PBI-Guatemala accompanies assembly of the Indigenous community of San Francisco Quezaltepeque facing extractivism and criminalization

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On January 11, PBI-Guatemala posted:

“Last Friday we were present at the celebration of the first assembly of the Comunidad Indígena San Francisco Quezaltepeque.”

PBI-Guatemala began accompanying the Maya Ch’orti’ Indigenous Authorities of Olopa and Quezaltepeque in June 2021.

Prensa Comunitaria reported on this gathering in their article (in Spanish): Indigenous community of San Francisco Quezaltepeque held its first ordinary assembly of 2023.

That article notes:

“The main struggles for the indigenous authorities of San Francisco Quezaltepeque focus on extractive projects, which has generated a constant criminalization of their leaders, who are persecuted and discriminated against by government entities.

Last Friday, January 6, the Ch’orti’ Mayan indigenous community of San Francisco Quezaltepeque, Chiquimula, held its first ordinary assembly this year, to elect the members of the Board of Directors of the ancestral authorities, for the period 2023-2024.

The activity was held in the Morro Grande hamlet of the village of San Nicolás.

The event was attended by community members of the farms La Cofradía, El Nochan, Corral Falso, Los Tejidos and San Cayetano, which make up the indigenous territory of San Francisco; In addition, representatives of the ancestral authorities of Olopa, Camotán and the Xinca Parliament attended.

The assembly began with a Mayan ceremony in gratitude for the struggle and defense of territory, water, nature and human life. Marvin Arnoldo Nájera, a Ch’orti’ Mayan indigenous authority, told Prensa Comunitaria that this meeting is held on January 6 of each year, in which the new authorities are elected. He stressed that, despite the discrimination, persecution and criminalization they suffer from government authorities, they will continue to defend their rights as indigenous peoples.

According to the interviewee, the election of the new Board of Directors and ancestral authorities is carried out in a transparent manner; It is a process in which everyone exercises their rights democratically. If most people agree with the proposed candidate for office, they can raise their hand or hat.

One of the objectives achieved during the past year is the remodeling of the roof of the headquarters, known as Casa de la Cofradía de San Francisco, said Nájera. However, he commented that the problem faced by community and ancestral authorities is the exclusion of part of the municipal mayor of Quezaltepeque and the central government, by not recognizing the existence and struggle of indigenous peoples, he noted.

For his part, Humberto De la Cruz López, who served as president of the Board of Directors of the ancestral authorities and was re-elected for the period 2023 – 2024, hopes that this year priority and follow-up will be given to the organization, so as not to be dispossessed of their lands, as has happened with other families in other territories.

On the achievements made in 2022, De la Cruz mentioned the strengthening of community organization, the alliances reached with ancestral authorities and indigenous communities of Olopa and the Xinca Parliament; as well as lawsuits before different instances of the State against extractive companies that intend to invade the territory.

The president of this ancestral body stressed the importance of people participating in the election of the new Board of Directors, because it gives greater credibility and transparency to the assembly. “We demand that the government authorities recognize us as indigenous peoples and respect our rights as people, because, just as the government exists, we also exist the original peoples,” he said.

On his experience in the first period as an ancestral authority, De la Cruz reported that it was very difficult, mainly because they are not recognized as indigenous peoples and are not taken into account by the different instances of government. The only thing we receive is persecution from the municipal authorities, the National Civil Police and the Public Ministry, he said.

One of the greatest threats experienced by the indigenous communities of the Ch’orti’ region are extractive projects, which only pollute and destroy nature, forests and water sources. “They want to end human life because of pollution in the environment,” he concluded.

Meanwhile, Eladia Leal said she feels motivated, being elected to be part of the Board of Directors for the period 2023-2024, as member IV. For her, it has been a tireless experience, because she defends her territory and the struggle for the rights of others, as her ancestors did. He said he longs for change for the country and the well-being of indigenous communities and peoples.

The 2023 general elections worry the authorities and indigenous peoples of Chiquimula.

For Marvin Nájera, the state system only seeks to enrich itself and the business sector and organized crime to maintain power. For the next four years we only see the participation of those who have looted the country, of those who have dispossessed the communities, he said.

For his part, Humberto de la Cruz, considers it very difficult to find a candidate who has the will to serve for this year’s general elections. “We, as a Ch’orti Mayan people, are willing to maintain the resistance, hoping to find a candidate to choose from who can represent and recognize us as indigenous peoples,” he said.

He also called for all the peoples of Guatemala to articulate themselves as a single nation, to continue fighting for the common good and not for personal interests. The call for all is for unity and struggle to obtain space and respect for our rights as peoples, he concluded.

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