PBI-Guatemala accompanies the Council of Communities of Retalhuleu at World Water Day commemoration

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PBI-Guatemala has posted:

On March 16 #PBI accompanies the Council of Communities of Retalhuleu in the commemoration of #WorldWaterDay in the communities of Champerico.

In this meeting, members of the Council exchanged on the challenges faced by the communities, such as the lack of water in the territories due to the extension of sugar cane monocultures and the contamination of this vital liquid. Peasant families are affected by not having water to drink or for the orchards. ‘Even the birds are dying of thirst,’ shares a community authority.

In spite of all the effects, the people resist with joy and make an altar to share fruits and vegetables that they have in their orchards that still survive.

The virtual water trade

Between 2015 and 2022, Canada imported 1.46 million metric tons of sugar from Guatemala.

Figures for 2023 should become available in the coming weeks.

In last year’s annual report from the United States Department of Agriculture on sugar production in Guatemala, they note that the sugarcane crop system requires 100 cubic meters of water per ton.

That would suggest that the sugar exported to Canada since 2015 has required 146 million cubic meters of water.

Criminalization and acquittal

PBI-Guatemala has noted: “The CCR began to organize in 2015 as a result of 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.”

Four members of the CCR have been criminalized since November 2019 due to their advocacy.

It was not until May 30, 2023, that they were fully acquitted.

PBI-Canada visit to Guatemala

Just four weeks earlier, on May 2-4, 2023, PBI-Canada visited with the CCR on the South Coast of Guatemala.

These are lands from which the Indigenous Mam, K’iche’ and Ixil peoples have been displaced through Spanish colonization that began in 1524.

While there, Abelino Mejia Cancino, one of the members of the CCR criminalized for his defence of water, introduced us to communities experiencing water shortages related to the water-intensive sugar industry and showed us drained and polluted rivers, as well as water being taken from this river.

We hope to facilitate a visit by the CCR to Vancouver and Victoria this coming October. More details on this coming soon.

The Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project has accompanied the Retalhuleu Community Council (CCR) since April 2020.

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