PBI-Guatemala observes evicted communities and BDH lawyers deliver alternative to Protected Areas Law

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PBI-Guatemala has posted:

On Tuesday [March 19] PBI observes delegations from various territories of evicted communities accompanying communities of the Laguna del Tigre and Sierra de Lacandón Protected Areas that have lived decades criminalized and threatened with eviction by the current Protected Areas Law.

Together with their lawyers from the Human Rights Law Firm [BDH] they delivered a reform proposal to several congressional deputies. The proposal seeks that the communities are recognized as guardians of nature and that the state complies with their rights to education, health and decent housing.

Since 2010, via accompaniment to the BDH [Human Rights Law Firm] PBI accompanies the alternative proposal of the communities affected by the Protected Areas Law; for more information we invite you to read this article from 2018 that gives context to the life situation of the communities.

A news report on the protest noted: “Residents from different parts of the departments of Petén, Izabal, Quiché, Zacapa, Baja Verapaz, Sololá and Alta Verapaz participated in the mobilization.”

Indigenous peoples stated: “We demand the protection, conservation and care of the natural area in the communities, because there are areas where people can enter to damage them.”

And another said with a loudspeaker: “This system of government says that there are protected areas, but they are pure lies. Protected because they don’t let us, the native peoples, in, but they do let the landowners, civil servants, the military in, they do let them in to continue exploiting what is not theirs. The territories belong to us.”

The PBI-Guatemala article hyperlinked further explains:

“The LAP Protected Areas Law, enacted in 1989 by Decree 4-89, grants the administration of PA to the National Council of Protected Areas (CONAP). The largest PAs in the country are located in Petén, Laguna del Tigre and Sierra Lacandón, and several communities that inhabit them are affected, due to the lack of legal certainty regarding land ownership and permanence. The State’s response to this situation was to establish what are known as Cooperation Agreements (CAs). However, according to one of the lawyers who provides legal support to these communities, the CAs are administrative instruments, implemented unilaterally by CONAP, to tolerate the indefinite stay of the population in these areas, while eviction is achieved. Thus, the few communities that have signed CAs are not free from eviction and find themselves in the same abandonment, criminalized and subject to arbitrary detention by the combined forces.”

Alternative proposal

PBI-Guatemala also notes the alternative underlines “the collective nature that is sought in this property, requesting that the non-repetition of evictions, the resettlement of the forcibly evicted communities be guaranteed, and that the State fulfill its institutional functions through the corresponding government agencies, demilitarizing the region but guaranteeing the necessary security measures to protect peasants from crime organized. They also expressly request that the State not renew or grant licenses and contracts for industrial activities that damage the ecosystem and affect the right to a healthy environment.”

PBI-Guatemala has accompanied the Human Rights Law Firm (BDH) since 2013.

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