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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Spanish energy corporation behind Guatemala murders

Eight Guatemalan activists who opposed the abuses of Spanish energy corporation
Unión Fenosa have been murdered in the Guatemalan department of San Marcos, near the Mexican border, in the last months, according to Spanish bi-weekly newspaper Diagonal[es].

The first victim was Víctor Gálvez, who was shot 32 times when he left an office where he attended neighbors affected by the activities of DEOCSA, one of the two affiliated companies that Unión Fenosa has in the Central American country, on October 24 2009. Gálvez was member of the Front for the Defense of Natural Resources and the Rights of the Peoples (FRENA).

In December 22nd, the right-wing government decreed the state of prevention (a variant of the state of exception), suppressing in practice civil rights in the department and attempted to criminalize the FRENA. Since then other seven activists have been murdered.

On January 13th Evelinda Ramírez, another activist of the FRENA who had been meeting with guvernamental officers to attempt to clarify the murder of her comrade was shot and killed while driving back home.

On January 29th Pedro García, member of the local workers' union and activist for the nationalization of energy services, was also shot dead a few days after he denounced irregularities in his municipal council of Malacatán.

On February 17th Octavio Roblero, grassroots Catholic, activist of the FRENA and of the National Front of Struggle for the Defense of Public Services and Natural Resources (FNL) and one of the main leaders in the struggle for the nationalization of the energy sector, was murdered as well.

On March 21st three other activists, Carlos Noel Maldonado, Leandro Maldonado y Ana María Lorezo, who fought for the expulsion of Unión Fenosa from the country and the right of the communities to access edible water, were murdered with guns and machetes.

The next day, Santiago Gamboa was killed Army shooting after the citizens had held workers of Unión Fenosa who had arrived to disconnect the electrical supply to the community.

Context of the struggle: mafioso extortion.

The struggle has an old background, dating to the 1990s, when the energy sector was "privatized" under IMF pressure and given in effective monopoly to the Spanish multinational, which, in order to pretend "free market", split its subsidiary in two, one taking charge of the East and the other of the West of the country. A similar procedure took place in Nicaragua, then ruled by the conservatives.

In July 2008, after Unión Fenosa was acquired by Gas Natural, another Spanish corporation, partly owned by La Caixa (a public non-profit Catalan savings bank) and partly by oil giant Repsol YPF (also Spanish), the activist organizations sent an open letter to Spanish NGOs, worker uions and political parties denouncing the abuses by the corporation, among them: illegal charges on electric bills, poor service and collective punishments against the communities that protested by cutting electrict supply.

After a year of payment strike, in December 15th the company cut electric supply to many communities of the department. After a week, water supply was also cut.

This action sparked anger and the communities took to blockade the roads linking to Mexico, as well as organizing demonstrations and assemblies. It was in this context that the government decreed the state of prevention, which has been prorrogated several times and is still in effect.

According to Rigoberto Madriz, member of the political committee of the FLN, since then the hitmen of narcotraffic mafias comb the department impunely blackmailing the people: "pay or we will kill you". The very next day to the declaration of the state of prevention, Unión Fenosa opened a new office just side by side to the home of the main capo of the department, in a building well known to be his property.

After the second murder a new denounciation letter was sent to the Spanish premier Rodríguez Zapatero and the Guatemalan president Álvaro Colom, as well as the directors of Unión Fenosa-Gas Natural and its main shareholders: La Caixa and Repsol YPF.

The only effect so far has been to increase the state terrorism against the people, demonstrating that the Spanish state is again accomplice with corporative crimes and terrorirsm in Latin America.

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