PBI-Guatemala accompanies Retalhuleu Community Council for the Defence of Life in its struggle against sugar mills

Published by Brent Patterson on

On January 15, the Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project posted on its Facebook page: “PBI accompanies the Retalhuleu Community Council (CCR) awaiting notification of suspension of its hearing.”

Four of its members have been criminalized, charged by companies with illegal detention, coercion and threats.

The defenders have stated: “We organize ourselves in a peaceful way to publicize the consequences of sugar cane, the diversion of rivers that the mills have.”

PBI-Guatemala has previously explained: “The CCR consists of more than 18 communities in the department of Retalhuleu (mainly the municipality of Champerico), belonging to the Mam, K’iche’ and Ixil peoples. Its main objective is the defence of life, territory and human rights, in particular the right of access to water and agriculture on a small scale.”

“They began to organize in 2015 as a result of adverse effects caused by the expansion of the monoculture of sugar and the use of large-scale agrochemicals and pesticides used by the mills in the region.”

That article adds: “In recent years there has been drought and pollution of wells, rivers and lagoons, as well as the destruction of livelihoods, causing lack of access to water and health problems such as malnutrition and respiratory and renal ailments.”

In November 2019, Panorama Noticias reported: “Allegations of violations of the right to water, food and environmental pollution by the communities of the South Coast led to four defenders of Champerico and Retalhuleu being criminalized by the mills of El Pilar and Magdalena.”

“Following these events, the defenders brought a Constitutional Action of Amparo so that the decision issued by the Court of First Instance of Retalhuleu, which terminated a case in which they were accused, however, the case was appealed by sugar mills for the defenders to be linked to the process.”

PBI-Guatemala has been accompanying the four criminalized members — Anabella España Reyes (President), Abelino Salvador Mejía, Flabio Vicente and Virgilio García Carrillo — of the Retalhuleu Community Council since April 2020.

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