The Peasant Unity Committee (CUC) is a Grassroots partner leading the way in uniting various movements for broader structural change. CUC works in over 200 communities and six micro-regions of the country to defend the land, water and food rights of impoverished peasants in Guatemala, primarily in communities facing displacement or environmental damage by mining, dam, and industrial agriculture corporations.
In the statement below, CUC describes the violence and murder committed against indigenous families by private security forces.
Murder and assault against the lives of evicted families in Semuy, Senahu.
November 20, 2017, 18 families of the Maya Qe’chi community in Semuy, of the city of Cahabon, who had been violently evicted on the 3rd of November, 2017, suffered new attacks, now with firearms and knives, by security guards and employees contracted by the company “Trece Aguas”. The first attack happened at 6 pm, when personnel of “Trece Aguas” illegally arrested Erwin Che, 54 years old, tied his legs and arms and threatened him with guns with death threats. Seeing this situation, the rest of the farmworker families organized themselves and were able to free him.
At about 10 pm, a larger group of men returned, surrounded the families of Nuevo Semuy Community and again began to shoot them from several directions for half an hour; Emilio Toc and Ricardo Maquin were seriously injured. After the attack, the families left and were able to contact the nearest health center, but the ambulance was busy elsewhere and would be back in several hours. Unfortunately, early morning today (Nov. 21, 2017) Emilio Toc Pop died without any medical attention.
According to witnesses, Javier Choc, worker on the farm Trece Aguas, was in charge of leading the attack. It is known that during some days prior to the attack, men in the communities nearby Nuevo Semuy were offered Q60 to Q80 each ($8-10), to intimidate and attack the evicted families who they might find living on the side of local path going to that community.
On Nov. 5, a verification commission of the evicted, composed of human rights organizations, among them the leaders of the Farmworkers’ Unity Committee (CUC-Comite de Unidad Campesina), were successful in determining that the in the nearby communities of the evicted families, there was a group formed by 9 security guards armed with pistols, revolvers and swords, intimidating the population.
The Verification Commission was able to establish that the private security guards were contracted by the landlord, and that hours before, they had intimidated the evicted families demanding that they leave that place.
In light of the cowardly murder of Emilio Toc and the risks the other farm workers of the Nuevo Semuy community are facing, we demand:
- An exhaustive investigation by the Public Ministry and imprisonment for those who committed and planned the attack.
- We demand that the Inter-American Human Rights Commission grant urgent precautionary measures in favor of the families of the Nuevo Semuy community, as requested on November 16, 2017.
- Additionally, we demand immediate intervention by the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office and entities who oversee human rights at the national and international level so that the murder of innocent farmworkers does not continue, farmworkers who only ask for a piece of land to live on and grow their basic grains.
- To the Executive and Judicial branches of government, we demand an end to all evictions and a commitment to resolve the land demands in Alta Verapaz and in the rest of the country, and that criminal acts of the farm administrators and landowners against the dispossessed population should be prosecuted.
- We hold responsible Trece Aguas Farm’s employees for the murder of Emilio Toc, the injuries and the life of Ricardo Maquin Yat who are gravely injured, and the physical security of six co-workers, men and women, who are disappeared, which is what could happen to the rest of the residents of the community of Nuevo Semuy, Alto Verapaz.
FARMWORKERS UNITY COMMITTEE (CUC-Comité de Unidad Campesina)
Clear Mind, Heart of Solidarity, Combative Fist of the Farmworkers
Guatemala, November 21, 2017