PBI-Guatemala accompanied water protectors to appear in court on October 22

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo: This summer PBI-Guatemala visited with the criminalized defenders who face a court hearing later this week.

Four human rights defenders criminalized for defending the human right to water will have a court hearing on Friday October 22.

Earlier this month, La Prensa reported: “On November 24, 2017, residents of the Nueva Candelaria community held a protest because sugar mills such as Tululá, Magdalena and El Pilar had made them offers for projects that they did not fulfill.”

“In addition, one of the rivers where the ladies washed their clothes and extracted water, Canillas, dried up, for this fact a complaint was filed with the Public Ministry.”

“That situation angered the people, who proceeded to stop several cars of workers from these companies that passed through the community.”

“Karina Alejandra Imeri, who identified herself as a community manager of the El Pilar sugar mill, located in San Andrés, Retalhuleu, denounced in 2017 four members of the Board of Directors of the Council of Organized Communities of Retalhuleu and Champerico.”

“Although a judge ruled lack of merit in favor of the community in 2019, the complainant appealed in a Chamber in Retalhuleu that ordered the Court to repeat the process, a hearing that will be held on October 22.”

The Community Council of Retalhuleu (CCR)

PBI-Guatemala has previously explained: “The 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.”

“Its main objective is the defence of life, territory and human rights, in particular the right of access to water and agriculture on a small scale.”

“They began to organize in 2015 as a result of adverse effects caused by the expansion of the monoculture of sugar and the use of large-scale agrochemicals and pesticides used by the mills in the region.”

That article adds: “In recent years there has been drought and pollution of wells, rivers and lagoons, as well as the destruction of livelihoods, causing lack of access to water and health problems such as malnutrition and respiratory and renal ailments.”


One of the criminalized defenders, Abelino Mejia Cancino, has commented: “We need people to realize that when they consume sugar, it has an impact on the life of the communities and on the right to water for all. We call for the consumption of what is healthy and good produced by the campesinos and not products made by the big companies.”

Notably, the Guatemalan Sugar Association (ASAZGUA) has identified Canada as the top export destination for Guatemalan sugar. In September 2020 it reported Guatemala exported 333,596 metric tons of sugar to Canada.

PBI-Canada will be watching to see what happens in court on October 22.

PBI-Guatemala has accompanied the four defenders since April 2020.

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