PBI-Guatemala shares UVOC statement on the murder of community leader Abelardo Quej Ixim in Baja Verapaz
Photo: Purulhá, Baja Verapaz, Guatemala
On December 9, the Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project circulated the statement from UVOC about the murder of Abelardo Quej Ixim, an activist in the community of Nueva Gloria in the municipality of Purulhá in the department of Baja Verapaz.
The 34-year-old was killed on December 6.
The statement also highlights that fellow community activist Carlos Enrique Coy was disappeared that evening as well.
The Verapaz Union of Campesino Organizations (UVOC) has 367 affiliated communities (about 50,000 families), 98 percent of which are Indigenous Maya Q’eqchi’, Poqomchi’ and Achi.
It is an Indigenous and peasant organization dedicated to the defence and promotion of access to land for the peasant population in the departments of Alta and Baja Verapaz.
In their statement about this death and disappearance, UVOC notes: “The area is dangerous for those who ensure the defence of Mother Earth, the Q’eqchi’ and Poqomchi’ inhabitants have been attacked for several years by illegal land buyers, loggers, German businessmen and people related to drug trafficking.”
The UVOC statement also notes: “The absence of the State is particularly visible in the attention to the needs of indigenous communities, peoples and nationalities Q’eqchi’, Poqomchi’, it should be noted that the state security apparatus today is to protect the business interests of hydroelectric plants, mining, coffee plantations and landowners, and indeed to criminalize, persecute and threaten peasant and indigenous families , human rights defenders, within the framework of the defense of their ancestral lands and territories.”
The Global Witness Defending Tomorrow report documents that 12 land and environmental rights defenders were killed in Guatemala last year.
And Nomada, an independent platform for investigative journalism, has highlighted that Guatemala is the sixth most dangerous country in the world to defend land and environment, and the fourth highest per capita in the world.
PBI first operated a project in Guatemala from 1983-1999; it closed following the Peace Accords. Unfortunately, the human rights situation soon began again to deteriorate, and local organizations asked PBI to return.
The current project opened in 2003.
PBI-Guatemala has been accompanying UVOC since 2005, following threats and serious intimidation against some of its members. In the few last years, the accompaniment of UVOC has been extended to some of the communities that the UVOC advises, with PBI-Guatemala carrying out regular visits with them.