Of course, no-one in Carmelita could show me the statues of either the logging cooperative or ASTUNAC. On my request a lawyer friend in Guatemala City is currently looking into the legal situation of these organizations. The following press release can be found on the internet:
“In 2006, Global Heritage Fund opens the first Mirador Community Visitors Center and water system in Carmelita, gateway village to the Mirador Basin, with FARES and APANAC.”
Well, it seems like that is the official version, with GHF investing quite a few thousand dollars into this center with no follow-up, no plan of further operation. I have seen the center when it was functioning, probably for about a year. By 2008 the exquisitely designed garden had fallen into disrepair, with the cabins all shut down, the two huge satellite dishes (internet) rusty with their cables all removed. Today the whole place is in shambles, the garden is overgrown, the cabins all gone, the kitchen torn down, it does not receive any visitors any more. Apparently, the original house GHF renovated belonged, and still belongs to the mother of Carlos, from ASTUNAC. But here things get a bit messy. GHF funded the project to benefit the logging cooperative, at that time known as the only legal Carmelita cooperative representing the community, but Patricia and Carlos (legal members of the community and the logging cooperative) were appointed as managers. This probably pissed off the family of the logging cooperative, so they backed out, and started their own little project of undermining the services offered by the GHF-APANAC-FARES visitors’ center. Anyway, the contract between the owner of the building and GHF expired in April, 2010, and Patricia and Carlos are busy moving out of the place and building their own hostel and travel center from private funds on their property, on the left side of the road as you enter Carmelita (right beside the Centro de Salud, another seemingly abandoned building). The logging cooperative in the meantime is constructing a huge complex on the outskirts of town, and judging by the style and quality, with the aid of foreign money and expertise. When I asked a member of the family running the logging cooperative about the situation, they gave me no comprehensible explanation, telling me everything was all right and the community is 100% in agreement of everything happening around tourism services in Carmelita.
Carlos and Patricia, in the meantime, call the logging cooperative and CONAP (?) a family mafia, violating their own statues by excluding anyone from Carmelita who is not their “friend”. What really happened is anyone’s guess, but a fact that I confirmed through several independent sources is that Carlos, Patricia and their friends and family haven’t had a group of tourists since end of October, 2010, and before that only a few per month. While, if you visit Carmelita any day, there will be at least one group of foreigners arriving to make the hike to El Mirador with guides from Carmelita. According to Carlos, all this started when Henry Sanchez, from Onca Travel was killed in 2007. Henry was in a close business relationship with Carlos, they shared all the trips between themselves.