2007-07. We Are Not Squatters, We Are Natives of Guatemala
July 24th, 2007
La Paz and Lote 8 Communities. Panzós, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala.
July 24, 2007. Part II of II
Issue: Land / Indigenous Rights / Mining
Last July, Rights Action organized a delegation comprised of Mexican, U.S. and Canadian activists who, among their activities, visited some of the communities evicted violently by the Guatemalan Nickel Company (CGN) in November 2006 and January 2007. During one of the visits, a local resident from the Community of La Paz, who identified himself as Don Arturo, declared the following:
We are here because we are hungry. We must eat and have children to feed.
Large companies have taken possession of huge parcels of land within the Guatemalan territory while we, the indigenous peoples, have been marginalized.
It is because of this need to feed ourselves and our children that we are here. Even though the company has come several times and manifested that this parcel of land is theirs, we firmly know that this land where we now stand belongs to us and our children.
What we ask for is very little: a place to live, a place to grow our crops to eat.
It is the only thing we ask for. We do not ask for anything else but to be able to eat and live.
Because of the evictions we have had to endure rain, endure hunger, endure cold, endure winds.
But here we are. We reconstructed our few possessions which were destroyed. Therefore, this must mean we truly want to be here. We are determined to continue the struggle for this piece of land because our children depend on us.
We also want to thank your presence so that our reality will be made public not only in Guatemala, but at an international level.
During our delegation’s visit, a new order submitted by CGN to evict the Maya Q’eqchi’ communities of the region was confirmed. The event was scheduled for August 9th, which ironically corresponds with the International Day for Indigenous Peoples. Nevertheless, be it for the establishment of a new round of dialogue, possible sensitivities by CGN/Skye Resources to avoid yet more negative publicity, and/or the delicate political status within the country due to the coming general elections of September 9th, these new evictions were postponed indefinitely.
However, despite not having been evicted on August 9th, community members remain on high alert as they feel such an event is imminent. Mining activities in the region, previously managed by INCO and currently by Skye Resources, have a long history of unleashing violence in the form of selective repression and even massacres, particularly during the internal conflict in the 1970s and 80s. Such atrocities have been widely documented, particularly in the reports by the Historic Clarification Commission (CEH) as well as the Recuperation of Historic Memory (REMHI).
Today, local communities fear that history may be repeating itself. Besides having been the recipients of violence at the hands of State forces during the past evictions, there is much talk within the region regarding the existence of a so-called Black List which includes the names of 28 Maya Q’eqchi’ community leaders. One such figurehead from the Community of La Paz, who identifies himself as Fredy, concludes: “We are not squatters, we are natives of Guatemala. The company is the one squatting! Our parents were not evicted by INCO, they were massacred for seeking a small piece of land.”