PBI-Guatemala accompanies the Council of Communities of Retalhuleu at meeting in Champerico
On November 15, the Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project posted: “PBI accompanies the Council of Communities of Retalhuleu [CCR] to a meeting with the Youth Association, in the community of October 20, Champerico.”
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.”
Notably, the Guatemalan Sugar Association (ASAZGUA) has identified Canada as the top export destination for Guatemalan sugar.
Abelino Mejia Cancino of the CCR says: “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.”
The defenders have stated: “We organize ourselves in a peaceful way to publicize the consequences of sugar cane, the diversion of rivers that the mills have.”
PBI-Guatemala has noted: “The CCR 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.”
As a result of their defence of the right to water, four members of the Retalhuleu Community Council have been criminalized by the El Pilar and Magdalena sugar mills.
On October 22, PBI-Guatemala posted: “PBI accompanied the 4 criminalized defending people on the South Coast for defending water.”
It then noted: “After 6 suspensions since 2019, today is the hearing in which Anabella Spain, Abelino Mejía, Flavio Vicente and Virgilio Garcia is feared to be brought to trial for the crimes of coercion, threats and illegal arrests such as sends the ruling of an appeals court.”
That day Prensa Comunitaria reported: “The hearing of the defenders, who are part of the Board of Directors of the Council of Organized Communities of Retalhuleu and Champerico, is held behind closed doors. Human rights observers or communicators from @REDSAG_ [the National Network for the Defence of Food Sovereignty] were not allowed.”
The next court hearing for the criminalized defenders is now scheduled for March 14, 2022.
PBI-Guatemala has accompanied them since April 2020.