This week two communities were violently evicted by state forces.
On Monday, October 30, over 1500 police surrounded the community of Chab’il Ch’och’, Izabal and evicted the community, sending 80 families to hide in the mountains, without food, water or shelter. The community is located on a large tract of land, which had been illegally acquired by ex-president Otto Perez Molina, who is currently in jail awaiting trial on corruption charges. Under Perez Molina, the land was called the Santa Isabel Plantation. However, after he was arrested in 2015, the plantation workers reclaimed their historic rights to the land, and began to build their community, Chab’il Ch’och’. The plantation administrator was present during the evictions and brought 500 people into the land after the police had moved out community members; those individuals burned down homes and destroyed belongings.
Juan Carlos Caal, resident of Chab’il Ch’och stated, “We don’t have food. We don’t have any clothes. We are left with what we are wearing. It’s sad what happened on Monday. They burned our house. But we are going to continue the struggle. We are not only going to go halfway. We have to continue. ”
Another community member, Cristina Ico Pacham, claimed, “This isn’t the first time. Helicopters have passed overhead shooting at us. Every so often they tell us we will be evicted. But the land is ours. There are cemeteries. Before the eviction we had houses, animals, clothes. But the police came, 1,800 [officers]. They said they would help us carry our things but everything was left on the ground- the stone we use to mill our corn, our clothes, everything.
Families were not provided with any state support after the eviction. Currently there are 20 families who have no been accounted for. The Highland Small Farmers Committee (CCDA) is supporting the victims.
Another eviction occurred in La Cumbre, Tactic, Alta Verapaz on October 1, sending 25 families from their homes. Women reported sexual violence during the eviction. The community was associated with the Peasant Unity Committee (CUC) and had previously labored on a plantation owned by the Morales Cahuec family. During the eviction, current workers of the plantation were involved in destroying homes. The community had been participating in a dialogue table with the Secretary of Agrarian Affairs to recognize their right as legitimate owners of the land. Currently, there is one political prisoner from the community, and 16 others with arrest warrants.
Outcry from peasant farmer organizations and human rights organizations state that the community members’ human rights were not secured before the evictions took place, and no adequate support has been provided after the evictions.
Member of Congress Sandra Moran stated, “We believe the Guatemalan State can no longer loan-out services to plantation owners or companies, privileging the right to private property over the right to life, and the right to develop a dignified way of life. They are people who have looked for dialogue, using rule of law. They use evictions as they did before during the war, for destruction of everything, scorched earth.”
Member of Congress Leocadio Juracan also held a press conference on November 3 to denounce the impact of the evictions, the trafficking of influence and the effects of parallel groups which have co-opted state mechanisms.
There are two more evictions orders for the communities of Trece Aguas and Santa Rosita El Prieto, both in Alta Verapaz.
BTS Guatemala Coordinator, November 3, 2017, Guatemaal
**Photos by community members and BTS staff