PBI-Guatemala accompanies the CCDA as it continues to face serious security incidents

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo: The CCDA is led by two Mayan Q’eqchi women. Lesbia Artola coordinates the organization and Imelda Teyul facilitates the organizing aspects of the work. Both face threats and risks for their work.

On November 10, the Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project posted its Monthly Information Package for October 2020.

That report includes an update on PBI-Guatemala accompaniment of the Community Council of the Highlands (CCDA) – Las Verapaces Region.

The CCDA fights for access to land and labour rights for Mayan campesinos. For example, it defends indigenous territory against the imposition of economic projects such as agribusiness. PBI-Guatemala has accompanied the CCDA since July 2018.

PBI-Guatemala notes:

Lesbia Artola Peyul and Imelda Teyul, coordinators with the CCDA, have continued to face serious security incidents. This month they confirmed that there are three criminalization processes against them. PBI is very concerned about the physical, psychological and emotional wellbeing of both human rights defenders.

On October 3 we accompanied Lesbia Artola by phone at the agricultural pre-congress that took place in Purulhá.

On October 21, we accompanied both coordinators by phone during a mediation meeting with the Public Prosecutor’s Office (MP) in Cobán, which was also attended by representatives of the Sepalau community, as well as farmers.

The reaction of these farmers to Lesbia Artola and Imelda Teyul’s justified demands for agrarian justice on behalf of the community, has been to use the judicial system to file complaints against them. Members of CCDA received threats, defamation and intimidation from the groups gathered there in favor of the farmers on the same day.

As a result, we have been monitoring the compliance with the perimeter protection measures which both coordinators have been assigned.

On October 24, we provided telephone accompaniment in response to an emergency that occurred in the community of Santa Elena Samanzana II, when armed individuals entered the community and attempted to burn down the house of one of its leaders who is also a member of the CCDA. They tied him up, physically assaulted him, threatened the entire community and left explosives behind them.

On October 15, we accompanied the coordinators of the CCDA – Las Verapaces Region by telephone to a meeting in the Washington community [in the municipality of Purulhá, Baja Verapaz] with agents of the National Civil Police (PNC), during which they discussed the investigations into the violent events that took place in the past months.

On the other hand, we have coordinated accompaniment actions with the delegation of the European Union (EU) and the Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders of Guatemala (UDEFEGUA) to guarantee the safety and health care for Mario Chun, a community member of Dos Fuentes and a member of the CCDA who was seriously shot during the attacks on his community last month.

We have also remained very attentive to the situation of the criminalized and imprisoned human rights defenders Jorge Coc and Marcelino Xol. They were sentenced to 35 years in prison 11 months ago and the appeal of this sentence was rejected by the Sixth Chamber of the Cobán criminal court.

The full Monthly Information Package can be read here.

Aside from being a campesino movement, CCDA has a coffee cooperative that sells products to Canada and Europe. Sales from these products help sustain the organization. For information on that, please see: What are the ways to purchase in Canada coffee produced by CCDA communities in Guatemala?

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