Clash over development plans leaves 8 dead in Guatemala

September 22, 2014

GUATEMALA CITY – Eight indigenous people have died in a village west of the capital after a clash that saw residents turn guns on their neighbors over plans to build a road and a cement plant.

Interior Minister Mauricio López said the authorities were working to determine what actions will be taken after the clashes that began overnight into Saturday in San Juan Sacatepéquez.

“We need a greater security presence in the area to regain control,” said López, noting that about 600 policemen were deployed in the area where the incident took place.

Several homes and five vehicles were burned.

The conflict escalated because some in the indigenous community are being forced to leave their homes due to the construction, while others have been in favor of the plant and sold some land for the road.

Farming community leader Daniel Pascual told AFP that gunmen had fired on villagers opposed to the project, noting that some of the attackers were employees of the cement company.

In July 2013, Cementos Progreso began work to build a modern plant in San Gabriel for $720 million. It is expected to begin operations in 2017.

However, the project has divided the local population between those who support the company and those who oppose the construction due to fears it will damage groundwater sources and cause other environmental damage.

The area has been prone to conflict in recent years.

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