The deforestation practices of the hacienda owners are endangering the watershed’s capacity and, therefore, the food sovereignty and future food supply of nearby communities. Affected communities argue that Montaña Las Granadillas is the main and only water source for the local population.
To cope with these issues, the local population has united and has demanded action from the government to protect the La Montaña. They have also attempted to block the way of legal and illegal logging trucks.
The Association to Protect Montaña Las Granadillas (APMG)
In 2003, the Association to Protect Montaña Las Granadillas (APMG) was created, comprising people from the communities nearby Montaña Las Granadillas, to address diverse problems, such as legal and illegal logging, the use of large private land areas for livestock and monocrops, deforestation and obstruction of access to water sources, among others. Their actions are geared to protect water sources in Montaña Las Granadillas, since they argue that Montaña Las Granadillas is the main and actually only water source for the local population.
APMG's alliances and actions
Since the beginning, APMG has been backed by the Lutheran Church in Guatemala (ILUGUA), and works in alliance with diverse organizations and collectives of the region, taking such actions and initiatives as lawsuits, protests and field visits. As a part of its actions, APMG has blocked the way to prevent legal and illegal logging trucks, and some of its members have been sued for their work to protect La Montaña. In November 2009, the Memorandum of Commitment by Council No. 19 was signed by the authorities and the local population. This commitment contained protection of natural ecosystems for Montaña Las Granadillas, providing for the necessary studies regarding forestry licenses granted previously, to reduce threats to natural ecosystems and biodiversity in Montaña Las Granadillas.
APMG members criminalization
Over time, there has been dialogue among the parties involved in the conflict, including public authorities and private stakeholders, to promote the defense of economic, social and cultural rights in Zacapa and in the region. However, starting in 2010, members of APMG have been threatened and criminalized, with legal accusations and police arrests (GAM, 2011; PBI, 2013). For instance, in early 2010 some members of APMG were sued for their work to protect La Montaña, especially blocking highways. APMG has explained that these accusations are untruthful and baseless and called for them to be corrected.
Human rights protection in question
On 24th of October 2011, at APMG’s request, a thematic hearing with the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IHRC) led the IHRC to issue recommendations for the Guatemalan Government, such as, for example, to declare the area as a Sprint Water Protection Reserve to guarantee the inhabitants’ human right to water. Further, they recommended for the Government of Guatemala to ensure the security, safety and protection of human rights for the communities defending and protecting Montaña Las Granadillas and prohibit clear-cutting, in order to preserve water sources. At the same time, in 2011 a hearing with the Criminal-law Court of Zacapa was held against eight human rights advocates who are defending Montaña Las Granadillas (GAM, 2011).
The APMG was created as a peaceful civil-society movement resulting from deforestation of Montaña Las Granadillas and its impacts on the region’s water resources, and enforcing the human right to water and protesting and appealing to international human rights agencies. Conflict resolution modes have therefore been primarily political and legal. There have been attempts at dialogue between the local population and authorities that have reached no agreements. In 2010, the situation got worse when local residents were threatened through the local media (PBI, 2013). Against this background, the conflict remains alive.