Anabella España Reyes, Abelino Salvador Mejía, Flavio Vicente and Virgilio García Carrillo are members of the Board of Directors for the Community Council of Retalhuleu (CCR), which is made up of more than 18 communities from the department of Retalhuleu, most of them located in the municipality of Champerico. The majority of the population are survivors of massacres and refugees from the Internal Armed Conflict (IAC) who had relocated to the South Coast. Therefore, the population is principally made up of Maya Mam, Ixil, K'iche' and mestizo people. The organization’s main objective is the defense of the territory, the rights to water, life and their continued ability to engage in small-scale agriculture in the South Coast region of the country.
The CCR was established in 2015, when the effects of the expansion of monocultures and the use of agrochemicals and pesticides on a large scale directly affected the family agricultural production of the surrounding communities, damaging the health of the inhabitants. Furthermore, the high consumption of water for sugarcane production led to water shortages in the communities.
As a result of this situation, a technical roundtable was held between state institutions and the communities of Retalhuleu, during which agreements were reached but were not subsequently complied with. This non-compliance led to a peaceful protest by the communities on November 24, 2017. This protest was used as an excuse to accuse the four HRDs of the crimes of coercion, threats and illegal detention. The complainant is a former worker of the El Pilar sugar plantation, and is acting as an adhesive plaintiff in the accusation. In December 2018, the defendants were notified of the accusation. The first hearing was held on August 23, 2019 and the assigned judge declared a lack of merit and released the accused. However, due to an appeal filed by the former El Pilar worker, and accepted by the Court of Appeals of Retalhuleu, the case remains open, although all hearings scheduled since then have been suspended for various reasons.
A hearing scheduled for October 22, 2021 in the Mixed Court of Retalhuleu led the court to indict the four defenders and to issue coercive measures.
On September 21, 2022, the conclusive act of the preparatory phase of the process took place. At the hearing, the Public Prosecutor filed charges against the 4 defenders for the above-mentioned crimes and the judge dismissed the cases related to the crimes of threats and coercion. However, the judge ordered the defenders to stand trial for the alleged commission of the crime of illegal detention. In addition, he reactivated the substitute measures, of article 264 CPP, which this time include: house arrest, prohibition to leave the territory and signature of the book every 30 days.
The delays that have occurred in this judicial process have been repeated across many other cases of criminalized HRDs, which has taken a deep physical, economic, emotional and social toll on them, their families and their organizations.