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  • Guatemalan Indigenous activist Maria Choc and supporters before her court hearing on January 20.

    Guatemalan Indigenous activist Maria Choc and supporters before her court hearing on January 20. | Photo: Comunidades de Población en Resistencia (CPR) Urbana

Published 20 January 2018
Opinion

Choc is known for her work protecting Indigenous lands, especially against mining companies, and serving as translator for several Mayan Q'eqchi communities.

Indigenous activist Maria Magdalena Cuc Choc, accused of criminal involvement in a land dispute, has been released on bail after being detained last week by the Guatemalan National Police.

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Choc is known for her work protecting Indigenous lands, especially against invasive mining companies. She also serves as translator for several Mayan Q'eqchi communities, being well-versed in both Q'eqchi and Spanish.

Choc was on her way to assist a Q'eqchi community in a local court in Izabal on Wednesday when she found out that the hearing had been postponed.

Instead, she headed to her local bank only to discover that her account had been blocked. Immediately afterwards, the activist was arrested –with neither warrant nor previous notification.

Human rights organizations and Nobel Prize laureates such as Rigoberta Menchu immediately joined the calls for Choc to be released.

Suspected of aggravated usurpation, threats and illegal detention, Choc's case was initiated by the LISBAL company, which claims ownership of a large ranch in communal territory.

Members of the local Chavichoch community, however, claim these lands were stolen by ex-president Otto Perez Molina and later seized by a private company as payment to Rodrigo Lainfiesta, who financed Otto Perez's campaign.

Activists have condemned the arrest as yet another abuse of authority in criminalizing social leaders.

Choc, speaking ahead of the hearing, said: "I have faith and I know the mountains and the valleys protect me." No one from LISBAL was present during the hearing.

The judge ordered Choc to pay bail of 5,000 Guatemalan Quetzals (US$682), to remain within the Izabal department, and to sign in regularly at a local tribunal.

Land activists Luis Xol Caal and Antonio Asp Pop are accused of the same crimes and have outstanding arrest warrants against them.

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