Highlands Committee of Small Farmers (CCDA)
Our friends at the CCDA continue their incredible work of community organizing in response to the many challenges faced. The end of 2020 brought on many difficulties with regards to the continuous violence and criminalization against land defenders. The CCDA continues to provide support to communities struggling to gain and maintain land rights, as well as the right to food sovereignty. In the last few months, the CCDA has continued to increase visibility around key issues concerning the rights of communities to land, food, and education. They join other organizations in their #AtitlanEspejoDelCielo campaign which supports stewardship and agro-ecological management of Lake Atitlan by local, Indígenous communities, in the wake of proposals for megaprojects that would further jeopardize the health of the lake and its surrounding communities. They also continue to provide assistance to families and farmers in need.
Mesoamerican Permaculture Institute (IMAP)
Our friends at IMAP continue their work towards biodiversity conservation through the preservation of local, native and organic seeds, as well as their work around food sovereignty by creating new markets for the consumption of locally produced grains and products. The focus for IMAP over the last few months has been to increase the capacity of families and small-scale farmers to produce their own foods and seeds to sustain themselves and their communities, as well as create spaces for local farmers to be able to sell their surplus products. They have recently worked on the establishment of family-run urban gardens, as well as provided training for the processing of locally produced plants and grains such as amaranth.
The economic hardships of the pandemic have severely impacted their work resulting in less support coming in at a time it is very much needed. Despite this, they continue to work in support of farmers, subsidizing local grains as much as possible so that local farmers may be able to compete with the multitude of cheap processed foods easily available. They have recently launched a 500 healthy kids project to help support access for locally produced, nutritious and organic healthy food for children.
The summer break for students at the New Hope School began in December, however, because of COVID-19, all of the students were already at home. Because of the dedication and flexibility of the school’s staff, the students finished the school year successfully. The staff spent the break working on improving the hybridized distanced education plan in order to better support families who have been negatively impacted by the economic impacts of COVID-19 and families in rural areas with little internet access. Because they are a private school, classes will begin for the New Hope School on January 19th. They are planning to have the high school level students work virtually and with paper guides. For the middle school level, they will work with paper guides and routine visits from teachers. Supplying teachers and students with the necessary items such as internet, sanitizer, soap, and masks remains a challenge.
The Rabinal Legal Clinic continues to pursue the case brought forward by 36 Maya Achí Women against ten former patrulleros for the case of sexual violence and crimes against humanity committed during the Internal Armed Conflict. We now know that the case against one of the men, Francisco Cuxum Alvarado, will be proceeding to trial in 2022. They are engaged in ongoing efforts to appeal the case against some of the accused who had their evidentiary case dismissed by a previously recused judge, Claudette Dominguez.
The holiday season did not slow the work of the Xinka Parliament, as the fight against Pan American Silver’s Escobal mine continues despite COVID-19. On December 3rd, the Xinka Parliament met with the Ministry of Energy and Mines to discuss the consultation process for the Escobal Mine. Although this meeting alluded to some positive developments such as confirming all 59 Xinka community representatives will be allowed to participate, this does not negate the fact that Pan American Silver continues to blatantly disregard its current suspension and is carrying out prohibited activities like construction and the hiring of personnel.
On January 15th, the Ministry of Energy and Mines announced that the pre-consultation process would officially begin ‘in good faith’ on April 20th, 2021. Only two days later, Xinka community leader and vocal opponent of the Escobal mine, Julio Gonzalez, was shot in his Mataquescuintla home. The attempted assassination of Julio is only the most recent in a history of criminalization, defamation and violence against land and human rights defenders in Xinka territory.
The Xinka Parliament has publicly denounced Pan American’s activities, and has asked the Constitutional Court and the National Police to use their powers to stop Pan American from violating the judicial order. This call has only intensified following the assasination attempt against Julio. They have also expressed concerns about the violence inflicted on peaceful protestors by state forces during the country-wide anti-corruption demonstrations that took place in late November, and the recent attacks on human rights insitutitions in the country.
Diocesan Committee in Defense of Nature (CODIDENA)
At the CODIDENA office, staff continue to provide accompaniment and support to members of the resistance in Mataquescuintla and Casillas. CODIDENA staff also participated in the meetings with the Ministry of Energy and Mines, and they too are concerned about the apparent uptick in Pan American Silver’s activity and about the assasination attempt against Julio Gonzalez.
They are currently doing some water monitoring work. In addition, they have recently supported the creation of 54 organic family gardens throughout the region, which have allowed many families to access healthy food. Food security is a growing concern in many communities due to the economic impacts of COVID-19 and environmental impacts from the November hurricanes.
Also, check out this piece by BTS interns Laura Robinson and Indigo Christ on the impacts of COVID-19 on the work of BTS Guatemala partners.