Friday, July 11, 2008

URGENT ACTION: Human rights and bio-fuels in Guatemala

CUC National Committee Members Attacked by Gunfire and Kidnapped

Biofuel Agrobusinesses Violently Repress Communities

Rights Action is extremely concerned for the safety of members of the
National Committee of CUC (the Campesino Unity Committee), and for the
safety of members of the Maya Keqchi communities of La Isla, Caserio
el Mirador Semao, Corazon de Mais, and Teleman Punto 15, all in the
municipality of Panzos, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala.

Historically the area known as Finca Los Recuerdos has been farmed by
the above mentioned communities as it pertains to their territory.
Approximately three years ago a bio fuel agribusiness, Ingenio
Guadelupe, began cutting forests and planting large extensions of
sugar cane for ethanol production. The indigenous farmers have been
extremely concerned about the damage to the environment provoked by
this business, not to mention the invasion of their territory.

June 30, 2008 a group of approximately 60 Keqchi families entered the
Finca Los Recuerdos at approximately 7 am to establish temporary
shelters and once again begin planting in the area.

The families were viscously attacked by paramilitary security forces
associated with Ingenio Guadelupe. The group of men, women and
children were fired upon and a helicopter property of the company
attacked them flying over the families while only approximately three
to four feet off the ground. In this way the group was forced to
abandon the lands. One 35 year old father for three children,
Cristobal Coc Cuc, was shot and hospitalized.

July 1, at approximately 9 am, the families and representatives CUC,
approximately 200 people total, gathered in Panzos to protest the
violence perpetuated against the communities, and demand prosecution
of those responsible and the clarification of the land title
situation. The peaceful group was again attacked by the paramilitary
forces with the direct participation of Carlos Withman and Guillermo
Urrutia, two managers of the ethanol agro business.

The two company managers, and members of the paramiltary security
force that accompanied them, fired into the peaceful crown, dispersing
them, and seeking out the CUC National Committee members. They shouted
that they intended to kill Aparicio Perez and Rafael Gonzales, both of
whom were able to escape. They then proceeded to kidnap two women,
Maria Martin Domingo and Fabiana Ortiz, members of CUCs National
Committee. The crowd identified the house they were taken to, and held
for several hours. Only CUC initiated legal actions in Guatemala City
did a judge and the police enter the house to liberate the women. The
assailants continue to operate in the region with absolute impunity.

The situation in Panzos is emblematic of the agrarian situation in
Guatemala in which the Guatemalan government acts with complicity with
large landholders and agro businesses to illegally obtain land
belonging to indigenous communities. Violent force either committed
directly by State security forces, or paramilitary illegal actions
tolerated by the State, are used to violently evict communities
without establishing clarity in terms of land rights or much less
protecting the special rights of indigenous communities as guaranteed
by international human rights standards.

The agrarian conflict has become worse in recent years with massive
investment in bio fuel production, both in ethanol via sugar cane and
in bio diesel through african palm production. The rapid growth of bio
fuel industries in Guatemala was stimulated by the interest of the
Inter American Development Bank in bio fuels.

In January 2008, the Inter American Development Bank approved a
technical grant to help Guatemala develop plans to promote the
bio-fuel industry. Over the past several years Inter American
Development Bank and the World Bank have promoted bio-fuels as an
alternative to slow global warning. Communities around the world
immediately began denouncing the deforestation and desertification
bio-fuel production causes. Over the past year the same institutions
promoting bio-fuels began warning that bio-fuels contribute to the
globally rising cost of food. Communities affected by bio fuel
plantation know that the environmental destruction they cause must
contribute to global warming rather then help combat it, not to
mention increasing hunger.

CUCs National Committee member Aparicio Perez has also been directly
affected by violence from the bio fuel industry as his home community
of La Ayuda, Coatepeque is being devastated by the contamination and
desertification caused by neighboring African Palm plantations, and as
a consequence of their protests he has been subject to death threats.
On March 20, 2008 his two sons were pursued by a pick up truck with
tinted windows in an apparent attempt to attack them.

