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Who Stole the Water: Water, Security and U.S. Foreign Policy in Guatemala

Water is a relatively ungoverned resource in Guatemala. No centralized governing body or legislation exists to manage water, and many rural communities believe the government is turning a blind eye while their freshwater resources are stolen and poisoned by special interests. Commercial plantations, mining operations, and hydropower projects generally have priority access to freshwater resources, jeopardizing rural livelihoods. Rural populations already enduring systematic exclusion are left even more vulnerable and poor, and some are responding by organizing, protesting, or migrating. Water management is the key to addressing many problems in Guatemala and in Central America. Eduardo Stein, the country’s former vice president, has said, “Water security can be a privileged means for promoting democratic governance, strengthening food security and environmental resilience, and reducing agricultural and energy risks. Moreover, water governance and management must be considered fundamental elements of a security strategy.”