Dispute over Guatemala’s Pojom hydro project sparks violence

A dispute over the construction of the 25-MW Pojom hydroelectric project has left at least two people dead and several injured, local media have reported.

The project, which includes the Pojom 1, Pojom 2 and Bella Linda components, is being developed by Producciones de Desarrollo Hidrico (PDH), which awarded a contract to Spain’s Hidralia Energia to design the trio of plants in 2011.

The development is part of the Plan Pueblo Panama, which was unveiled in 2005 as roadmap for economic development in Central America.

Opponents of the plan say about half of the 39,000 residents living in the area around San Mateo Ixtatan rejected plans for the projects in 2009, and that consultation has been ignored by Guatemala‘s Ministry of Energy and Mining. Groups also said the developers have exploited the region’s poverty through manipulation, graft and promises of power for the general population.

The region is also home to a number of indigenous groups, including the Maya Q’anjob’al, Akateko and Chuj, who claim they were not included in PDH’s initial consultations with affected communities.

Unidentified members of the opposition are now being blamed for the death of Mateo Alonzo, 40, who is reported to have been kidnapped and found dead from gunshot wounds earlier this week.

Nicholas Francisco, 16, was also shot during a dispute between the two groups and later died in a hospital. Three others were also reported injured during the fight.

Sources said about 150 gunmen forced their way into a Pojom work camp in May and set worker accommodations on fire.

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Michael Harris formerly was Editor for HydroWorld.com.

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