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  HOME | Central America

Guatemalans Protest Property Seizures to Build Power Lines

GUATEMALA CITY – Thousands of peasants gathered in this capital on Thursday to protest what they see as violations of their property rights in a plan to expand Guatemala’s electric grid.

The National Coordinator of Peasant Organizations called the demonstration to persuade the Constitutional Court to nullify a 2013 government order declaring the Electric Transmission Expansion Plan, or PET, a matter of “public necessity.”

With the public necessity designation, people along the route of the wires can be compelled to cede land for the project.

The government order “violates the ancestral right over property,” attorney Ramon Cadena said before the Constitutional Court on behalf of more than two-dozen communities and residents associations.

His clients “do not oppose development, but rather the model that authorities are trying to impose on them” without any prior consultation, Cadena told Efe.

The PET initiative is envisioned in a law that dates from 1996, National Electric Energy Commission head Jose Herrera pointed out Thursday.

Begun in 2010, the $374 million grid expansion is being carried out by a subsidiary of Colombian firm Energia de Bogota.

“This project will allow us to have more energy to reach places that don’t have this service, above all at cheaper prices,” Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina said recently of the PET venture.

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