On August 7, the Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project posted: “Last month, the community leader Regilson Choc Coc of San Juan los Tres Rios was killed, the third murder in this community, following the violent deaths of Daniel Choc in 2016 and Matthew Chamán Pau in 2018. All were members of the CCDA.”
PBI-Guatemala adds: “We express our concern about the security situation of the members of the organization.”
Their Monthly Information Package provides this context:
“The community leader Regilson Choc Cac, from San Juan Los Tres Ríos, Cobán, Alta Verapaz, was murdered on July 20, at 10:30 pm. The community lives under permanent threat due to a dispute over the land they live on and for demanding land ownership from the Guatemalan State over the last ten years.
Regilson Choc Cac was a member of the Community Council of the Highlands (CCDA) – Las Verapaces and actively participated in the defense of the territory and human rights of his community. This murder comes following the murders of Daniel Choc in 2016 and Mateo Chamán Pau in 2018, who were also community leaders from San Juan los Tres Ríos. Neither case has been resolved by the Public Prosecutor’s Office (MP).
In condemning the death of Choc Cac, the CCDA recalled that the closure of the Secretariat of Agrarian Affairs, continues to violate the land rights of the population and is causing the criminalization of campesino leaders.”
The US-based Guatemalan Human Rights Commission (GHRC) also notes:
“The CCDA Committee in San Juan Tres Ríos has petitioned the Land Fund to grant them legal ownership of land disputed with the owner of the Rancho Alegre estate. Choc Cac, although very young, was a community leader and had participated in dialogues related to the land dispute.”
And the InterReligious Task Force (IRTF) further explains:
“For more than ten years, the CCDA Committee in San Juan Tres Ríos has petitioned the government to grant them legal ownership of land which is being disputed with the owner of the Rancho Alegre estate. Regilson Choc Cac was a community leader who had participated in dialogues related to the land dispute. CCDA members are being unjustly criminalized for usurpation of land, while murders of their own CCDA members have not been resolved. According to the CCDA, 962 warrants for the arrests of campesino leaders have been issued, and two CCDA members (Q’eqchi Mayan campesinos Jorge Coc Coc and Marcelino Xol Cucul) have been unjustly sentenced to 35 years in prison.”
The IRTF has also called on Guatemalan authorities to:
“guarantee that all human rights defenders, in particular Indigenous and environmental rights defenders, are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of restrictions or reprisals in Guatemala.”
The CCDA accompanies 150 Maya Q’eqchi’ communities who have been repressed and stripped of their land or who are immersed in conflicts regarding land tenure. PBI-Guatemala has accompanied CCDA-Verapaz since July 2018.
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