The struggle to preserve forests, peoples and territories

Alfonso Morales Jimenez from the Colotenango community Guatemala. Photo: Conor Ashleigh


“We the Mayan people for hundreds of years have been preserving our forests.”

“But today, sadly, we see a situation where corporations want to have access to our forests where the Indigenous People live and without any prior consent or consultation they come and displace communities and take over our forests.”

“Among the threats that we face today are mining, especially from Canadian companies, also hydro power projects, dams that are damaging our rivers and also roads. A gigantic road project is currently displacing community by taking over hundreds of hectares of forest in the north-west of the country.”

“The type of campaigns we see from the mining corporations are that mining is going to end all poverty in the region, it doesn’t pollute, it is no problem, forests can be re-forested, there will be no sickness, there will be jobs for everyone … this is what they are saying to sell the projects to the government and then the government move the communities out of the land.”

“What have we done to defend ourselves? We have carried out all sorts of activities. First and foremost we have worked to revive the unity of the Mayan people. In order to struggle against all of this we have carried out a true community consultation in all our communities. But we still see the threats, we see leaders being bought, others leaders are threatened, some are kidnapped. Communities are being threatened by the corporations sometimes through the army, sometimes through paramilitary organisations.”

“We have carried out to date 40 different processes of consultation on different issues like mining, hydroelectric dams, oil and all types of mega-projects. Something that concerns us is that the Ministry of Mining in Guatemala does not recognise our consultations at all and that is really deeply shocking. To date with our consultation over 800,000 people have clearly said NO to these types of projects.”

“It is not that we are against development, because we are not, it is just we are against development based on mining, based on logging, based on oil and these those sort of things. Development must happen based on the culture of the people living on the land.”

“Listening to the other comrades here I understand they face similar situations. At this meeting of Friends of the Earth we are here to enforce the unity of the Peoples that come from Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia Pacific. We must all come together and speak with one voice to ensure that the governments in our respective countries respect the rights of our communities.”

– Alfonso Morales Jimenez, from the Colotenango community Guatemala