Published February 22, 2018 | Version v1
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Water for energy or for life: processes of social and environmental destruction because of hydroelectric plants in Guatemala (in Spanish)

  • 1. National Autonomous University ofMexico, Mexico City, Mexico


In Guatemala, the exploitation of water for social purposes is marked by processes of economic development that benefit the ruling classes and foreign capital over the interest of the common good. State policies focused on increasing the country’s energy potential through hydroelectric plants, have implemented exclusionary strategies leading to the increase of social conflict. The scenario in which hydroelectric projects are developed is characterized by extreme corruption and violence towards the population. The tendency of the Guatemalan state has been to favor the interests of the industry and stop social mobilizations that reject hydroelectric projects. A repressive policy has been exercised with authoritarian resources such as the state of siege and violent evictions in a context of criminalization, defamation, and persecution against those who oppose the projects.


This article has been published as part of Volume 4, Number 4 of the WATERLAT-GOBACIT Working Papers (

This is the first issue developed by members of the WATERLAT-GOBACIT Network’s Thematic Area 10, Water and Violence ( It is based on papers first presented at the session “Water and violence: scenarios and manifestations in Latin America”, during the Network’s VIII International Meeting, that took place in San Jose, Costa Rica, on 3-7 April 2017 ( The papers are the result of ongoing research covering cases from Argentina, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico, which exemplify the wide range of forms of violence being exercised against local communities, mainly related to the rapid expansion of extractivist activities including large-scale open cast mining, building of large dams for hydroelectricity or the territorial spread of hydrocarbon production through new technological developments, among other. The papers provide supporting evidence for the increasing claims made in the relevant literature showing that violence is too often the result of a connivance between governments, extractivist industries and organized criminal gangs, which account for the considerable number of people being tortured, disappeared or even murdered in Latin America for defending their territories, natural resources, and living conditions. The authors also address successful cases of community resistance against the violent expropriation of their territories and living conditions, which are imposed on them by aggressive neoliberal reforms that are highly undemocratic and regressive in socio-economic and political terms.



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