PBI-Guatemala accompanies CCDA at Mayan ceremony for ancestral authorities and land defenders who have experienced repression
On August 25, the Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project posted: “PBI accompanies CCDA Verapaz at a Mayan ceremony for all the attacks, threats and repression suffered by the ancestral authorities and defenders of the land.”
The Campesino Committee of the Highlands (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.
On August 22, the CCDA tweeted: “We condemn the vile murder of community leader ALBERTO TEC CAAL. We demand justice and the prompt capture of those responsible. WE ARE DEFENDERS, NOT CRIMINALS.”
On July 20, Regilson Choc Cac, a Q’eqchi Mayan sixteen-year-old land rights defender and member of CCDA, was shot to death in San Juan Los Tres Ríos, Cobán, Alta Verapaz. He was the third CCDA leader murdered in this community. On June 8, 2016, Daniel Choc was murdered, and on May 13, 2018, Mateo Chaman was murdered. Neither of those cases have been successfully prosecuted.
Two other CCDA members, Q’eqchi Mayan campesinos Jorge Coc Coc and Marcelino Xol Cucul, were unjustly sentenced to 35 years in prison without parole in October 2019.
And CCDA coordinators Lesbia Artola Peyul and Imelda Teyul have continued to face serious security incidents.
The PBI-Guatemala report We Defend Life! The Social Struggles in Alta Verapaz provides the historical context: “The indigenous peoples and campesinos of AV have been subjected to continuous dispossession dating back to the Spanish conquest, when the looting of natural wealth in the region began through the exploitation of raw materials.”
It adds: “Faced with this history of dispossession, the indigenous and campesino population has organized multiple resistances throughout history. …The State’s response to these resistances has been characterized by repression.”
The Guardian has reported: “A peace agreement in 1996 should have led to land redistribution, but a handful of powerful families still dominates the economy, and Guatemala remains one of the world’s least equal and most violent countries, with the largest 2.5% of farms occupying more than 65% of the land.”
That article further notes that foreign-backed mining, dams and other extractive industries have meant the continued dispossession of lands from Indigenous peoples.
PBI-Guatemala has accompanied CCDA-Verapaz since July 2018.