The 6th of June marks the first anniversary of Group Olmeca, a notorious palm oil giant, polluting significant Guatemalan waterways when its effluent ponds overflowed into the Pasión River, causing massive fish-kills and impacting the lives of 12,000 people that live and rely on a 100-mile stretch of the river in the Sayaxche region of Guatemala.
This international pariah’s actions have received global attention due to the extreme measures that have been taken by its subsidiary, Reforestadora de Palma de Peten SA (REPSA). Shortly after local communities and environmental groups begun publicly denouncing the pollution of the waterways and taking legal action, one human rights defender, Rigoberto Lima Choc, was murdered and three others––Mr. Hermelindo Asij Mo, Mr. Lorenzo Peres Mendoza and Mr. Manuel Perez Ordonez––were kidnapped.
Rigoberto Lima Choc, an Indigenous activist who fought against the environmental pollution that was taking place in his area, was shot and killed outside of a courthouse in Sayaxche, Guatemala. Image and description via trueactivist.com
The escalating violence by corporations active in Guatemala and other Latin American countries, including Honduras, has triggered increased global media attention and the formation of international alliances of NGOs. These alliances are standing in solidarity with activists on the frontlines, and include NGOs like Rainforest Action Network, Friends of the Earth USA, ActionAid, and the Guatemala Human Rights Commission-US. Despite this increased attention and the success of recent court cases, including one that ordered REPSA to suspend its operations, the company continues to operate.
A breakthrough is desperately needed.
It is clear that in order to end the killing and violence activists are facing in Guatemala, Grupo Olmeca needs to be held to account by its customers in the global palm oil market. Six months ago, a coalition of international NGOs called on major palm oil traders that source from Grupo Olmeca––namely Wilmar, Cargill, IOI, ADM and Bunge––to publicly denounce the use of violence by Grupo Olmeca and cancel contracts with this controversial supplier, as it is in breach of their palm oil sourcing policies.
It is simply unacceptable that none of the major traders have stopped sourcing from this bad actor, responsible for such egregious human rights violations and the destruction of the environment and livelihoods.
Every day that these palm oil traders delay taking action is another day that activists remain at risk.These palm oil traders are also undermining the reputations of their customers, such as the Snack Food 20. Join RAN, Friends of the Earth and others as we stand in solidarity with frontline activists and demand an end to the violence. Palm oil produced by Grupo Olmeca must be cut from global supply chains.
Don’t let Group Olmeca hide its crimes––share this story on social media now to help expose the truth.
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