PBI-Guatemala accompanies AVECHAV as their March 30th court date nears

Published by Brent Patterson on

On January 25, PBI-Guatemala posted: “PBI accompanies several organizations in the region, met with representatives of the Association of Neighbors of Chicoyoguito (AVECHAV) and presented before the authorities in Coban, Alta Verapaz.”

The Indigenous Q’eqchi’ community of Chicoyogüito was violently displaced from their ancestral lands so that an army base – then known as Military Zone 21 – could be established in the department of Alta Verapaz. More than 200 families were displaced from those lands on July 28, 1968, by the military.

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.

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.

Domingo, a member of AVECHAV, highlighted on a PBI-Canada webinar in July 2021: “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?”

Historically, the Canadian government was also reticent about 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, 2021, 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.

PBI-Guatemala has noted: On October 6, 2021, we were present at the Cóban Courthouse to accompany the 21 community members of the Chicoyogüito Neighbours Association of Alta Verapaz (AVECHAV), who were detained during a peaceful march on June 9, 2021, and who were later tried. The hearing was suspended and rescheduled for March 30, 2022.”

PBI-Guatemala has accompanied AVECHAV since 2015.

PBI-Guatemala accompanied the first statement hearing for the criminalized defenders on June 18, 2021.


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