ON July 7 a member of CUC in their Coatepeque region was gunned down
and killed in a public mini bus, a public assassination that
demonstrates the degree of impunity and violence in the area which
leave activists vulnerable.

CUC is a long time partner of Rights Action, it is one of the longest
standing land rights organizations in Guatemala, and has maintained a
clear and constant struggle for the respect for fundamental human
rights for over three decades. Rigoberta Menchu won the Nobel Peace
Prize while working as a member of CUC.

Aparicio Perez has traveled to the United States twice with Rights
Action, first in a speaking tour focused on denouncing the killings of
land rights activists in Eastern Guatemala and most recently to attend
the United States Social Forum. Both Aparicio Perez and Rafael
Gonzales have been active in planning for the Hemispheric Social Forum
scheduled to occur in Guatemala in October 2008.

- SAMPLE LETTER -

Luis Alberto Moreno, President

Inter American Development Bank

1300 New York Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20577, USA
Tel: (202) 623 -3096

Dear President Moreno:

I am extremely concerned that the Inter American Development Bank is
supporting the development of biofuel industry in Guatemala when the
communities affected by bio fuel agro business are under attack,
literally, by biofuel agribusinesses. The Guatemalan government
permits these businesses to perpetrate violence and contaminate and
steal water form the communities.

Example of this is the June 30 attack on the Maya Keqchi communities
of La Isla, Caserio el Mirador Semao, Corazon de Mais, and Teleman
Punto 15, in Panzos by paramilitary security forces associated with
Ingenio Guadelupe, and the violent attack on members of the national
committee of the Comite de Unidad Campesino CUC, the following day.

Bio fuel production in Guatemala only increases deforestation,
desertification and global warming. It also increases hunger, and
violates land rights of indigenous communities and increases violent
repression. Please immediately suspend your support for the bio fuel
industry in Guatemala.

Sincerely,

___

DENUNCIA URGENTE

GUILLERMO URRUTIA DISPARA CONTRA CAMPESINOS Y SECUESTRA A MIEMBRAS
DEL COMITÉ NACIONAL DEL CUC

Today, July 1, when various campesino communities gathered to protest
in Teleman, Alta Verapaz, in protest of the ataque suffered June 30 in
Finca El Recuerdo in which one member of CUC was injured, at about 9
am, , managers of the business Chabil Utzaj, SA, took out their guns
and fired against campesinos and campesinas who were peaceful
protesting in the exit from Teleman to Panzos.

The members of the security force for these men also fired and
kidnaped two women members of the National Committee of CUC, Maria
Martin Domingo and Fabiana Ortiz Sales. The women are detained in a
house with a yellow wooden door located next to the gasoline station
next to the Texaco in the exit of Teleman. They are currently
attempting to capture Rafael Gonzales, Coordinator of CUC, and
Aparicio Perez, both members of CUCs National Committee.

We hold Withman and Urrutia and their paramilitary guards responsible
for our fellow members of CUC who have been injured in the
indiscriminate attack and for the kidnappingg of our fellow members of
CUC already mentioned.

We call on national and international solidarity to pronounce on the
acts.

TO CONFRONT HUNGER

OCCUPY, RESIST AND PRODUCE

Clear Head, Solidarity Heart, and Combative Fist

Of the Farm Workers

Comité de Unidad Campesina

CUC

--------------------

Coatepeque, July 7, 2008

CUC Central

Information about the Assasination of Balvino Chávez

He was assassinated today, Monday Duly 7, close to Caserio los
Cerros, in the highway from Coatepeque to the Pacaya area, at 11:30
am. Our compañero was traveling from Coatepeque to San Vicente
Pacayá in a collective transport minibus he owned. Two men that
traveled on the minibus took out guns and killed him with gunshots,
then fled. According to witnesses, he received 5 of the 10 bullets
fired and two other people were injured, whose names we do not know,
and they were transported tot he Coatepeque hospital.