PBI-Guatemala accompanies UVOC at assembly
The Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project accompanied the Verapacense Union of Peasant Organizations (la Unión Verapacense de Organizaciones Campesinas – UVOC) at an assembly it held last week.
UVOC is an indigenous and peasant organization dedicated to the defence and promotion of access to land in the context of historical dispossession and ongoing inequality in Guatemala. UVOC represents Q’eqchi ‘, Poqomchi’, Achi and Mestizas peoples.
About 40 per cent of the population of Guatemala is indigenous.
Indigenous and peasant farmers were dispossessed of their land in the 18th century through Spanish colonization which drove Indigenous and peasant farmers to the less fertile highlands.
Land distribution in Guatemala continues to be deeply unequal with the largest 2.5 per cent of farms currently occupying more than 65 per cent of the land while 90 per cent of the farms are on only one-sixth of the agricultural land in the country.
Following the 1960-1996 war between the government and various leftist rebel groups that saw 200,000 people killed and another 43,000 forcibly disappeared, 80 per cent of whom were indigenous, there are now at least 1,000 land conflicts happening in Guatemala.
These land conflicts are related to concessions given to foreign companies for mining, sugar cane and palm oil farms, and hydroelectric dams, all of which deepen dispossession, exclusion and poverty among the indigenous peoples of Guatemala.
PBI-Guatemala notes that the security situation for UVOC members is worrisome in communities such as La Primavera (in the municipality of San Cristóbal Verapaz) and Nueva Seamay (in the municipality of Senahú), both of which are situated in the department of Alta Verapaz.
The Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project has provided protective accompaniment to UVOC since 2005.