Rabinal, Guatemala

September 29th, 2014

By Eliza MacLaughlin.  Eliza is BTS Accompanier with the ACOGUATE International Accompaniment Project. Eliza has been accompanying in Rabinal since she began her work with the project in May 2014. Eliza is originally from Prince Edward Island.

Well hello to everyone again. A month and a half has passed since I last wrote with an update. Time is quickly passing by. While in Canada, fall is bringing colder weather and autumn leaves. Here in Rabinal, “winter” is slowly but surely arriving. As I’m sure some of you might have heard, Guatemala has been going through a dry spell and many farmers have been devastated by the lack of harvest. Rabinal is no exception. Although some of the communities that lie higher up have been saved, those that live closer to the center have been left with basically nothing. Quite a few of the people that we accompany have expressed their despair, as the price of corn, along with other vegetables has also risen. As the rain now starts it seems to be too little too late. Many people are finding other ways to supplement this loss, with many people taking up odd jobs. International aid is coming, but as with any government program, it takes much too long to get there. Most farmers are hoping that they are able to harvest enough in order to have seeds for the next harvest.

Eliza MacLaughlin is part of a 15 member team of international accompaniers with the ACOGUATE project in Guatemala.

Eliza MacLaughlin is part of a 15 member team of international accompaniers with the ACOGUATE project in Guatemala.

Sadly, this drought comes at a bad time, as the government continues to refuse to give reparations to the communities affected by the construction of the hydroelectric dam Chixoy, and those affected in other massacres. 33 communities that were affected by the construction of Chixoy make up the committee that has been fighting since 2004 to receive reparations for their losses. The government continues to give hope to these communities, through dialogue tables and a plan of reparations, but only to leave them with nothing in the end. Those from Rio Negro that are currently living in Pacux are directly involved with this, making up one of the 33 communities. Recently though, a new ray of hope shined down on the community as the Inter-American Court of Human Rights released a statement stating that the state of Guatemala has not completed with the recommendations of 11 different cases, including the case of Rio Negro. In the coming weeks, there hopefully will be more news about this resolution and also movement with the reparations.
On a happier note, the Rabinal legal clinic received long awaited news that the case of Chichupac was submitted to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The community of Chichupac received this news with high spirits, as this step signifies that they are now that much closer to receiving justice. This comes more than 20 years after putting the original complaint in the Public Ministers office for a clandestine cemetery. Sadly, this also signifies that the Guatemalan court system is not willing to judge the case. According to one witness though, they are going to keep fighting until Gods comes to get them. This case is set to begin in the coming year.
On a more national scale, the indigenous farmers are continuing to speak out on behalf of their rights. Just two weeks ago, indigenous groups around the country used their right to freely protest, blocking 50 different points around the country. These protests were to repeal three different laws that go directly against indigenous groups. Following this, a more condensed group than protested in the capital asking for the acceptance of a law in favor of rural development. Sadly though, congress did not receive enough votes in favor of this law due to the two major parties abstaining from voting. Indigenous groups continue to fight for these numerous repeals and the approval of these laws.
Following this, just over a week ago a massacre occurred in a community in San Juan Sacatepéquez, in the department of Guatemala. This community was directly involved in these protests, and the majority of the community is also against a construction project that would dislodge community members, in favor of a road that would make it simpler to transport cement and other products. It is still unclear what exactly happened during the incident, with numerous stories being spread. What is certain is that 8 people were killed, and there are now 26 orders for captures for community leaders and members. Although we do not accompany this group directly, one of the fellow international accompaniment groups does, and this work directly affects our own.
Another noteworthy news item is in regards to the genocide case against Rios Montt. 93 magistrates have now excused themselves from resolving the appeal for amnesty. This means that the case hangs in suspension and that the newly elected magistrates will resolve the solicitude. Although there has been no official announcement, the audiences that are supposed to start in January will not start again until this resolution has been resolved. Many of those that we accompany continue to have hope for the future that this case will move forward.
Personally, my time is going by quickly. As I previously mentioned, I have decided to extend my time here. Originally I was to stay until the end of November, but instead I will now be staying until April. If all goes as plans (which it hardly ever does!), I will be staying in the area of Rabinal for the remainder of my time. I’m very excited to be staying longer and feeling energized to develop a better relationship with the people we accompany.


See other report backs from Eliza here.