PBI-Guatemala accompanies Poqomchi’ land defender and UVOC member Justino Xollin at sentencing hearing
On May 11, PBI-Guatemala posted:
“PBI accompanies Justino Xollin, defender of nature and member of UVOC during the second day of debate in the sentencing hearing. The defender is accused of cutting down trees and depredation of natural resources.
To learn more about Justino and the struggle of his La Primavera community, we recommend our short documentary: https://cutt.ly/nHiLbaZ.”
UVOC is the Verapaz Union of Campesina Organizations.
In 2013, UVOC lawyer Jorge Luis Morales commented: “The case of La Primavera is emblematic of the issue of agrarian disputes in Guatemala.” In short, Indigenous Poqomchi families have worked this land for centuries, but the current landowners do not recognize their land tenure rights and have tried to evict them.
PBI-Guatemala has explained that the ownership of part of the lands of this farm was achieved in July 2015. However, in early-2020, PBI-Guatemala noted that “there are still conflicts over the property and access to it.”
In February 2019, Prensa Comunitaria tweeted: “For Luis Cugua, defense attorney for Justino Xollin, the arrest of the peasant leader and defender of the forests was an arbitrary arrest in Alta Verapaz.”
In terms of additional context, 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 notes that foreign-backed mining, dams and other extractive industries have meant the continued dispossession of lands from Indigenous peoples.
UVOC is an indigenous and peasant organization dedicated to the defence and promotion of access to land in the context of historical dispossession and ongoing inequality in Guatemala. UVOC represents Q’eqchi’, Poqomchi, Achi and Mestizas peoples.
PBI-Guatemala has accompanied UVOC since 2005.