Wednesday, February 9, 2011

CCDA: Land Eviction Temporarily Averted

February 9, 2011

CCDA members responded today to a call from the community of El Esfuerzo, San Juan Bautista, Suchitepequez, who were facing an order of eviction from their lands for the second time since November of last year.

Those that now live in El Esfuerzo were legally entitled to the land that they live on in 2001 as members of an association (Asociacion Veracruz) that accessed the land through the Fondo de Tierras (a governmental fund established after the Peace Accords to help campesinos access land to work and live on).

In 2002 the community of El Esfuerzo split from the Asociacion, and the former plantation was divided into two sections, Kabahuil and El Esfuerzo. However, legal title to the land remained in the hands of the Kabahuiles, along with subsidies and resources from the previous farm.

Even without the support of the Asociacion Veracruz, the community of El Esfuerzo has worked hard to subsist on the land, forming a Community Development Council recognized by the Municipality of San Juan Bautista, and a school with two teachers.

Although the Asociacion Veracruz has not cultivated much of their own land, they have made attempts to intimidate and appropriate land from the community of El Esfuerzo, culminating in this last effort at evicting them from their lands with the indirect support of the government Fondo de Tierras.

With the intervention of the CCDA and the Human Rights Ombudsman (PDH), the eviction order was suspended, and the same groups have committed to facilitating a dialogue for reconciliation between the communities.

However, questions remain. Why has the Fondo de Tierras labeled the community of El Esfuerzo “invaders” in response to information received solely from the Asociacion Veracruz, and without an official visit or investigation? Why would they support an eviction when they supposedly are against forced evictions?

These and other questions have led CCDA members to presume that the real reason behind the evictions is the community's inability to pay the arrears on the land debt, with the Fondo de Tierras taking advantage of a conflict between campesinos. In that case, why are those who legally carry the debt (Asociacion Veracruz) not being evicted? The CCDA seeks to resolve such confusion and receive clear answers from the Fondo de Tierras.

The point is not to condemn or to villify any one side of a division between small farmers engaged in subsistence lifestyles, but to seek reconciliation between both parties clarification from government, and a just agreement between all involved for the continuation of the community's life and work on the land.

Tomorrow the CCDA will meet again with members of El Esfuerzo to delineate roles and responsibilities in the construction of a process of dialogue, and will push for the Fondo de Tierras to re-evaluate their stance, remove the label of “invaders” from El Esfuerzo, begin the processes of legal recognition of its fifty families, and delineate the land belonging to each community.