PBI-Guatemala accompanies community that seeks return of its land now occupied by a Canadian-backed military base

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On July 29, the Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project posted, “Yesterday we accompanied the Chicoyogüito community in commemorating the eviction of their lands on July 28, 1968. The ceremony took place outside the Creompaz facilities.”

CREOMPAZ is a United Nations training base for peacekeepers, located about 220 kilometres north-east of Guatemala City.

This Embassy of Canada to Guatemala webpage notes, “The Global Peace Operations Program (GPOP) … funds CREOMPAZ, the Central American Peace Operations Training Centre in Coban, Guatemala which serves as a training center for El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.”

In Canada Looks South (University of Toronto Press, 2012), it was noted that, “In 2009, Ottawa made a CAD$250,000 grant to CREOMPAZ to enhance Central American armed forces’ capacity to participate in UN peace missions.”

In October 2014, this Department of National Defence/Canadian Armed Forces webpage noted, “DND/CAF is also supporting Guatemala in its efforts to develop peacekeeping and HADR [Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief] capabilities. For example, from 10-21 March 2014, Guatemala’s Peacekeeping Operations Centre (CREOMPAZ) hosted a DND/CAF-sponsored Civil Military Cooperation (CIMIC) course. DND/CAF also assisted with the purchase of specialized equipment for a regional HADR training program within CREOMPAZ.”

Before it was CREOMPAZ it was Military Zone 21, a Guatemalan army military base that was the site of extreme state violence against men, women and children in the 1980s during the internal armed conflict.

In 2012, forensic anthropologists began to excavate clandestine graves at CREOMPAZ. They uncovered the remains of 558 people, 92 of whom have been identified.

Dawn Paley wrote, “Regardless of the mass graves at the base, military and police training continues there, supported by countries like the US and Canada.”

PBI-Guatemala accompanies AVECHAV.

It notes, “The Chicoyogüito Neighborhood Association [AVECHAV] is made up of 250 families from the displaced community of Chicoyogüito in Cobán (Alta Verapaz), which in 1982 was wiped out by the army. As a result of their participation as witnesses in the Creompaz case, survivors of the Chicoyogüito community and their families receive threats.”

On the 50th anniversary of the loss of their land, the survivors and relatives of the displaced families once again requested that their lands be returned.

Their statement highlighted, “Despite the suffering and permanent banishment we have experienced, it was our grandparents who kept hope alive in us. It was they who never lost their eyes on their ancestral lands.”

It adds, “The psychological consequences of that military dispossession are still present.”

Several international organizations — including Oxfam America and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights — have called on the Government of Guatemala to “comply with what is established in the Peace Accords, in terms of uprooted population, restoring the lands they inhabited ancestral and that until today are kept under the control of the Army.”

The PBI-Guatemala website notes, “PBI began accompanying the Association around the beginning of the trials in the CREOMPAZ case.”

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