PBI-Guatemala accompanies Retalhuleu Community Council assembly where access to land, health care and electricity services are discussed

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On August 3, PBI-Guatemala posted: “PBI accompanies the Retalhuleu Community Council community assembly in the community on February 15, where they address the situation of lack of access to land and health and electricity services.”

The “Comunidad Agraria 15 De Febrero” is located near Champerico.

Electricity services

Prensa Comunitaria has reported that several communities around Champerico “have declared themselves in resistance, due to the high energy charges that the [private] company Energuate.” There are also complaints about the poor service provided by Energuate.

That article adds: “Since last February, residents of the South Coast denounced the suspension of electricity service that affected 18 communities. Some of the villages that have paid also do not have the service.”

Con Criterio has also reported: “A walk by residents of 17 villages in Champerico arrived in the capital [this past March], claiming the right to electricity, after a month without service. There are 10 reconnected communities to which Energuate cut off the fluid since February 10, after residents of seven other communities did not pay their bill.”

Health care

More broadly, Aljazeera has reported: “Guatemala’s chronically underfunded public health system is always stretched thin and the pandemic has exacerbated the crisis, as many hospital intensive care units and temporary COVID-19 facilities periodically far surpass their capacity.” The Borgen Project has also noted: “Although the Guatemalan constitution guarantees healthcare … the Guatemalan government spends very little money on healthcare. In fact, Guatemala only spends about $97 per person on healthcare.”

Access to land

About 40 per cent of the population of Guatemala is indigenous. Indigenous and peasant farmers were dispossessed of their land in the 18th century through Spanish colonization which drove them to the less fertile highlands. Land distribution in Guatemala continues to be deeply unequal. There are now at least 1,000 land conflicts happening in Guatemala, many of which are related to concessions given to foreign companies for mining, sugar cane and palm oil farms, and hydroelectric dams, all of which deepen dispossession.

PBI-Guatemala has explained: “The Council of Communities of Retalhuleu (CCR) consists of more than 18 communities in the department of Retalhuleu (mainly the municipality of Champerico), belonging to the Mam, K’iche’ and Ixil peoples.”

PBI-Guatemala began to accompany the CCR in April 2020 due to the risks and threats experienced by its members.

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