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The Chixoy Dam and the Achi Maya: Violence, Ignorance, and the Politics of Blame

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Abstract

In early 1980, a campaign of terror was waged against Maya Achi living in the community of Rio Negro. The campaign coincided with construction of the dam across the Rio Chixoy. The project was deeply flawed on many counts, and a connection between the project, the Guatemalan National Electrification Institute (INDE), and acts of terror has been firmly established. Project documents do not suggest that international financial institutions, consultants, and contractors played a direct role in the terror, but they do reveal a profound multidimensional ignorance about the meaning of place for Maya culture and economy on the one hand, the civil war unfolding in the area, and the evolution of Guatemala’s predatory state. The project process as it evolved in the post-Bretton Woods world made inscrutable what in retrospect seem like obvious and highly problematic contextual issues. Did project funders and contractors have an obligation to consider these issues? And, if so, did they have an obligation to base their decisions to continue funding or withhold funding this information?

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2006-12

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Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies

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Achi; Maya; Accountability; Guatemala; International Finance; Social Issues; Representation

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Government Document

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report

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