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News > Latin America

After Murder of 3 Campesino Leaders Guatemala's Rights Groups Decry Criminalization

  • A man sees the pictures of about 40,000 people that went missing during the Guatemalan civil war. House of Memory, Guatemala City, May 10, 2018.

    A man sees the pictures of about 40,000 people that went missing during the Guatemalan civil war. House of Memory, Guatemala City, May 10, 2018. | Photo: EFE

Published 14 May 2018

Three Indigenous social leaders were murdered this week in Guatemala, and social organizations fear this is the begining of a new repression phase.

The recent murder of three Guatemalan Indigenous leaders in the last few days is part of a strategy to criminalize rural leaders, said the Campesino Unity Committee (CUC) Monday.


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“We're worried that in this democratic and peaceful period, armed groups are murdering Indigenous and farmer leaders with total impunity without the authorities doing anything to identify and punish them,” said the CUC during a press conference.

Last week, social leaders Luis Arturo Marroquin, Mateo Chaman Pau, and Jose Xol Can, leaders from the Campesino Development Committee (Codeca) and the Campesino Committee of the Highlands (CCD), were murdered, raising well-founded suspicions of politically motivated killings.

“Yesterday the campesino leader Mateo Chaman Pau, also from the CCDA, was murdered. Today, journalist Daniel Haering and his family were threatened. Apparently, Ivan Velazquez got a death threat on T.V. I insist, what's going on in Guatemala? What's all this violence about?”

In the few last years, other four leaders of the CUC were murdered in Guatemala. These organizations are highly critical of the government and are involved in several agricultural and environmental struggles in the country, earning them several enemies through the years.

“We denounce the rising criminalization in rural areas, cooptation, corruption and impunity,” said the CUC. “The CCDA and New Day demand answers regarding the murder of the leader Jose Can Xol.”

Several environmental, Indigenous and social organizations in Guatemala face high levels of criminalization by private enterprises and the authorities, as they oppose electric, mining and other mega-projects that are usually authorized by the government without consulting the local populations, fostering popular resistance that is often faced with repression.

“Guatemala has been kidnapped by corrupt and criminal groups that don't want development for the people, and want instead to hold our country for their own benefit,” said the group.

Daniel Pascual, head of the CUC, said the murder of the Indigenous leaders “makes us think that human rights violations are on the rise.” Pascual spoke about the Codeca's struggle for the nationalization of basic services, such as electricity, and access to workable land.

He also said the CUC will discuss the current situation of Guatemalan farmers and Indigenous people to mark the 40th anniversary of its foundation.

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