Take Action: Indigenous Community Leader Arrested in Guatemala
October 2, 2016
The Guatemala Solidarity Project strongly denounces the arrest yesterday of Maria Cristina Chun Ac and calls for international solidarity to pressure for her release. Chun Ac is a nonviolent organizer and community leader whose only “crime” is defending the legitimate rights of her community against the interests of a wealthy landowner. She is from Rincon de San Valentin, located just outside of Purulja, Alta Verapaz. Chun Ac and others in her community are the children of people known in Guatemala as mozos colonos, who are basically indigenous Maya serfs who lived their entire lives on a large plantation and exchanged work for the right to plant on their boss’s land, without any financial compensation.
As the children of mozos, Guatemala’s law permits them the right to stay on their land, with a certain amount of space to plant their basic staples, corn and beans. But in San Valentin and on three other nearby properties, the land owner is doing everything in his power to steal their agricultural fields and force these communities to disintegrate and leave – including burning of corn crops, direct violence and falsified legal charges.
Chun Ac is accused of a series of crimes, including aggravated robbery and stealing land. GSP has been accompanying San Valentin and El Mezcal, an adjacent community defending their rights against the same landowner. Please take a moment to watch the 8 minute video alert from June of 2015 in which Chun Ac tells the story of her previous incarceration for made-up charges, which she eventually settled after 40 days in jail and a “fine” of Q10,000, with the charges being dropped.
Guatemalan justice is exactly that absurd – the rich can easily throw the poor in jail where frequently their best option is to accept a deal by paying off some powerful interests. Now she faces a new round of expensive legal challenges and GSP will be helping her with financial support as the new legal case develops. Maria Cristina is only one of 30 people from her community that has a current arrest warrant, all with the same falsified charges.
If you would like to join us in providing direct financial support to Maria Cristina Chun Ac and other courageous community leaders like who are facing incarceration or medical trauma as a result of their fight for their land and survival, please contribute through our website. Also please consider joining our list of monthly donors, as this helps us to expand the number of people that we can support for the duration of their sentence or to take care of chronic health issues. We are a volunteer-run organization and all donations go directly to our partners in Guatemala.
1) Sign the petition demanding justice for Rincon de San Valentin at https://www.change.org/p/president-jimmy-morales-justice-for-indigenous-maya-community-rincon-de-san-valentin-in-guatemala?recruiter=2164483&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink
3) Join us in Guatemala to work in direct solidarity with Maria Cristina Chun Ac and other indigenous peasant leaders. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
4) Contact your nearest Guatemalan Embassy or Consulate.
Sample message to the Embassy of Guatemala in Washington, DC:
My name is _______________ and I am contacting you regarding the October 1, 2016 arrest of Maria Cristina Chun Ac of Purulja, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. I understand that she is an indigenous Maya community leader who is organizing nonviolently to ask the government to respect her community’s right to land. I am extremely concerned to hear that Guatemala continues to deny basic rights to indigenous people. I request that Chun Ac be immediately released.