THE COMMITTEE OF PEASANT FARMERS of the HIGHLANDS of GUATEMALA – CCDA –
In response to the Governor of Alta Verapaz, Delegates from the Land Fund (Fondo de Tierra), Secretary of Agrarian Issues and Presidential Commission for Human Rights (COPREDEH)
EXPRESSES THE FOLLOWING:
We strongly oppose the intention of the Governor of Alta Verapaz, the Land Fund and the Secretary of Agrarian Issues, the entities responsible for the agrarian institutes in the country, to refuse responsibility for the violent murder of indigenous Q’eqchi leader Daniel Choc Pop and the institutional negligence following this crime against a member of the Committee of Peasant Farmers of the Highlands of Guatemala – CCDA – who was a human rights activist, peasant farmer and community leader from San Juan los Tres Rios in the department of Alta Verapaz. Daniel worked to address social issues and worked to attain the legal certainty of lands in this region for several rural and indigenous families as a result of land conflicts that prevail in the country. We reject that Daniel’s murder is an isolated incident as these authorities have indicated. We believe this shows their negligence and inability to resolve problems related to the rural indigenous population of Guatemala.
In 2012, in the context of the Indigenous, Peasant and Popular March, in which civil society organization as well as peasant communities marched from Coban, Alta Verapaz to Guatemala City, the CCDA presented a request to the Guatemalan Legislative, Executive and Judiciary to resolve land conflicts in the country. Daniel Choc Pop was one of the community representatives from San Juan los Tres Rios who was part of the people’s struggle and effort to coordinate this initiative.
The CCDA is currently accompanying several land conflict cases. As a result, multiple spaces have been established by the State to address land conflicts, including “Technical Committees,” “Dialogue Roundtables,” and “Follow-up Roundtables,” within the Land Fund and the Secretary of Agrarian Issues. These spaces have been an attempt to find a solution to the multiple cases of land conflicts, including the community of San Juan los Tres Rios. The only outcome of these spaces, however, has been to slow down addressing the issues at hand. A mutually agreed upon meeting was set with the Land Fund for March 10, 2014, which was later postponed to March 18, 2014 by the State institution. At this meeting, the CCDA submitted a document outlining priority cases to the Manager of the Land Fund, in which the case of San Juan Tres Rios was included along with others.
A year later, after no responses was given, on April 17, 2015, legitimately backed by the constitutional right to meet, protest and peacefully resist before systematic and repeated violation of human rights, more than 400 indigenous Q’eqchi families set up outside the Presidential House in Guatemala City. For 12 days, this became known as “Q’eqchi Community.” While there, several land conflict cases were presented to the State, including that of San Juan los Tres Rios. This can be verified in a document sent to the President of the Republic, which was stamped as received by the Private Secretary of the President on April 20, 2015. This document denounces the multiple threats that were and continued to be perpetrated by irregular armed forces – not of the State. It also denounced the cases of criminalization of leaders who have been incarcerated and those who have outstanding arrest warrants for them.
At this time, actions that would help resolve the problems were presented to the President of the Republic and the agrarian institutions of the State. The actions that correspond to the Land Fund to fulfill should have been instigated, according to Governmental Agreement No. 199-2000 that was signed by the President.
On April 20, 2015, while the “Q’eqchi Community” was set up, a high level roundtable was created that included the President of the Republic, the Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Food, Secretary of Agrarian Issues, Manager of the Land Fund, Presidential Advisor Responsible for the National Dialogue System and Representatives of the CCDA. Point 5 of the Document of Agreements and Commitments clearly states: “It is agreed to work immediately to analyze the 29 cases prioritized by the CCDA in order to have a future meeting for decision making in the course of this week with the President.”
On April 23, 2015, a meeting was held with the Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Food, the Manager of the Land Fund, Secretary for Agrarian Issues and Representatives of the CCDA to respond to the prioritized cases. During the meeting, a Document of Agreements and Commitments was signed. The first point of this document states: “In reference to the land conflicts with respect to the communities of Cerrito Samox, Ixloc San Pedrito and San Juan los Tres Rios, situated in Coban, Alta Verapaz, all related to access to land, it is agreed that within four months of today’s date, the Land Fund will perform and conclude the different phases of the administrative procedure for acquisition of land for peasant families.”
