PBI condemns the murder of Benoit Maria, “a great defender of the rights of the Maya” in Guatemala

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo: Benoit Amedee Maria during a training with Ixiles de Quiché farmers. (Free Press Photo: Hector Lamb).

On August 11, the Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project posted: “We also condemn the murder of Benoît Maria, the companion of the villages, and we express solidarity with his family and his friends.”

France 24 reports: “Benoit Maria, the Guatemala director of the agriculture and animal health NGO Agronomes et Veterinaires Sans Frontieres (AVSF), was shot in an indigenous area in the northeast of the country on Monday.”

“According to local media, Maria, who was 52, was driving a van on a road near the indigenous village of San Antonio Ilotenango, 85 kilometers (53 miles) northwest of the capital Guatemala City, when he was shot dead.”

“The murder was revealed on Monday by the Guatemalan Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (UDEFEGUA).”

“He had lived in Guatemala for more than 20 years, supporting agricultural projects for the indigenous Mayan Ixil communities, according to UDEFEGUA coordinator Jorge Santos.”

“Maria also participated in the 2011 creation of Ixil University, in the department of Quiche, dedicated to the ancestral knowledge of indigenous people.”

UDEFEGUA stated: “We denounce the murder of this human rights defender, Benoît Maria.”

A statement from Maria’s organization AVSF noted: “He was murdered… while on his way to his workplace in indigenous communities. For more than 20 years [he] had been in charge of… defending the rights of peasants and indigenous communities.”

And Rigoberta Menchu described Maria as “a great defender of the rights of the Maya.”

The BBC adds: “Indigenous Maya people make up about half of Guatemala’s population, but rights campaigners say they face enduring inequality and discrimination.”

While the motive for the attack remains unknown, Prensa Libre reports that the District Prosecutor’s Office in Quiché has ruled out robbery given Maria’s belongings were not taken.

20 Minutes notes: “Guatemala’s Human Rights Defenders Protection Unit counted at least 157 attacks on activists in the country between January and April, and 462 in the whole of 2019, including 15 murders.”

PBI-Canada joins with PBI-Guatemala and many others in expressing sorrow for the murder of Benoit Maria and solidarity with all those who worked with him.

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