PBI-Guatemala reports on its accompaniment of the Retalhuleu Community Council in two of its publications
The Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project accompaniment of the Retalhuleu Community Council (CCR) is noted in two of its most recent publications, the Monthly Information Package and Bulletin No. 44.
PBI-Guatemala began to accompany the CCR in April 2020 due to the risks and threats experienced by its members.
Bulletin No. 44
In their article ‘The sugar business in Guatemala: Sweet profits for exporters, bitter impacts for communities’ (pages 9-12), PBI-Guatemala notes:
“The geographic area of Guatemala’s Southern Coast includes the departments of Retalhuleu, Suchitepéquez, Escuintla and Santa Rosa.
The economy of this area is based primarily on ago-industrial products for export, principally sugar cane and African palm. This extractive economic model requires maximum production within a limited space. That is why it employs methods which are highly polluting, and which have very negative impacts on the health and living conditions of the people.
In 2015 the local population organized itself into the Council of Communities of Retalhuleu (CCR) to address this situation. The CCR is made up of 18 communities, the majority of whom come from the municipality of Champerico, who are demanding their right to water, food and health.
Sugarcane production uses large amounts of water, which impacts the availability of this basic resource for local consumption. Land studies have shown that the mills use any and every means to guarantee their water supply, including diverting rivers and drilling wells for which they have not carried out adequate environmental impact studies.”
This article concludes with a quote from Abelino Mejia Cancino, a member of the Council of Communities of Retalhuleu, who says: “We need people to realize that when they consume sugar, it has an impact on the life of the communities and on the right to water for all. We call for the consumption of what is healthy and good produced by the campesinos and not products made by the big companies.”
Monthly Information Package
PBI-Guatemala says: “With regard to our accompaniment of Retalhuleu Community Council (CCR) on January 14 we met with four of their members who have been experiencing criminalization since 2018 for their work denouncing the adverse impacts produced by sugar mills in the region.”
It highlights: “We traveled to the department to accompany them to the hearing scheduled for January 15, however, this was suspended and rescheduled for March 18.”
And in the Political Accompaniment section, it adds: “In our dialogue with Guatemalan authorities, we met in person with: Ignacio Arreaga Cifuentes, Governor of Retalhuleu; Nancy Evanury Galindo Gramajo, Head of the PDH Auxiliary office in Retalhuleu; Marivel Hernández, Chief of Services of the PNC in Retalhuleu.”
We are also closely following the situation for the Retalhuleu Community Council and note a recent statement by the Guatemalan Sugar Association (ASAZGUA) about sugar exports from Guatemala to Canada.
In September 2020, ASAZGUA reported: “The main destinations for Guatemalan sugar exports in metric tons (MT) were Canada with 333,596 MT, the United States with 261,628 MT, Chile with 211,075 MT and Mauritania with 165,425 MT.”
For more on the Retalhuleu Community Council, please see this 7-minute video (with English subtitles) recently posted on the PBI-Guatemala Facebook page.