Article by PBI-Canada

Photo: PBI accompanied UVOC at a hearing for a community defender in February of this year.

Emisoras Unidas reports: “This Sunday [July 19], the Government declared a State of Siege in five municipalities in the departments of Izabal and Alta Verapaz.”

This state of siege applies to the municipalities of El Estor, Morales and Livingston in the department of Izabal and the municipalities of Santa Catalina La Tinta and Panzós in the department of Alta Verapaz.

Measures in a previous state of siege imposed a curfew, prohibited demonstrations and made it easier for the armed forces to detain people.

The Verapaz Union of Campesino Organizations (UVOC) has 367 affiliated communities (about 50,000 families); 98% of which are indigenous maya Q’eqchi ‘, Poqomchi’ and Achi.

The Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project has been providing accompaniment to UVOC since 2005.

PBI-Guatemala posted on their Facebook page this statement by UVOC in response to this situation in which UVOC says:

“On the pretext that organized crime and terrorism operate in the region, which threatens national security and private interests, President Alejandro Eduardo Giammattei Falla decreed this state of siege to guarantee that there are no protests against companies that destroy our mother earth. Among them, the monoculture oil palm company NATURACEITE, the CGN-PRONICO mine and the Fénix project; and so that they can continue operating in both departments contaminating the Polochic river and Lake Izabal.”

In this tweet, they add:

“URGENT. From the peasant sector we do not agree with the state of siege in the municipalities of Panzós, Santa Catalina la Tinta, El Estor, Morales and Livingston. We believe that it is an inadequate measure to face the problems of the Q’eqchi territory.”

UVOC also tweeted its statement with demands which includes:

-To the government, the immediate cessation of the repression, criminalization, and persecution exerted against leaders of the territorial resistance.

-To the international community maintain full observance and the pertinent actions to guarantee respect for the Human Rights of the Q’eqchi ‘community and organized indigenous peoples for the defense of life and territory.

In its recently posted Monthly Information Package for June, PBI-Guatemala noted: “As part of our accompaniment of UVOC, this month we maintained contact with their members over the telephone as well as a number of virtual meetings.”

For more, please visit the UVOC website, Facebook page and Twitter account.