PBI-Guatemala accompanies Indigenous land defender Justino Xollim at court hearing
On August 9, the Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project accompanied Justino Xollim to an intermediate stage court hearing.
PBI-Guatemala has posted on Facebook, “He was unjustly accused of illegal logging at Finca la Primavera in San Cristobál Verapaz, where he lives.”
It adds, “On this occasion, the case was provisionally closed.”
Earlier this year, Prensa Comunitaria reported that Xollim, a representative of Poqomchi communities in his territory, has worked for a decade to have the government grant them general title to their lands. While Xollim was going to the Public Ministry on February 15 to denounce the felling of trees by a wood company on this territory, he was arrested by members of the Tourism Security Division.
PBI-Guatemala adds, “His community is part of the UVOC which has endured several processes against it because of its demand for access to land.”
UVOC refers to the Verapaz Union of Peasant Organizations.
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 them 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.
There are now at least 1,000 land conflicts happening in Guatemala, many of which 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 has accompanied UVOC since 2005.