Fears of Starvation after Arson Attack Against Indigenous Community

April 6, 2020

The indigenous Q’eqchi’ community San Jose el Tesoro was burned to the ground in a government attack on March 11, 2020, despite the government declaring a state of emergency and various travel restrictions a week earlier in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly a month after the attack, community members are at risk of starvation.

We are collaborating on the ground with our partners at great risk to provide emergency support for the community. Please consider making a donation via our website or by writing a check out to “UPAVIM Community Development Foundation” and mail to UPAVIM, PO Box 63, Marshfield, VT 05658.  Please write “GSP” in the notes/memo section of the check. All donations are tax deductible. Our fiscal sponsor UPAVIM is a US 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and together we keep no portion of donations; all donations go to our partners in Guatemala.

San Jose el Tesoro is not the only community that has been the target of government and paramilitary attacks since the government began to enforce travel restrictions in reference to COVID-19. More information can be found in our recent quarterly report.

San Jose el Tesoro was also attacked on October 10, 2019. The below images are from this earlier attack.


On October 10, 2019 the village was attacked by Guatemalan police.  Every home in the community was destroyed.  These pictures were taken the following day.

Children hold tear gas canisters used by police in the attack.

The Guatemalan government called the attack a legal eviction.  However it occurred in direct violation of Guatemalan law, which includes guaranteeing that community members have access to shelter.  Instead, families were forced to flee to the forest.  Water filters, solar panels and other valuables were stolen.   The community has returned because they have no alternative, but they live with the daily fear of continued government attacks.

The Guatemalan government has denied children in San Jose el Tesoro access to even a basic elementary education.  In 2019 this was one of 11 communities where we collaborated with our partners to bring “mobile schools” to children and adults to support fundamental knowledge like reading and writing.  Because of our lack of resources and the large number of indigenous communities being denied access to education, these mobile schools only visit each community for one week each month.  The school building was destroyed in the attack on the community, but we will continue our efforts to bring the mobile school to San Jose el Tesoro – and to pressure the government to fulfill its obligation to provide school access to all citizens.


The Guatemala Solidarity Project is committed to working in solidarity long term with the community San Jose el Tesoro.  Here are some suggested actions for you to collaborate in this struggle:

1) Donate

We are a volunteer run organization, and 100% of donations are sent to our partners.  Our partners also prioritize where funds go.  We thank our fiscal sponsor, the UPAVIM Community Development Foundation (also volunteer run), for helping us ensure that your contributions are tax deductible and that all funds go to our partners in Guatemala.  Click here to donate online via paypal.  To donate via check please make check out to “UPAVIM Community Development Foundation” and mail to UPAVIM, PO Box 63, Marshfield, VT 05658.  Please write “GSP” in the notes/memo section of the check. Priorities for San Jose el Tesoro include legal defense funds (often $250 can cover expenses for legal motions to prevent an illegal eviction from occurring), mobile school support, and water filtration.

2) Call and/or write your member of congress

If you are in the United States, please call and/or write your Senator and/or House representative and ask them to oppose violence against indigenous communities in Guatemala.  The US government has historically supported genocide against indigenous communities in Guatemala as part of a strategy to steal natural resources from indigenous territory.  If you send an email, please consider cc:ing us at info@guatemalasolidarityproject.org so that we can follow up with the member of congress that you contact.

Sample text:

“My name is ____ and I live in your district.  I am very concerned about recent government attacks against indigenous villages in Guatemala in which Guatemalan police and military have destroyed homes and harvests. I am disturbed that the World Bank and other US funded development banks are financing corporations that take advantage of the corrupt Guatemalan government to promote illegal evictions of indigenous communities.

Please contact the US State Department and ask that they obtain more information about recent attacks against indigenous communities such as the October 10 attack against San Jose el Tesoro (in the municipality of Coban, department of Alta Verapaz) , the December 10 attack against Rincon de San Vicente (in the municipality of Purulha, department of Baja Verapaz) and the December 11 attack against Dos Fuentes (in the municipality of Purulha, department of Baja Verapaz).”

(If you contact a member of the House, please also consider asking them to co-sponsor the Chixoy International Financial Institution Accountability Act.  Sample text for this ask:  “I would also like your office to sign on as a co-sponsor to the Chixoy International Financial Institution Accountability Act.  This legislation directs US representatives of multilateral development institutions to vote against funding of projects that ignore human rights violations.  It is being led by Representative Jesus Garcia and also supported by Representative Jan Schakowski.”)

3) Join us in Guatemala

We have many opportunities for people to join us in Guatemala.  The easiest way for new volunteers to collaborate is by joining our solidarity delegations.  Our next solidarity delegation is scheduled for May 31 – June 5, 2020 and will be focused on health care.  We will be organizing a 10-day delegation focused on land rights in June/July, but have not yet confirmed the exact dates.  Click here for more information on our solidarity delegations, or email us at info@guatemalasolidarityproject.org if you are interested in other volunteer opportunities.