PBI-Guatemala interviews director of the Law Firm for Indigenous Peoples about the criminalization of two land defenders

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On June 9, PBI-Guatemala posted: “We talked with Wendy Lopez, director of the Law Firm for Indigenous Peoples about the criminalization of Marcelino Xol Cucul and Jorge Coc Coc, defenders of the land and members of CCDA Las Verapaces.”

The interview (in Spanish) is available here.

OMCT has explained: “Both men arrested at the beginning of 2018 on charges of ‘homicide’ and ‘attempted homicide’. Despite serious inconsistencies in the testimonies of the witnesses and the acquittal of two other people arrested under the same charges, they were sentenced in October 2019 to 35 years in prison, without parole.”

“Far from being a simple judicial error, their story is emblematic of the battle for land, water and other natural resources playing out in Guatemala.”

That article adds: “Jorge and Marcelino are Q’eqchi Mayan indigenous leaders and members of an organisation based in the Verapaces region, called the Campesino Committee of the Highlands (CCDA).”

It further explains: “For over ten years, their community of Choctun Basilá, near the regional capital Cobán, has been in a land dispute with the company Cooperativa Chilté, which has exacted a heavy toll: a campaign of criminalisation and attacks against the CCDA that culminated in the killing of six of its members and the arbitrary detention of Jorge and Marcelino.”

The Law Firm for Indigenous Peoples, which works with 32 Indigenous communities, is a multidisciplinary space committed to serve primarily Indigenous communities and individuals who fight for the defense and recovery of their land, their ways of life, and against the criminalization they may face as a result of these struggles.

The law firm “promotes specialized litigation on behalf of Indigenous women and peoples, in order to re-establish and fully exercise their rights and holistically develop their territories” among other key areas of work.

The CCDA accompanies 150 Maya Q’eqchi’ communities who have been repressed and stripped of their land or who are immersed in conflicts regarding land tenure. PBI-Guatemala has accompanied CCDA-Verapaces Region since July 2018.

Marcelino Xol Cucul and Jorge Coc, June 2019.

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