Champerico, Retalhuleu department.
Area of work and rights defended
The Retalhuleu Community Council (CCR) is an organization whose main objective is the defense of the territory and human rights, especially the right of access to water, life and small-scale agriculture.
Description of the problem
The CCR is made up of more than 18 communities from the department of Retalhuleu (mainly in the municipality of Champerico), belonging to the Mam, K’iche’ and Ixil peoples. Its main objective is the defense of life, territory and human rights, especially the right of access to water and small-scale agriculture. They are part of a network of organizations in the region called "Red Sur".
They began to organize in 2015 as a result of the adverse effects caused by the expansion of large sugar plantations and the widespread agrochemicals and pesticides used by the plantations in the region. In recent years, drought and contamination of wells, rivers and lagoons have occurred, as well as the destruction of livelihoods, causing lack of access to water and health problems such as malnutrition and respiratory and kidney ailments.
Since April 2020, PBI has been accompanying 4 CCR members who are part of its board of directors: Anabella España Reyes (President), Abelino Salvador Mejía, Flabio Vicente and Virgilio García Carrillo. These four people receive constant threats and intimidation and are being criminalized for their defense of the environment and the right to life since 2018. They are accused of the crimes of coercion, threats and illegal detentions. The complainant was a former worker of the El Pilar sugar mill, who is acting as a plaintiff in the accusation. The four defenders were acquitted of the crime of illegal detention (the other offenses were dismissed at earlier stages of the proceeding) as there were no elements that could establish a criminal act, nor the participation of all these people in the peaceful demonstration for the right to defend water, which was the reason the criminalization process began.
The sugar business in Guatemala: Sweet profits for exporters, bitter impacts for communities (Bulletin 44 - December 2020)