PBI-Guatemala interviews wrongfully imprisoned Maya Q’eqchi river defender Bernardo Caal Xol

Published by Brent Patterson on

On March 25, the Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project posted this video of its Acércate (come closer) interview with Maya Q’eqchi river defender Bernardo Caal Xol in prison in Cobán, Alta Verapaz.

Caal Xol is a leader of the Peaceful Resistance of Cahabón, a collective of 38 Maya Q’eqchi communities in Guatemala. The Resistance was formed to oppose the construction of the Oxec and Renace dams on the Cahabón River and its tributaries.

In November 2018, Caal Xol was sentenced to seven years and four months by a court on allegations that lack objective evidence. Amnesty International has declared that Caal Xol is a prisoner of conscience who has been wrongfully imprisoned.

In one of Caal Xol’s recent letters from prison, he wrote: “The department of Alta Verapaz inhabited by the Q’eqchi ‘people; its rivers sequestered and piped to make hydroelectric power plants work. However, Q’eqchi’ communities do not have electricity, remain in darkness, they continue to use the famous ‘candle’. And then, where is the electrical energy taken? This is called: dispossession, exclusion, discrimination and racism.”

PBI-Guatemala has previously explained there are seven hydroelectric dams that operate on the Cahabón River and its tributaries.

The two most recently completed dams are Oxec II which began operation in September 2018 and Renace IV which became operational in January 2019.

To watch the 37-minute video, please click here.

If you speak Spanish, you can watch the video in its original language. To watch it with English subtitles, it’s a straightforward 4-step process of:

  • Click on CC on the bottom right of the video (this will activate auto-generated captions in Spanish).
  • Click on the Settings function next to the CC icon (it looks like a cog), that will bring up a menu that includes: Subtitles/CC Spanish (auto generated).
  • Click on Subtitles/CC and scroll down in that menu to where it says Auto-translate.
  • Once you do that, you will find a list of languages that includes English.

Near the end of the interview, PBI-Guatemala’s communications coordinator Silvia Weber asks Bernardo what people can do to support him. He encourages people to take action in various ways, including writing letters. Amnesty International has this letter that you can send to call for Bernardo’s release from prison.

PBI has accompanied the Peaceful Resistance of Cahabón since July 2017. In August 2017, PBI provided security support to the consultation in which the 195 communities of the Cahabón River overwhelmingly rejected the hydroelectric projects. PBI continues to be in regular communication with Bernardo and visits him in prison.

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