On July 10, Governmental Agreement 181-2015 was issued where it was established that the budget was increased to fulfill the resolution of land conflicts in the cases of Cerrito Samox, Ixloc San Pedrito and the community of San Juan los Tres Ríos, in Cobán, Alta Verapaz. Where these funds have ended up is unclear since the problem continues.
On April 28, 2016, with the intermediation of Congressman Leocadio Juracán, in coordination with Doctor Rokael Cardona of the National Dialogue Commission, a meeting was convened with state agrarian institutions and representatives of the CCDA to discuss a resolution to the cases of land conflict aforementioned. Follow up meetings have been held on May 11 and 17, 2016 with the intention of finding a solution; in each of these meetings, the case of San Juan los Tres Rios has been discussed. Daniel Choc Pop was present in all of these meetings.
The families of San Juan los Tres Rios have been threatened on multiple occasions, including death threats by alleged security forces from Finca Rancho Alegre. They have been intimidated with firearms, which was denounced most recently before the Alta Verapaz Regional Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office on March 31, 2016 with file number EXP.ORIENTACION ORD A.V. 4072-2016, which reads, “community members indicate that on the morning of March 30, 2016 at 9:30am, a group of people with machetes and firearms in hand arrived saying they were authorized by Mr. German Sierra Sorio to remove them from the area.” In the complaint that was filed, it is on record that a process of regularization of lands was before the Land Fund.
There also exists legal complaints that have been filed by community members of San Juan los Tres Rios to the District Attorney of Alta Verapaz, including case file number MP 255-2016-2851. On April 5, 2016, a reconciliatory meeting was set up by the Unit for Early Decisions of the Public Prosecutor’s Office. German Sierra Osorio, Hermelindo Chen, Evaristo Pop (who is presumed to be the material author of the murder of Daniel Choc Pop) and the families of the community of San Juan los Tres Rio were summoned. Sierra Osorio, Chen and Pop did not show up as was recorded by the auxiliary prosecutor on April 11, 2016.
For all of the aforementioned, we reject any attempt of the Governor of Alta Verapaz to wash her hands of the murder of leader Daniel Choc Pop. In her declarations, she has said that his murder was an isolated event, even though he has been present in all phases of resolving the land conflict in his community. The Governor, along with the Land Fund, the Secretary of Agrarian Issues and the Presidential Commission for Human Rights have also stated that Daniel’s murder was a result of a conflict with another community, with the intention of hiding it’s inability, negligence and unwillingness to respond to the interests of rural, indigenous communities.
The CCDA is an organization with presence in 20 departments of the country and more that 34 years of history in defense of indigenous and peasant rights. The Highland’s Committee of Peasant Farmers – CCDA – believes the State of Guatemala is responsible for not attending the land problems in our country.
In regards to the aforementioned:
The resignation of Jimmy Morales and Jafeth Cabrera, the current president and vice-president of the Republic of Guatemala for the lack of attention they have shown in addressing the problem of land conflicts and for giving priority to their individual interests and those of the national oligarchy and not not responding to the demands presented by Indigenous Peoples.
At the same time, we ask for the urgent dismissal of the authorities in charge of agricultural institutions in the country for their inability to guarantee the fulfillment of human rights and the rights of indigenous peoples.
To the Public Prosecutor’s Office – MP – to undertake an impartial investigation that establishes the intellectual and material authors and clarifies the incidents surrounding the murder of peasant leader Daniel Choc Pop so that this case is not left as one more in impunity as have many others in the region.
To the Governor of Alta Verapaz – to clarify her previously expressed declarations and to arrange for compensation for the family of peasant leader Daniel Choc Pop.
We publicly ask the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala – CICIG to investigate the actions of State agrarian institutions, the Public Prosecutor’s Office – MP, and Administrators of Justice in the region of Alta Verapaz. Given the many rural indigenous communities in the region whose rights are being violated and who are being forcibly evicted, we ask for an investigation into the corruption and peddling of influences we are sure exist.
Hope Grows and Strengthens in Guatemala.
Guatemala, June 11, 2016
*Translated by Breaking the Silence. International solidarity actions to respond to this situation will be communicated this week.