PBI-Guatemala accompanies UVOC at court hearing for La Primavera community defender

Published by Brent Patterson on

On February 27, the Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project posted, “Yesterday we accompanied members of the UVOC [the Verapaz Union of Peasant Organizations] to the intermediate stage hearing for an accusation against a defender of the La Primavera community, San Cristobal, for illegal logging.”

“His lawyer argued the inconsistency of the evidence provided by the MP [Public Ministry] and noted the accusation in the context of a land conflict, which La Primavera got in 2015 after a long negotiation process.”

PBI-Guatemala adds, “The defense lawyer asked that the case be dismissed, however, the judge decided to link the defender to the process and called the next hearing on March 24.”

In November 2013, PBI-Guatemala interviewed UVOC lawyer Jorge Luis Morales about La Primavera and it provides a helpful context to understand yesterday’s hearing.

Morales stated, “The case of La Primavera is emblematic of the issue of agrarian disputes in Guatemala: it is a situation that we have lived through time and time again.”

“The workers and their families’ land tenure rights are a legitimate result of a working relationship and were violated when this property changed hands. The new landowners do not recognize this land tenure right and try to evict communities from the land.”

In 2015, Land Portal reported, “Success is rare among indigenous peoples’ struggles for land rights in Guatemala. But the nearly 300 Poqomchi’ Maya families that make up the Primavera communities in the department of Alta Verapaz have just won a significant victory.”

“On July 14, community representatives and the Guatemalan Land Fund signed documents to officially recognize three communities that have called the land home for centuries.”

“In the end, the logging company ceded nearly 800 hectares of land, with the Guatemalan secretary of agrarian affairs overseeing the titling of the land to the families of the communities.”

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.

PBI-Guatemala has accompanied UVOC since 2005.

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