PBI-Guatemala accompanies the Council of Communities of Retalhuleu water defenders at court hearing

Published by Brent Patterson on

On September 21, PBI-Guatemala posted:

“PBI accompanies the Council of Communities of Retalhuleu (CCR) in the hearing of the criminal proceedings against four people defending water. After more than four years of criminalization, the members of the CCR are still tied to the process and were given back the coercive measures to sign an assistance book every 30 days.”

Sugar exports to Canada

As seen in the chart below, Canada is one of the largest importers of sugar grown in Guatemala.

Chart by UN Comtrade Database.

An upcoming report with research produced by Research for the Front Lines will document how sugar grown on the South Coast of Guatemala is transported to Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto. 

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.”

PBI webinar with CCR water defender

On March 13, Abelino joined a PBI-Canada organized webinar on Defending the right to water from harm by the sugar industry in Guatemala.

The webinar was hosted by Toronto-based PBI-Canada Board member Marianna Tzabiras and also featured Brussels-based Kerstin Reemtsma from PBI-Guatemala.

You can watch the Facebook video of that webinar by clicking here. To hear the audio for Abelino’s introductory comments in English (a 14-minute audio file from the Zoom webinar), please click below.

Abelino also spoke about the ways in which accompaniment and solidarity can help in the struggle to uphold the right to water:

– “We ask that the international community watch very closely what happens. You can send diplomatic support for the hearings so that they see we do have support.”

– “There is a year-by-year certification process for the sugar mills. They need to visit not just the sugar mills, but the communities, that they come to see the rivers, they need to see the reality of the poverty the sugar cane industry is leaving here in our country.”

– “An international commission needs to come to verify the damage that has taken place. And to say if you aren’t going to protect the environment, we can’t buy your sugar.”

Kerstin added:

– “For people listening today, you can ask Canadian companies or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs how they guarantee in the supply chain respect for human rights because as I understand it this commitment does exist. How are they ensuring respect for human rights?”

Observation mission

In their most recent Bulletin, PBI-Guatemala noted: “We carried out an observation mission to the Retalhuleu and Champerico municipalities in March 2022, accompanying defenders from the Community Council of Retalhuleu (CCR) and the National Network for the Defense of Food Sovereignty of Guatemala (REDSAG).”

To read that article, please see: PBI-Guatemala carries out observation mission on extractivism and the right to water in Retalhuleu and Champerico.

The Peace Brigades International-Guatemala began accompanying the Council of Communities of Retalhuleu (CCR) in April 2020.


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