Q’eqchi’ community of Chicoyogüito seeks their land back on the 53rd anniversary their dispossession by a Guatemalan army base

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Today is the 53rd anniversary of the displacement and dispossession of the Indigenous Q’eqchi’ community of Chicoyogüito from their ancestral lands by an army base then known as Military Zone 21 (now rebranded as Creompaz) in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala.

More than 200 families were displaced on July 28, 1968, by the military.

At a media conference this morning, community leader Olivia Sierra said: “We demand that the government give us back our territory, to continue working. #ParoNacional29J is because the government does not give us what is ours, like our territory.”

(#ParoNacional29J refers to a major Indigenous protest planned for July 29 that is demanding the resignations of President Alejandro Giammattei and Attorney General Consuelo Porras following the dismissal of Juan Francisco Sandoval, the head of the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity (FECI) anti-corruption unit.)

After the displacement of the community, the military base became a clandestine centre for illegal detention, torture, extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearance, and rape committed from 1978 to 1990. At least 565 Indigenous people were disappeared at that base. The bodies identified are of Mayan Achí, Q’eqchi’, Pomochí, Ixil, and Kiché peoples.

This morning, another community leader, Don Mauro, said: “The military took advantage, dispossessed, killed, raped in this place … many were left in the street, without land, without anything, my father, my mother suffered in this place.”

They made these comments at a media conference in Cobán, Alta Verapaz this morning that can be seen in the video here.

Two weeks ago, Olivia and another community leader Domingo spoke on this PBI-Canada organized webinar about their struggle to reclaim their land.

Domingo highlighted: “We know Canada has provided a lot of support for [the Creompaz peacekeeping base on our land]. But where is the peace that they say they are creating? Peace doesn’t continue, the military continues.”

The military base that displaced his community was closed in 2004 and reopened/rebranded as Creompaz, a training base for UN peacekeepers funded by Canada and other countries. A timeline of Canada’s history and funding of this base can be read here.

In the lead up to this anniversary, the community organized a demonstration last month. On June 9, 21 community members were arrested on the charge of “aggravated usurpation” as they gathered for this protest.

Eighteen of the defenders were held in jail until June 21 when they were released on a 5,000 Quetzal (CAD $800) bond, while the other three were held with additional charges until when they were released on July 12 on a Q4,000 (CAD $650) bond.

The next hearing for these defenders will be in October.

PBI-Guatemala has accompanied the Chicoyogüito Neighborhood Association of Alta Verapaz (AVECHAV) since 2015.

To watch the PBI webinar with two Chicoyogüito leaders, click here.

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