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Guatemala: Environmental Activists Kidnapped in Palm Oil Region

teleSUR | September 2015

​Three members from the Guatemala’s Council of Displaced Peoples, CONDEG, were kidnapped on Thursday in the palm oil producing town of Petén.

Local human rights organization, UDEFEGUA, issued a press release Thursday denouncing inaction on the part of local authorities following the disappearance.

“We reiterate and demand immediate action by the authorities to ensure the security, life and physical integrity of the human rights defenders,” the statement read.

Police officials have not identified any suspects or persons of interest involved in the incident.

According to local media reports, the kidnappers are demanding the reversal of a Guatemalan court ruling, which ordered local palm oil manufacturer Repsa to temporarily halt its operations due to unethical environmental practices.

The decision was handed down Wednesday after local residents filed legal motions against the company for contaminating drinking water and endangering protected species along the La Pasión River.

Last June, heavy rains caused a holding pond containing chemicals to overflow into the river, marking the second time in two years that communities in northern Guatemala have seen large scale fish die-offs in their rivers.

Water pollution is a major environmental problem associated with palm oil production, according to labor watchdog Verité.

The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources recently concluded that the La Pasion River had been polluted with malathion, an agricultural pesticide.

The court ruling, however, angered some local residents who depend on the company for work. Repsa employs more than half the local population and the majority of jobs center around the palm oil industry.

Guatemala has become the ninth largest palm oil exporter in the world, and the second largest palm oil exporter in Latin America.

September 19, 2015 - Posted by | Environmentalism, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | ,

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