.

Guatemala, January 17, 2017



Asamblea Departamental de Pueblos de Huehuetenango, ADH

Asociación Civil El Observador

La Unidad de Protección a Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos- Guatemala -UDEFEGUA

Protection International – PI

Red de Solidaridad Rompiendo el Silencio, Maritimas de Canada- Guatemala

Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala – NISGUA

SweFOR – The Swedish Fellowship of Reconciliation

Guatemala Human Rights Commission – GHRC