|Justice delayed 30 years in Guatemala|
Over 440 men, women and children were massacred to make way for the Chixoy Dam - a World Bank and IADB project.
Last Modified: 04 Jan 2012 12:38
Springfield, Massachusetts - On the morning of March 13, 1982, 10-year-old orphan Jesus Tecu Osorio woke up in his rural Maya Achi village of Rio Negro, Guatemala, with the crushing burden of satisfying the most basic needs of survival for himself and his siblings. A month earlier, his parents, along with 70 other Rio Negro villagers, were killed by Guatemalan soldiers and civil defence patrollers from the neighbouring village of Xococ.
By the end of that harrowing day, Jesus had witnessed the brutal slaughter of 177 women and children. Jesus was "spared" to serve as a conscripted servant for one of the paramilitary members who massacred his community, including his two-year-old brother who was yanked from his arms, garroted and smashed into rocks as Jesus watched in horror.
The Rio Negro massacres were among hundreds committed during Guatemala's internal conflict, in which the majority of over 200,000 Guatemalans killed or disappeared by the military regimes were unarmed indigenous Mayan civilians. The United Nations-sponsored Truth Commission concluded that in certain Mayan regions, including the Chixoy Dam area, the Guatemalan government committed genocide.
Resistance is futile
The US possesses the highest percentage of World Bank voting shares, over 16 per cent, which combined with the shares held by Western Europe and Japan (which routinely vote with the US) comprises a majority of votes. Given this allocation of power, the World Bank's policies often reflect the economic priorities of the wealthier donor governments and not necessarily those favoured by the poor recipient communities in which the projects are based.
Despite credible evidence of egregious human rights abuses, the banks continued their unconditional support for the project. The World Bank made its final investment in the project in 1985, long after the massacres silenced the village of Rio Negro. At best, the banks were willfully and intentionally blind to state repression before, during and after the project; at worst, they were complicit in these atrocities.
Justice for Jesus?
Despite the history of human rights abuses and poorly administered forcible displacements associated with its various hydroelectric projects, the World Bank has argued that its Articles of Agreement, which predated various human rights instruments, does not require consideration of human rights in its funding decisions.
Lauren Carasik is a Clinical Professor of Law and the Director of the International Human Rights Clinic and the Legal services Clinic at Western New England University School of Law.
Grahame Russell is a human rights lawyer and co-director of Rights Action, a Canadian NGO engaged in community development, environment and human rights work throughout Central America.
The views expressed in this article are the authors' own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.