PBI-Guatemala accompanied AVECHAV shares story of Chicoyogüito displacement with University of Victoria students

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On September 15, Domingo of the PBI-Guatemala accompanied Chicoyogüito Neighborhood Association of Alta Verapaz (AVECHAV) presented to 4th year students at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada.

The university is situated on the territory of the Indigenous WSANEC and Lkwungen peoples, whose relationships to the land continue to this day.

Domingo, along with Silvia Weber (PBI-Guatemala), Heather Neun and Brent Patterson (PBI-Canada), joined via Zoom at the invitation of Sebastian Bonet, a professor of environmental studies at the university.

Domingo spoke about 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 in Alta Verapaz.

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

Domingo shared that 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.

On this PBI-Canada organized webinar on July 15, Domingo also 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?”

The military base that displaced his community was rebranded in 2004 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.

That timeline also notes the Canadian government’s reticence to Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz and his commitment to agrarian land reform that would have begun to address the deeply unequal access to land rooted in centuries of colonization.

The overthrow of Arbenz and the end to his land reform program can be connected to the armed conflict (1960 to 1996), the establishment of Military Zone 21, as well as the estimated 1,000 land conflicts now happening in Guatemala, and the systemic poverty and repression that drive migration across militarized borders.

On June 9, in the lead up to the July 28 anniversary of their displacement, the community organized a demonstration. Before it could even begin, 21 community members were arrested on the charge of “aggravated usurpation” as they gathered for this protest.

The next hearing for these defenders will be in October.

For updates, we encourage you to follow @CasoCreompaz on Twitter and/search the hashtags #ChicoyogüitoEsNuestro, #Chicoyogüito and #CREOMPAZ.

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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