Urgent Action: Demand Freedom for Q’eqchi’ Political Prisoner Manuel Choc Xol
November 10, 2015
The GSP is calling for action is solidarity with courageous Q’eqchi’ peasant leader and political prisoner Manuel Choc Xol. Choc has a hearing scheduled for Friday, November 13, and we ask you to contact the government before then to let them know you are monitoring the situation.
In April of this year, 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 has now spent over six months in prison despite having committed no crime. During this time the government has invented various false charges against him. His current charges include usurpation and aggravated robbery. He is an innocent man, guilty only of speaking out courageously in favor of indigenous rights.
November 20, 2015 update: It is with great sadness that we report that Choc has been sentenced to four years in prison plus a 100,000 quetzal (approximately $13,000) fine. He was found guilty of “aggravated usurpation,” meaning that the government says he used violence to steal land. The truth is that wealthy “land owner” Jans Bangarte-Wugester has used violence, threats and corruption to steal land from indigenous communities. Choc is guilty only of eloquently and courageously advocating in favor of the basic human rights of indigenous families. Bangarte-Wugester is requesting that the government increase Choc’s sentence. The following actions have been updated from our earlier action. Please work in solidarity with Choc by doing the following:
Call the Guatemalan Embassy and request the immediate release of indigenous Q’eqchi’ political prisoner Manuel Choc Xol
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 Manuel Choc Xol. Choc is an indigenous Q’eqchi’ peasant leader who was recently sentenced to four years in prison. Choc was convicted of aggravated usurpation and wealthy so-called land owner Jans Bangarte-Wugester is requesting that his sentence be increased. Bangarte-Wugester should be arrested for using violence and threats against indigenous families. I strongly believe Choc 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 Manuel Choc Xol and end corruption in Guatemala.”
Make a donation to the Guatemala Solidarity Project, 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. We are very concerned about the safety of political prisoners such as Manuel Choc Xol and the conditions of their families. We are supporting a growing number of political prisoners who have faced beatings, denial of food, denial of medicine, and other horrific treatment. Their families often succumb to extreme poverty and hunger while they are in prison. We are also supporting indigenous peoples’ right to food sovereignty through the development of organic agriculture projects in Xinca and other communities. Help us support food sovereignty and emergency medical needs caused by government attacks by donating through our website or sending a check made out to “UPAVIM Community Development Foundation” to UPAVIM, PO Box 63, Marshfield, VT 05658. Donations are tax-deductible. UPAVIM is our fiscal sponsor, and is a US-registered 501c3 nonprofit that helps us ensure that ALL contributions go to our partners.
Participate in 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. The goal will be to create a concrete Action Plan as part of our efforts to build long-term solidarity with our partners. Dates to be announced. More information