PBI-Guatemala accompanies CCR water defenders as judicial coercive measures require them to sign-in every 30 days

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On April 14, PBI-Guatemala posted:

“#PBI accompanies the 4 criminalised defenders from the Council of Communities of Retalhuleu (CCR) to the signing of the book in the Peace Court, Champerico. This coercive measure is part of the judicial process they face for defending the right to water and a dignified life of more than 70 communities in Champerico and Retalhuleu.”

Back in September 2021, PBI-Guatemala had also 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.”

Criminalized by sugar mills

PBI-Guatemala has previously explained: “The Council of Communities of Retalhuleu (CCR) consists of more than 18 communities in the department of Retalhuleu (mainly in the municipality of Champerico). They began to organize in 2015 because of the 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.”

In November 2019, Panorama Noticias reported: “Allegations of violations of the right to water, food and environmental pollution by the communities of the South Coast led to four defenders being criminalized by the mills of El Pilar and Magdalena. The Court of First Instance of Retalhuleu terminated a case in which they were accused, however, the case was appealed by sugar mills and the defenders were linked to the process.”

They are charged with illegal detention, coercion and threats. The accusations come from El Pilar and Magdalena, but Magdalena subsequently withdrew from the case.

Abelino Mejía Cancino, a member of the CCR’s Board of Directors and one of those criminalized, has commented that the purpose of this criminalization is to wear people down physically and psychologically, so that they abandon their demands.

Sugar exports to Canada

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

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, 2022, Abelino Mejia Cancino 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.

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

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