Guatemalan Campesinos Take Over Energy Plant

September 10, 2004

SAN CRISTÓBAL VERAPAZ,Guatemala – After a seven-hour occupationof the country’s main hydroelectricpower plant, a group of some 2,000campesinos on Tuesday night began negotiationswith the Guatemalan government,rights leaders and representatives of theNational Electricity Institute, according tothe Guatemalan daily La Prensa Libre.The campesinos are demandingindemnification for land expropriatedfrom them in the 1970s to build theChixoy hydroelectric dam, 75 miles northof Guatemala City. The campesinos wererelocated to new land, but claim their newplots are inferior in quality.The government, meanwhile, claimsits priority in the negotiations is therelease of two dam technicians who weretaken hostage during the Tuesday afternoonraid.According to a spokesman from theNational Electricity Institute, thecampesinos were trying to force the techniciansto close the dam’s gates, whichwould cut off 35% of the Guatemala’senergy.President Oscar Berger lamented thetaking of the dam, but said his governmentis willing to listen to the demandsand respond according to the law.The Chixoy plant has been operationalsince 1983.

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