Guatemalans protest cement plant

Guatemalans protest cement plant
Published: 27 July 2009

Thousands of Guatemalan Indians and peasants continued Tuesday their peaceful march on the capital to express opposition to mining and to the construction of a cement plant in this Central American country.

Organizers say that more than 10,000 inhabitants of San Juan Sacatepequez, a town 35km (22 miles) from the capital, marched Tuesday through Guatemala City towards the presidential residence.

The outcry against the installation of the Cementos Progreso plant in Sacatepequez began in December 2007 when the first clashes took place, leaving 12 police injured and 17 peasants under arrest.

On June 23, 2008, another big protest was held that left one peasant dead and another 43 under arrest, prompting the national government to decree a state of exception for 15 days to guarantee public safety.

Domingo Hernandez, one of the movement’s leaders, said that their chief demand to President Alvaro Colom, whom they hoped to meet with on Tuesday, is that he stop construction of the cement factory.

“We don’t want more talks, just that he stop the mining and the construction of the plant,” said another organizer, Daniel Pascual, of the Committee of Peasant Unity, or CUC.

Residents of San Juan Sacatepequez oppose the plant, considering that it will harm the environment and could leave the community without water or trees.

But Environment Minister Luis Ferrate said Tuesday that the Cementos Progreso company has complied with the environmental impact study and will cause no harm with the construction of the plant, which is planned to produce 2.2 million tons of cement per year.

The $690 million plant is being built some 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the center of San Juan Sacatepequez.

At the same time as the massive march on the capital, hundreds of Indians and peasants blocked several stretches of highway in western Guatemala on Tuesday to demand an end to mining operations in their localities.

The organizations warned Tuesday that if the government does not respond to their demands, they are ready to mobilize more than 75,000 peasants in the next few days to block the nation’s highways.

Deputy Energy Minister Alfredo Pokus said Tuesday that the administration is open to dialogue and regretted that the peasants had adopted such measures. EFE
 
Source: Latin American Herald Tribune