Canada’s history with the Creompaz military base in Guatemala: A timeline with context

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo: Colonel Julio César Ponce Monterroso, Commandant of CREOMPAZ, March 20, 2021.

To learn more about the struggle of the Q’eqchi’ community of Chicoyogüito to reclaim their ancestral land from CREOMPAZ, please join this webinar on July 15.

Canada has a long history with the CREOMPAZ base in Coban, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. Below is a timeline with key dates and context:

1950: A study by Canada’s trade commissioner in Guatemala claims: “Businessmen and landowners do not have any cause to view the prospect of Jacobo Arbenz as future president with any optimism.”

1951: Árbenz elected president of Guatemala.

1952: The Agrarian Reform Law, intended to redistribute land to campesinos, introduced by Árbenz is passed.

1953: Canadian External Affairs Minister Lester B. Pearson refuses the Guatemalan foreign minister’s request to open embassies in each other’s countries.

1954: Arbenz forced to resign in a CIA-backed coup and goes into exile, External Affairs Canada sees this as a positive change.

1960: The internal armed conflict in Guatemala begins.

1968: The Indigenous Q’eqchi’ community of Chicoyogüito is displaced from their ancestral lands so that Military Zone 21, a Guatemalan military base, could be built.

1978 to 1990: The military base is a clandestine centre for illegal detention, torture, extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearance and rape.

1996: The internal armed conflict in Guatemala ends.

1999: The Commission on Historical Clarification finds that “agents of the state committed acts of genocide against groups of Mayan people.”

2004: Military Zone 21 is closed, CREOMPAZ opens.

2008: The families of those displaced from Chicoyogüito hold their first march to demand that their lands be returned to them.

2009: The Government of Canada provides a CAD$250,000 grant for the training of soldiers at CREOMPAZ.

2012 to 2015: The Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala (FAFG) carries out exhumations at CREOMPAZ and finds 558 human remains.

2014: The Canadian Armed Forces/Department of National Defence hosts a Civil Military Cooperation course at the base.

2015: Canada’s Global Peace Operations Program funds CREOMPAZ.

2016: PBI-Guatemala begins to accompany the Chicoyogüito Neighborhood Association of Alta Verapaz (AVECHAV).

2021: The Peace Operations Training Institute partners with CREOMPAZ, thanks Global Affairs Canada’s Peace and Stabilization Operations Programme for funding.

June 9: Twenty-one members of Chicoyogüito are arrested as they prepare to mobilize to demand their land back.

June 18: PBI-Guatemala accompanies the first hearing of the Chicoyogüito community members arrested (photo below).

Thursday July 15 at 3 pm ET: PBI-Canada holds this webinar about the struggle of the Q’eqchi’ community to reclaim their ancestral land from the military base.

July 28: The 53rd anniversary of the eviction of the Chicoyogüito community for the construction of the military base.

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