Murder of Adolfo Chon Pacay, community member supported by Rabinal Legal Clinic (Bufete)

Adolfo Chon Pacay, community member from Dos Fuentes in Panima, Purulha, Baja Verapaz was assasinated on Friday, July 20.

The community has been supported by the Asociacion Bufete Juridico Popular in Rabinal for the last few years. The land owner claims ownership to about 200 caballerias of land, but until recently the community still had access to a portion. However, the finca owner is trying to appropriate the entire tract of land– he was able to get an eviction order for the community of Dos Fuentes.

Wednesday the Bufete put forward an injunction temporarily suspending the eviction order. On Friday, the finca owner reacted by releasing all his animals into the community, to destroy crops and effectively evict the community. When the community tried to get the cows out, workers from the Finca opened fire.  Adolfo Chon Pacay was killed and another man was injured. The Bufete is now in the struggle to bring justice for Chon Pacay’s murder, and determine the rightful owners of the land of Dos Fuentes.

Below is a statement prepared by the Bufete, which provides additional information on the case. You can also read it here in Spanish.

STATEMENT REGARDING THE EVENTS OF JULY 20, 2018 IN THE COMMUNITY OF DOS FUENTES, PURULHÁ, BAJA VERAPAZ

In 2015, Mr. Byron Thomae filed a complaint for aggravated usurpation and other offenses against 34 people in the community of Los Ángeles, Dos Fuentes, and Washington. The ensuing criminal process has been moving forward since then, and, on August 15, 2018 public hearings in the trial of seven of the accused will begin in the Sentencing Tribunal of Salamá. They face charges of aggravated usurpation and coercion.

The Public Prosecutor and the plaintiff nevertheless sought an eviction order that was granted without delay by the judge of the Salamá Criminal Court of First Instance. This was done without waiting for trial and sentencing to give clarity on the facts and, consequently, property rights to the land.

The eviction was set for July 20th, however, it was suspended and postponed for several reasons, especially because the conditions would not have permitted the eviction to be carried out in a way that respects the protocols of Guatemala’s Public Prosecutor and Human Rights Ombudsperson, or international provisions with which Guatemala must comply. No new date has been given for the eviction.

The suspension appears to have generated discontent among some, presumably people who work for Byron Thomae, who released cattle into the community of Dos Fuentes, destroying a large part of the crops that had been planted. They also fired shots against the community, provoking chaos and panic. As a result of this premeditated and violent action, Adolfo Ichich Chon, died and Porfirio Pérez was gravely injured.

These very serious acts show that for some people, the laws and actions from the times of Ubico are still in force and that shooting and killing someone found on your property is permitted, even if there is no certainty that these lands belong to Mr. Thomae.

The Rabinal Legal Clinic, which provides legal accompaniment to the community of Washington in the criminal process it faces manifests its concern for these violent acts. We are also concerned by the way in which the law has permitted that acts such as the eviction order be allowed to proceed when the process has already undergone three years of litigation in the corresponding tribunals and is about to go to trial, without allowing that the claims of the complainant be settled fairly in an impending trial, using evidence and not actions.

Finally, we urge the Public Prosecutor, as the entity in charge of investigating what happened, to do so in a detailed manner that leads to the full identification of material authors, as well as possible intellectual authors, because everyone knows that “where a captain rules, a sailor has no sway.”

[1] Decree-Law 1816, April 1932, which exempted landlords from the consequences of any action they take to protect their property and lands.

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