From Socialist Voice, November 2010

Democratic vote unanimously rejects exploitation

In late October, Guatemalan citizens in the municipality of Santa Cruz del Quiche, home of the Mayan K’iche, unanimously rejected the exploitation of natural goods and resources, in particular through mining and hydroelectric activities.
     The K’iche claim that the Guatemalan state has not fulfilled its obligations laid out by Convention 169 of the International Labour Organisation in consulting local communities regarding mining in their areas. As a result they decided to carry out their own community consultation process. The K’iche People’s Council (CPK) launched the Community Consultation of Good Faith for the Municipality of Santa Cruz del Quiche. Through municipal act 62-2010, the CPK officially ratified the plebiscite. More than 175 observers from various countries and municipalities arrived to validate the process.
     The consultation was carried out in 93 voting centres, consisting of 87 rural communities and 6 urban zones within the municipal capital. Observers were present at each centre. Unfortunate, but not at all surprising, was the presence of the army at voting centres. It was there to intimidate people in an area where it is known for genocidal massacres. Fortunately, however, local people were not going to allow themselves to miss their chance to have their say.
     In El Tabil the three hundred local residents unanimously rejected all appropriation and exploitation of natural resources in the area. In Las Cafeteras there was an emphatic rejection of the privatisation of water and the construction of hydroelectric dams, as well as the extraction of minerals. In the capital of the municipality also there was a unanimous rejection of the government’s drive for the privatisation and exploitation of natural resources.
     The final result could not have been more conclusive. 98 per cent of adults voted; not one single person out of 27,778 voted in favour of the exploitation of natural resources! Never could a result be clearer: the people oppose the rape of their natural resources.
     As the CPK has said, the vote has shown clearly what the indigenous people in Santa Cruz del Quiche already knew: the people throughout Guatemala and further afield in Central and Latin America are not in favour of allowing national or international companies or individuals to appropriate and exploit their natural resources, water, or forests.
     A member of the CPK, Francisco Osmundo Oxlaj, declared: “The natural resources were plundered and forcibly taken from our ancestors. Now it is our turn to stand up and make sure our will, as original peoples, is respected—even at the price of our own lives. The consultation’s results speak for themselves. We do not want any special privileges. We just want our mountains, rivers, forests . . . and no one is going to take them from us.”

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