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For almost two hundred years, an indigenous Q’eqchi community has called Plan Grande in El Estor, Izabal home. In 2016, two agribusiness companies, CXI and Inversiones Cobra, tried to evict 46 families from their land, claiming the residents were invading their property. With the support of Bufete para Pueblos Indígenas, a law firm for Indigenous Peoples, the community is demanding an immediate annulment of that eviction order.  

Environmental and land rights defender Abelino Chub Caal was present at the hearing and testified on behalf of the community. Chub expressed serious concerns over the attempt to dispossess indigenous peoples of their land in order to protect the interests of big companies. However, he expects that the judges will allow the eviction to go forward because, as he notes, indigenous people in Guatemala are  consistently  treated as “inferior” by the justice system.

In a 2018 report by the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Francisco Cali Tzay, expressed a similar concern. “In many cases, court rulings disregard the rights of the indigenous peoples and indigenous claims are not heard as promptly as those of other parties. Previous rights are being ignored, including in situations in which a community has a recognized ownership title.” 

GHRC will continue to fight for the right of indigenous peoples to defend their land and territory against the interests of private companies.

Here are a few other human rights issues in the region we’re watching:

  • GHRC and other civil society organizations denounced the May 1 decision by El Salvador’s Congress to dismiss the Attorney General as well as five Supreme Court justices. This action is contrary to the law and constitutionally mandated separation of powers. 
  • On April 26th, Vice President Kamala Harris met virtually with President Giammattei shortly after the US announced sanctions on one current and one former Guatemalan government official for their role in corruption. The two leaders announced an agreement to train members of a Guatemalan task force responsible for securing the country’s borders. Security forces and military personnel in Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras have been repeatedly reported to endanger the lives of migrants heading north.
  • A hearing in the case of Q’eqchi’ human rights defender and leader, María Cuc Choc, was supposed to take place on May 6.  In 2018, she was arbitrarily detained on unsubstantiated crimes of aggravated trespassing, threats, and illegal detention. Since 2018, the court has repeatedly postponed Choc’s hearing while mandating that she stay in the Department of Izabal. Her lawyer from the Bufete para Pueblos Indígenas confirmed on Thursday that the court has once again suspended the hearing, continuing a pattern of judicial harassment of human rights defenders.

For more information on the Plan Grande case and the updates above, read our blog post.

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