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Peaceful Resistance of La Laguna challenges deforestation in Guatemala

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Peace Brigades International (PBI) notes, "Yesterday [January 24], PBI-Guatemala accompanied the Peaceful Resistance of La Laguna to a meeting with the Municipal Council of San Pedro de Ayampuc and the National Institute of Forests."

The National Institute of Forests, an agency assigned to the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food, was created by the Forestry Law of 1996 to implement that legislation and administer forest policy in Guatemala.

PBI adds, "Participants sought to reach agreements regarding the issuance of deforestation licences in the area."

Deforestation is a major issue in terms of Indigenous culture, wildlife protection, local and sustainable livelihoods, and climate breakdown.

The Peaceful Resistance of La Laguna was established in the municipality of San Pedro Ayampuc in Guatemala to struggle against the construction of an electrical substation by the Colombian company Transportadora de Energía de Centroamérica SA (TRECSA).

The electricity that would be transmitted via the distribution plant and high voltage power station is intended to power numerous controversial mining projects.

PBI has reported, "The main concerns of the Resistance are possible environmental and health consequences, such as deforestation, the reduction of the amount of water available and the contamination of the water supply with harmful chemicals."

In April 2015, the Resistance established a protest camp in San Pedro Ayampuc. While the company's construction licence was cancelled the following month, it still has licences from the Ministry of Environment and Resources and the Ministry of Energy and Mines.

In an article about deforestation in Guatemala, The New York Times reported, "Cattle ranchers, farmers, illegal loggers and drug traffickers all lay waste to forestland, virtually immune to government efforts to protect it."

That article also noted the role of forest protection in relation to stopping climate breakdown. It notes, "By absorbing carbon dioxide and trapping carbon, forests play a vital role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

As Global Forest Watch has reported, "In 2010, Guatemala had 5.70Mha (million hectares) of tree cover, extending over 52% of its land area. In 2017, it lost 79.7kha (thousand hectares) of tree cover, equivalent to 6.16Mt [megatonnes or million tons] of CO₂ of emissions."

Given there are 100 hectares in 1 square kilometre, 79,700 hectares equals almost 800 square kilometres of lost forest.

Front Line Defenders recently reported, "In 2018, 321 defenders in 27 countries were targeted and killed for their work … 77% of the total number of activists killed, were defending land, environmental or indigenous peoples’ rights, often in the context of extractive industries and state-aligned mega-projects."

PBI started providing protective accompaniment to The Resistance in November 2015 following attacks and threats made against the group.

For more on the Peaceful Resistance of La Laguna, please click here.

Image: Peace Brigades International


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