Freedom and Land for Some, Repression and Displacement for the Majority

December 25, 2015

The GSP would like to thank all of you who have taken action in solidarity with us and our partners in recent days and years. Your actions have helped bring about two major victories for our partners this month: heroic indigenous peasant leader Manuel Choc Xol was released from prison, and 81 q’eqchi’ families were given land titles by the Guatemalan government!

We celebrate these great victories which will have an immediate positive impact on the lives of hundreds of individuals. However, Choc’s release comes as other indigenous activists like Pablo Sacrab remain in prison and hundreds of leaders in our network face arrest warrants on fraudulent charges. The land titles given to 81 of the families located in the Polochic Valley which were attacked by the Guatemalan military are a significant victory, but over 500 of the families which had their homes and crops destroyed remained landless. Not coincidentally, the government released statistics from its most recent National Living Conditions Survey, showing that poverty has increased from 51.2% to 59.3% and extreme poverty from 15.8% to 23.4%.

Manuel Choc Xol is Free!

In April of 2015, hundreds of Guatemalan soldiers attacked the Q’eqchi’ peasant communities Sesajau and Nueva Vida in northeast Guatemala, burning down homes and destroying crops. Choc had recently represented the community Nueva Vida in negotiations with the government. As we have seen too often, the government responded to Choc’s leadership by targeting him for arrest shortly after the eviction.

Choc spent eight months in prison despite having committed no crime. During this time the government invented various false charges against him. His charges included land usurpation and aggravated robbery. He is an innocent man, guilty only of speaking out courageously in favor of indigenous rights.

Throughout Choc’s time in prison, the GSP visited him each month to provide him with moral and financial support.  We also organized calls to the Guatemalan Embassy in the United States.  Choc was finally released from prison on December 13, 2015.  We hope he takes some time to recover psychologically and be with his family, but we believe it won’t be long before he returns to organize to recuperate and defend Mother Earth.

The community Aj Ralch´och Cotoxha II is given title to their land!

On December 10, 2015, the 81 families that make up the indigenous q’eqchi’ community Aj Ralch´och Cotoxha II were officially given title to their land.  They had been among the over 800 families violently attacked in 2011 as seen in this seven-minute video:

After the attacks, the communities organized nonviolently to pressure the government to recognize their basic rights.  The government and multinational corporations responded with violent repression, including murdering community leaders and throwing grenades from helicopters at community members.  More details about the communities’ efforts and our work in solidarity with them can be found here.

With the support of the GSP and other solidarity groups, 800 families took their grievences to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.  The court ruled in their favor, placing protective measures in support of the families.  On March 27, 2012, the historic Indigenous, Peasant and Popular March reached Guatemala City after hundreds of miles of walking.  On that same day the government promised to give land to all of the families that had been attacked.  With the victory of Aj Ralch´och Cotoxha II, 221 of the families which were violently and illegally evicted have now been given land.  That means that over 550 families remain landless over three years after the government promised to give them land.


Call the Guatemalan Embassy in the US and request the immediate release of indigenous Q’eqchi’ political prisoner Pablo Sacrab

Call the Guatemalan Embassy in the United States at 202 745 4953. Sample message: “My name is _________ and I am calling to request the immediate release of political prisoner Pablo Sacrab Pop. Sacrab is an indigenous Q’eqchi’ peasant leader who was arrested December 28, 2010 on fraudulent charges, including land theft although he has a receipt from the purchase of his land. I strongly believe he is an innocent man and is only in jail because of corruption in the district attorney’s office. Former Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina was arrested for corruption in September but unfortunately it is obvious corruption continues at many levels of the government. Please look into the situation and work to free political prisoner Pablo Sacrab Pop and end corruption in Guatemala.”   (Click here for more information on Pablo Sacrab and his home community of Saquimo Setana)

Make a donation and your contribution will be doubled!
An anonymous donor has agreed to match up to $7,000 in donations received by the end of December!  We are volunteer run and 100% of contributions, other than small international bank transfer fees, go directly to our partners in Guatemala.  The GSP is committed to visit political prisoners at least once a month and give them moral support as well as clothes, medicine or direct economic support.  Prisoners have faced beatings, denial of food and denial of medicine.  They have been forced to clean feces with their bare hands and sleep on the cold cement floor of the Coban prison.  We are also urgently seeking funds to purchase water filters for families in the Polochic Valley which were violently evicted in 2011.  Donate online or send a check made out to “UPAVIM Community Development Foundation” to UPAVIM, PO Box 63, Marshfield, VT 05658.  Donations are tax-deductible.

Join the GSP Summer 2016 Solidarity Delegation
Join the GSP and our partners in Guatemala next summer as we visit political prisoners, communities targeted by government violence and other organizations and leaders in the movement for social justice.  During the delegation we will build an action plan in which participants commit to work on areas of interest to them such as publishing articles and videos; organizing informational presentations in Guatemala, the US and other countries; participating in fundraising efforts in support of the communities we visit; participating in civil disobedience; lobbying US Congress against military “aid” to Guatemala; collecting petitions; pressuring multinational banks such as the Inter-American Development Bank to stop funding theft of indigenous lands; assisting with translation; assisting with research; and other solidarity actions. More info

Join the GSP Urgent Action List

Making a phone call or signing a petition may not seem like much, but the GSP and our partners have seen how such actions can make a real impact on the ground. When a community is attacked or an indigenous leader is imprisoned, it is important that we mobilize a response as soon as possible. Sending a letter won’t cause a nonviolent revolution in Guatemala. But it may put the government on notice so that they don’t torture a community leader they have just arrested or murder civilians in a town they have just attacked.



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