June 13, 2018

The situation for land rights defenders in Guatemala is seriously and rapidly deteriorating, according to alerts released by PBI Guatemala and other human rights organizations. Since May 9th, seven indigenous leaders and activists have been killed across the country:

  • Luis Arturo Marroquín, community leader from Jalapa and member of the Campesino Development Committee (CODECA), was assassinated by unknown gunmen on 9 May.
  • José Can Xol, indigenous authority of the community of Choctún Basilá in Alta Verapaz and member of the Altiplano Campesino Development Committee (CCDA) was shot dead during an attempt to illegally evict his community from their lands on 10 May.
  • Mateo Chamam Paau, land rights defender and member of CCDA, was assassinated on 13 May in the community of San Juan los Tres Ríos in Alta Verapaz.
  • Ramón Choc Sacrab, member of CCDA and indigenous authority of the Ixloc community, Alta Verapaz, was attacked with a knife on 30 May and died the next day.
  • On 4 June the bodies of Florencio Pérez Nájera and Alejandro Hernández García, both members of CODECA from Jutiapa, were found. Both died from machete wounds.
  • Francisco Munguia, community vice-president of CODECA in Aldea Divisadero Xalapan, Jalapa, was hacked to death by machete while returning from work on 8 June.

These seven human rights defenders killed in this short period worked in defense of land and territorial rights, an activity that has become, without doubt, the highest risk in Guatemala. People who defend their land and territory routinely receive threats that often end in violent deaths. In this context, PBI Guatemala has observed an alarming escalation of violent attacks and intimidation against our accompanied organizations, especially the New Day Ch'orti Campesino Central Coordinator (CCCND) and the Peaceful Resistance of Cahabón.

Incidents include shots against the vehicle of CCCND leader Omar Jerónimo, and death threats and intimidation with machetes against people taking part in peaceful demonstrations relating to the installation of large-scale hydroelectric projects on the Cahabón River. More detail on these recent human rights violations can be found in this alert from PBI Guatemala.

An open letter has been signed by 61 human rights organizations calling for immediate action from the government of Guatemala.

PBI calls on the international community to demand that the government of Guatemala ensure the protection of at-risk human rights defenders, especially those working in defense of land and territorial rights, and undertake prompt investigation into the perpetrators of these attacks and killings.