We celebrated our 30th anniversary 2015! In honor of this milestone, we profiled 30 remarkable leaders who have partnered with AJWS to build a better world. These are but a few of the thousands who have raised their voices worldwide with our support, changing the lives of millions for the better.
Carlos Chen Osorio
Seeking justice for bloodshed in the name of development
After the Guatemalan military massacred his wife and children and hundreds of other Maya Achi civilians in 1982 to make way for the Chixoy hydroelectric dam, Carlos Chen Osorio vowed to seek justice. Justice for the murder of his family and thousands of other civilians. Justice for the destruction of his ancestral farmland, drowned by the dam’s floodwaters. Justice for the thousands of survivors—Carlos included—whom the military forced out of their homes and plunged into lasting poverty.
“The water is filled with the tears and blood of our people,” Carlos said.
With support from local and international allies like AJWS grantee RedLAR (The Latin American Network Against Dams and for Rivers, Communities and Life), survivors like Carlos have spent decades advocating for reparations and official recognition of the killings. In the 1990s, they pushed Guatemala’s new government to exhume mass graves and investigate the crimes—a success that has allowed Maya Achi families to hold long-delayed funerals for people who disappeared during the massacres.
In the past few years, Carlos and other activists joined forces with RedLAR’s network of human rights advocates and communities harmed by dam projects throughout Latin America, generating international attention for their story and putting pressure on the Guatemalan government to take action.
In November 2014, their tireless advocacy and organizing led to a historic result: Former Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina publicly apologized to the survivors of the Chixoy massacres and officially promised more than $150 million in aid and reparations for their communities. Now, Carlos and his peers are working to make sure that the government makes good on this promise so that the communities of Maya Achi can prosper and the families of those massacred can obtain some measure of justice.