PBI-accompanied defenders in Guatemala and Mexico denounce neo-colonialism and the trampling of Indigenous rights
Photo: Assembly of a Mayan Q’eqchi’ community, affected by different megaprojects in the Alta Verapaz region of Guatemala.
On October 12, the Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project posted this article from the Spanish daily newspaper Público on how neo-colonialism criminalizes human rights defenders and deprives Indigenous peoples of their rights and territories.
The article by Javier Sulé and Mara Saiz begins: “528 years after the arrival of Columbus, the new colonizers are big businessmen, they wear suits and ties and enter the indigenous territories with backhoes. As happened before, in the name of development, they continue to trample on the rights of indigenous peoples, this time with the complicity of supposedly democratic governments and states.”
The article quotes several defenders: María Josefina Caal Xol and Isabel Matzir of the Peaceful Resistance of Cahabón, Lesbia Artola of the Campesino Committee of the Highlands (CCDA), and Chaim and Telma Pérez of the TZK’AT Network of Ancestral Healers in Guatemala; as well as Neftalí Reyes of EDUCA Oaxaca and Yásnaya Elena Aguilar from the Ayutla women’s collective in Mexico.
All are accompanied (directly and indirectly) by Peace Brigades International. They assert Indigenous rights and oppose megaprojects.
For example, Maria Josefina is opposed to hydroelectric dams on the Cahabón River and Neftali draws attention to the exploitation of territory by mining projects, including Vancouver-based Fortuna Silver Mines.
Maria Josefina says of Florentino Pérez (one of the financiers of a dam on the Cahabón): “He is a river murderer who has violated the rights of indigenous peoples and imprisoned an innocent man [Bernardo Caal Xol]. What he has done to the original peoples is unforgivable.”
Isabel adds: “What for him are billions of euros, for indigenous peoples represent rivers, hills, life. I would tell Florentino Pérez to try to be human and consider himself as part of nature, not the owner of it.”
Lesbia says: “We fight for our historical rights, because without land there is no life and without water either. If we let them destroy the rivers and natural wealth, this is going to be a worldwide collapse. For us the land is sacred, the rivers they are sacred: they feel, they dry up and the great businessman does not understand that.”
Neftali says: “Along with a whole 500-year colonization process, then the mining, electric power, wind projects…, they are being driven with the logic that if we have many resources and we are impoverished, then let them come to invest and that is how development will come, which is a lie because what has happened is the opposite.”
Yásnaya says: ” “In Mexico the State has been built by the white Creole nationalist project. …More than half of the defenders of land and territory killed in Mexico are indigenous. Therefore, it is a question of life. This is how it is on this continent.”
Chaim says: “When a megaproject is implanted in a territory it is like when your body is penetrated in a sexual violation. By dimensioning it, if a river in which you go to wash clothes, bathe and drink water is co-opted, they are depriving you of something that sustains your life.”
And Telma says: “There are cases of people who must leave the country, people imprisoned … In the web of life there is love, joy, a whole relationship of life with the earth, but when these megaprojects arrive, everything is destroyed. However, the communities continue with that rebellion and that resistance. Facing it is a political act of going and healing together.”
The article then closes with a quote from Julio González of Madre Selva, an allied organization that PBI-Guatemala works with.
Julio says: “If in 500 years we have not been wise enough to understand that, if we do not respect nature or everything that produces life, we are going to become extinct; at a time where, perhaps, the only ones who will be saved will be billionaires.”
To read the full article, please click on “Florentino Pérez es un monstruo”: los nuevos conquistadores de América, 528 años después del 12 de octubre.