"I will speak to my people again with my face held high because the Oxec hydroelectric companies fabricated my supposed crimes," Caal Xol said.
On Thursday night, Guatemalan environmental defender Bernardo Caal Xol regained his freedom after spending four years in Coban prison for his fight against hydroelectric projects in the department of Alta Verapaz.
At the time of his release, the Q’eqchi Mayan defender was accompanied by his lawyers and a delegation from his community with whom they maintain the fight against the Oxec S.A. hydroelectric plants, on the Cahabon River in Alta Verapaz.
“Today history is being written. Once again, we have shown the world how social leaders are criminalized in Guatemala," Caal Xol said.
On November 9, 2018, the Alta Verapaz Criminal Court sentenced Bernardo Caal Xol to over seven years in prison after being accused of aggravated robbery and acts of violence against employees of a hydroelectric company.
�� Bernardo Caal Xol preso político quedó en libertad, en medio de la emoción y abrazos de familiares y amistades dijo "Le hablaría nuevamente a mi pueblo con la cara en alto porque las empresas hidroeléctricas Oxec S. A. Son quienes me fabricaron los delitos"— PrensaComunitaria (@PrensaComunitar) March 25, 2022
�� Gilberto Cucul pic.twitter.com/Q0aruM6PdY
The tweet reads, "Bernardo Caal Xol, a political prisoner, was released amid emotion and hugs from family and friends. He said, 'I will speak to my people again with my face held high because the Oxec hydroelectric companies fabricated my supposed crimes'."
In reality, however, the Maya Q’Eqchi leader was a victim of political persecution as a result of his struggle against companies that operate in the north of this Central American country.
Caal Xol is a 49-year-old teacher who became the visible figure of the protests that began in 2015, when the Q'Eqchi Indigenous people opposed the arbitrary actions of the hydroelectric companies that prevented them from accessing the Cahabon and Ox-eek rivers, where people used to bathe and access water for centuries.
The persecution against him became the object of attention of human rights organizations worldwide, which denounced that Caal Xol was clearly a prisoner of conscience.
A group of protesters has set fire to the Congress of the Republic of Guatemala as anti-government demonstrations are held against corruption and the increase in the general budget of the nation for the period 2021. @SantiagoteleSUR pic.twitter.com/FQbfuhD2tk— teleSUR English (@telesurenglish) November 21, 2020