At first I didn´t know what jail was or how it was and for that reason I was scared to go to jail. My first day, I had to start making friends. One has to learn to live with others in jail – one could say that it is a new family. I felt uncomfortable with the new place, leaving my house for jail. An alarm sounds at 5:30am and the guards do a general count of all prisoners. You cannot be late. I was one minute late one day and they reprimanded me. After the count, we make our beds and get cleaned up to then have breakfast at 7:30am. Then, each prisoner starts their activities. I start listening to the news on my little radio at 9:00am and then I read one of my books. I buy the newspaper to stay informed on current national events. The routine is always the same. The food is bad and repetitive. Being locked up is turbulent and the spaces are small. I had to sleep on the floor for a month, but now I have a very small bed on a bunkbed. We all sleep one on top of another. I don´t sleep well, only about three hours a night and I am sure that will have consequences in my life later on. In the bathrooms there are three toilets for 150 people. The only entertainment in jail is soccer, even the guards have a team.
Here is prison I have learned how to survive. I am fine physically and mentally, but prison is designed to denigrate and punish. Being in prison, the next step that one awaits is death. I am in constant danger and ever since I came here I fear for my life. The companies and the State of Guatemala will be responsible if anything happens to me it in here as they are the ones who imprisoned me without legal grounds for doing so. I have lost weight and I am now accustomed to seeing the same things all the time. That is why I prefer to read and write. I want to publish my biography and write about the q'eqchi peoples struggles – something that very few people do. There are many things that only I know and I don´t want them to be forgotten. I am sure that my book will be interesting for my people. When they take me to hearings, those moments are difficult for me because I see reality again and have contact with the world that I truly belong to. Then when I come back to jail – I don´t want to go in again. It takes me about five hours to assimilate again that I am being criminalized and that my time in jail legitimatizes the q'eqchi peoples struggle. My mood normalizes again, but those moments are difficult – they are traumatic. Jail is a way to weaken a person, mistreat them, and keep them alive while taking away their possibility to know what is going on outside.
I have a good relationship with the guards and other people here inside prison. You learn everyone´s story and make friends with time. There are many innocent people who have been convicted and you cannot deny that there are also are many people who committed crimes.
Scared? From the time I entered the prison! You don´t know what problems each person brings with them when they come to jail.
What gives me strength is the struggle that other people carry on – against the companies that strip territory. To know that others continue the fight and that I am not alone. That there are people monitoring my situation and that national and international organizations accompany me. Also, to be able to show the people who have me here (in jail) that the lies the companies make up can be dispelled and that the q'eqchi’ peoples have dignity and cannot be bought off and can progress in the face of any adversity. We are slowing down the dispossessions the company carries out. It also motivates me to serve as an example for other struggles and resistances.
I anticipated that I was going to be detained before it happened and I starting preparing from the time I knew I was being accused of aggravated robbery. And when they suspended hearings and frequently changed dates, I knew what they were trying to do. I was familiar with the cases of colleagues from Barillas, in which they changed dates and suspended hearings and also Abelino Chub´s case where the same tactics were used. They do this to punish those who oppose projects and file complaints against companies. I knew all of this and knew that my case would go to trial. These are the scenarios and at present I run the risk of being convicted even though I am innocent. I am preparing myself for that – I have to be mentally prepared for any scenario. The question I ask is ¨where should we go to complain?¨ If I am punished for protecting q'eqchi’ peoples’ rights and I am imprisoned for filing complaints against those who dispossess and hijack our rivers and mountains – Where else can we go to complain? What else can we do against discrimination and the racism that prevails in this system? There is no place we can go to complain because they are stepping on our rights.
The accusations that have me in prison date back to things that happened in October 2015. Four Oxec company workers say that they were stopped and robbed by a group of community members led by me in an area called el Puentón in Cahabón. Although the acts took place in 2015, the plaintiffs filed their complaint in July 2017 because they allegedly saw me on television and recognized me.
Also, one of the plaintiffs said in the first complaint that they had called him during the events and later in another formal statement said that he was present during the acts. Never-the-less, the judge did not assess this contradiction in his statements. The judge affirmed that he has doubts about the case, and when there is reasonable doubt it should favor the accused and not the plaintiffs. They should have hard evidence against me, but they only have statements from Oxec company private security witnesses. This is the same company that I denounced and some of the photos they took two years later in el Puentón where the acts allegedly took place. Nothing more.
My family comes once a week to visit me. My wife brings me food that I like – food from rural areas that I am used to. We will know the effects and repercussions on my family with time. All of the stress will take its toll, like the worries and the fact that I am away from my family.
Being in jail does not discourage me. Together with my colleagues we are touching on core elements of cooptation and corruption which prevail in Guatemala and we are defending ourselves against the plundering. Everything has been done on under the umbrella of corruption, to strip us of our rivers. Corruption is structural. It all started with Former Minister of Energy and Mines of the Patriot Party, Erick Archila, who authorized the licenses that now have us in conflict. If he had not authorized the licenses then the rivers would still be intact. It is the Government, the State. With our grievances we are touching the heart of large mafias, great interests in the country and that is what bothers them. That is why I am in jail. If justice were equitable in Guatemala, those who signed the authorization for hijacking the Cahabón River and stealing lands would be in jail.