PBI-Guatemala accompanies the Indigenous Community of San Francisco Quezaltepeque as it protects Cerro del Quetzal ancestral lands

PBI-Guatemala has posted:

The day before yesterday [on April 6] #PBI accompanied the indigenous community of San Francisco Quezaltepeque in an investigation carried out by the Public Prosecutor’s Office in the Quezaltepeque volcano. Last month the Maya Ch’orti’ authorities and neighbours of the community filed a complaint about attempts by private individuals to appropriate communal lands and thus privatise the ancestral lands of Cerro del Quetzal. 

The tour was accompanied by inhabitants of other communities of the Maya Ch’orti’ region, as well as PNC [National Civil Police] agents and officials from the municipality.

Prensa Comunitaria explains:

Mayan Ch’orti’ authorities from the indigenous community of San Francisco Quezaltepeque and representatives of other communities in the municipality accompanied an assistant prosecutor from the Public Ministry (MP) to a proceeding in the village of Chiramay, where the Quezaltepeque Volcano, better known as Cerro del Quetzal, is located, after filing a complaint against a community member.

The community members consider that most of the land is virgin forest, however they indicate that a neighbor, Fernando Gregorio, seeks to appropriate a part and sell it to people who are not from the municipality.

This would lead to the privatization of a part of the Cerro del Quetzal, ancestral lands that belong to the cachaceros (the nickname by which the natives of Quezaltepeque are known because of the cachaça they get from the sugar cane mills).

As a follow-up to the complaint filed on March 11, 2024, at the departmental delegation of the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office (PDH) in Chiquimula, by indigenous authorities and residents of different villages in the municipality of Quezaltepeque, a visual inspection of the place was carried out.

According to Assistant Prosecutor Osvaldo Sagastume Ramírez, it was reported that a neighbor is marking the land. Now it is up to other witnesses to testify and then pass the process to the jurisdictional court to determine whether or not there is a crime to prosecute, he said.

When the investigation was about to begin, the accused, Fernando Gregorio, along with family members who did not identify themselves, began to make inappropriate conversations with the aim of provoking violence. However, members of the indigenous community called for calm and not to be provoked, but to exhaust the dialogue.

When the parties involved in the diligence arrived at the places to inspect again, tempers were upset since members of the community claim to have documents of possession and that they are community lands, while Gregorio claimed to be the owner.

The prosecutor told the community member that he has to present himself to the Municipal Prosecutor’s Office of the MP of Quezaltepeque with the documents he has to confront him in the investigation that is being carried out, to solve this process.

At the end of the proceedings, Humberto de la Cruz López, president of the Maya Ch’orti’ Indigenous Community of San Francisco Quezaltepeque, announced that people outside the community seek to privatize the Cerro del Quetzal, a heritage of ancestral communal lands, which they have cared for and preserved for decades.

This is the reason why we made the complaint at the Office of the PDH of Chiquimula and we have ratified it at the Municipal Prosecutor’s Office of the MP, said López, who hopes that the complaint will bear fruit and that these lands whose title dates back to colonial times will not be privatized, “that is what we defend in the present case.”

However, Marvin Arnoldo Nájera López, from the Ch’orti’ Mayan indigenous communities of Quezaltepeque who accompanied the process, opposed it, arguing that once it becomes a protected area, they will no longer allow community members to enter.

They unanimously told the councilman that at no time would they allow this, except that it is a protected area under the protection and care of the communities and ancestral indigenous authorities of the municipality.

The full Prensa Comunitaria article can be read at Autoridades maya Ch’orti’ y MP realizan diligencia en Volcán Quezaltepeque.

PBI-Guatemala has also highlighted that the Indigenous community “is resisting a mining company working in the municipality: Minerales Sierra Pacifico S.A. [that] has five exploration licenses for gold, silver, copper, lead and zinc.” This September 2023 media release notes that the “local company Minerales Sierra del Pacifico S.A., [is] a wholly-owned subsidiary of Radius…” Radius Gold Inc. is based in Vancouver, Canada.

PBI-Guatemala accompanies the Indigenous Community of San Francisco Quezaltepeque.

Published by Brent Patterson on