PBI-Guatemala accompanies BDH at aggravated usurpation hearing for La Cumbre community members

Published by Brent Patterson on

On March 13, the Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project posted on its Facebook page, “On Tuesday [March 10] we accompanied BDH in the case of La Cumbre at the court of first instance in Cobán. Three community members are accused of aggravated usurpation of the lands where they live.”

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples has explained that the charge of aggravated usurpation is commonly brought against Indigenous land defenders criminalized as trespassers on their own lands.

The PBI-Guatemala post adds, “One of the defense witnesses explained that from generations ago they lived the land as settlers worked. Three more witness statements will be taken on March 20 at 14:30 p.m.”

The Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence (BTS) Network has previously reported on the eviction at La Cumbre, Tactic, Alta Verapaz that took place on November 1, 2017 that displaced 25 families from their homes.

BTS notes, “Women reported sexual violence during the eviction. The community was associated with the Peasant Unity Committee (CUC) and had previously labored on a plantation owned by the Morales Cahuec family. During the eviction, current workers of the plantation were involved in destroying homes.”

The Guatemala Solidarity Project further explains, “These are families who were forced to live and work on plantations for generations without receiving any pay.”

“Because of changes in the international economy, ‘landowners’ often no longer need the indigenous labor and are using extreme violence to evict these communities and then extract natural resources from the land.”

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.

Indigenous and peasant farmers were dispossessed of their land in the 18th century through colonization that drove Indigenous and peasant farmers to the less fertile highlands. The 2002 census estimates that 45 per cent of Guatemala’s population is indigenous, but the figure may be closer to 60 per cent.

BDH is a group of lawyers who represent those whose human rights have been violated. It has been accompanied by PBI-Guatemala since 2013.

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