Bernardo Caal Xol is the community Mayan leader of the Cahabón River resistance, located in the northern region of Alta Verapaz, in Guatemala. Bernardo was criminalized and sentenced to more than seven years in prison for leading the process against the hydroelectric companies OXEC and Renace, the last one with capital from Florentino Pérez’s ACS Group.
The OXEC hydroelectric plant, which belongs to the Panama-registered company Energy Capital Corp, was built by the Israeli company Solel Boneh. Likewise, the Grupo Cobra subsidiary of the Spanish construction giant ACS was hired to build Renace, the largest hydroelectric project in Guatemala. Grupo Cobra is responsible for drying up the Cahabón River, where the more than 30,000 people of the Q’eqchi’ Mayan people lived. The channelization of the river for the construction of this hydroelectric power generation complex caused the loss of flow and has left them almost without water.
Bernardo Caal, released after 4 years and 2 months in prison, directs together with the Q’eqchi’ people, a global message, emphasizing that any violation of environmental rights affects not only the territories, but the whole world.
Guatemala, in proportion to its population, is the third country in the world with the most crimes against environmental leaders, after Colombia and Honduras. In Guatemala alone, 11 people were killed in 2021 and 13 people in 2020.