Alert: Q’eqchi’ Leader Shot in the Back, 1.000+ Soldiers Attack Community in Wave of Violence Against Indigenous People in Guatemala
November 11, 2016
The Guatemala Solidarity Project (GSP) strongly condemns recent attacks against our partners in Guatemala, including the October 23 attack against the q’eqchi’ communities Nuevo Sebax and Nuevo Seamay, the October 26 attacks against the q’eqchi’ communities Esperanza Tunico, Plan Grande and Rio Sumach, and the threat of attacks against dozens of other indigenous communities in the coming weeks.
On October 23, community leaders Dominga Caal Col, Mario May Maquin and their two children were fired on with rifles while working in the field where they grow their subsistence crops. Caal Col was most seriously injured, as picture above. The GSP and other allies in the area have supported her medical care and we need your donations to continue to provide similar support in our partner communities.
Caal and over 450 families living in the Seamay and Sebax plantations in the municipality of Senahu, Alta Verapaz, in northeastern Guatemala, are organizing to win respect for their legitimate land rights. They have faced a series of threats and intimidation, culminating in this most recent attack. They believe the attack was orchestrated by Benjamin Ponce. Ponce is a wealthy landowner who has been accused of numerous attacks against indigenous communities, as well as drug trafficking and bribery of government officials. The GSP calls for his immediate arrest. We fear that if the wealthy Ponce family is not held accountable these attacks will intensify.
Meanwhile in the nearby municipality of El Estor, over 1,500 Guatemalan police and soldiers and multiple helicopters participated in attacks against the communities Esperanza Tunico, Plan Grande and Rio Sumach. The government labeled the attacks as “evictions.” The illegal “evictions” violated community members right to food, right to housing and right to land. Several people were injured, homes were burned to the ground and two community leaders were arrested. The purpose of the attacks was to clear the land to grow bananas for export.
The communities had been participating in negotiations with the government regarding their right to the land. Instead of respecting the basic rights of the communities and continuing the negotiations, the government chose to use widespread arson and violence. Community members are now living a desperate situation of hunger and displacement.
The communities are affiliated with the Committee of Peasant Unity (CUC for its Spanish acronym), one of the country’s largest and oldest indigenous-led grassroots organizations. CUC leadership is facing escalated repression, including the September 2 attack against national leader Hermelindo Cux at his home and the September 24 arrest of CUC’s South Coast Coordinator Dalila Merida. Even more worrisome, CUC fears that the government is planning dozens of “evictions” of indigenous communities in the El Estor region in the coming weeks.
1) 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 escalated violence against indigenous communities in northeast Guatemala. I know that Benjamin Ponce has been accused of numerous attacks against unarmed indigenous children and adults, including shooting several people in Senahu, Alta Verapaz, on October 23. I know that Ponce has also been accused of drug trafficking and bribing government officials, and I hope that the Guatemalan government will arrest Ponce instead of choosing corruption.
I also know that the Guatemalan government has directly participated in violence against indigenous communities in the region, including the October 26 attacks against the communities Esperanza Tunico, Plan Grande and Rio Sumach. These attacks were labeled evictions by the government, but included firing shots at indigenous people and burning down houses. I demand that the government respect international law and the basic rights of indigenous people and immediately cancel all planned attacks against indigenous communities.
2) Donate to our partners
Donate to the GSP through our website, GuatemalaSolidarityProject.org All donations go directly to our partners in Guatemala. We are in urgent need of funds to support victims of government violence.
3) Join us in Guatemala!
The GSP is organizing a solidarity delegation in January, during which we will build relationships with targeted indigenous communities, leaders and political prisoners. We also have other opportunities available for activists, organizers, teachers, students and community members who will be in Guatemala at other times. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info