From November 4th – 11th, Marcelo Sabuc of the Highlands Committee of Small Farmers (CCDA) spoke throughout the Maritimes regarding threats against human rights defenders in Guatemala and the deteriorating political situation in the country. During the speaking tour, Marcelo visited 7 communities: Antigonish, Halifax, Wolfville, Sackville, Fredericton, Charlottetown and Tatamagouche. At each stop, community members expressed their solidarity with the CCDA and the 21 human rights defenders who have been assassinated this year.

Group Photo - Antigonish

Antigonish on November 4, 2018 (Photo Credit: Stacey Gomez)

Group Photo - Halifax

Halifax on November 5, 2018

Group Photo - Wolfville

Wolfville on November 6, 2018 (Photo Credit: Stacey Gomez)

Group Photo - Sackville - Cropped - JC

Sackville on November 7, 2018 (Photo Credit: Juan Carlos Martinez)

Group Photo - Fredericton

Fredericton on November 8, 2018

Group Photo - Charlottetown

Charlottetown on November 10, 2018

Group Photo - Tatamagouche

Tatamagouche on November 11, 2018 (Photo Credit: Stacey Gomez)

Group Photo - ACIC

Tatamagouche at ACT 4 Global Change on November 11, 2018

The CCDA, one of the leading Indigenous agrarian organizations in Guatemala, supports 30,000 Indigenous small farmers throughout the country in struggles for access to and defense of land and territory through advocacy, the production of coffee for export and the promotion of sustainable agriculture. The CCDA has enabled small Indigenous farmers to access and reclaim 76 plantations. Their important work has made them the target of repression from the time of Guatemala’s internal armed conflict to present.

We began each of our visits with a commemoration of the six CCDA members who’ve been assassinated since 2016. Five of them were killed this year alone. Each was a community leader engaged in struggles for access to and defense of land. Marcelo also shared, “The men left children – now orphans – and widows”:
Daniel Choc Pop from San Juan Tres Rios – Assasinated June 8, 2016
Samuel Chub from Xyaal Kobe – Assasinated February 27, 2018
Gumercindo Butz from Chiguoyo – Assassinated March 2, 2018
Jose Can Xol from Choctun Basila – Assasinated May 10, 2018
Mateo Chaman Pau from San Juan los Tres Rios – Assassinated May 13, 2018
Ramon Choc Sacrab from Ixloc San Pedrito – Assassinated June 1, 2018

Another threat faced by the CCDA and social movements in Guatemala is criminalization. According to Marcelo, four CCDA members are currently in jail and another 308 have arrest warrants for their political work. Marcelo also spoke of Bernardo Caal, a Q’eqchi community leader engaged in resistance to hydroelectric projects, which have led to water scarcity and contaminated the rivers of Indigenous communities in Guatemala. Bernardo was sentenced to 7 years and 4 months in prison on November 9th. Marcelo noted, “The only way we can achieve our vision for structural transformation is to continue to struggle, even though there are risks.”

Marcelo critiqued the role of Guatemalan security forces in backing megaprojects such as transnational mining, hydroelectric dams and the expansion of monoculture (eg. palm oil and sugar cane) operating without the consent of local communities. During Guatemala’s internal armed conflict, the military was responsible for much of the violence against the population. Marcelo noted, “While the budget for the public autonomous university Universidad de San Carlos is being slashed, military funding has significantly increased. We are supposed to be in a time of peace. This is a contradiction.”

Marcelo ended each of his talks by emphasizing the importance of Canadian solidarity with Guatemala. He shared, “Our ancestors had a saying: we all have to walk together and let no one be left behind. Lets walk forward together.”

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The fight for justice in Guatemala