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Peasant leader Daniel Pascual speaks about last weekend’s detention and trial of another three leaders who were taking part in peaceful protests against mining projects in Guatemala. The projects had already been rejected in popular consultations. He also speaks about the particular moment the social movements of the Central American country are going through.
The interview takes place in San Juan Sacatepequez, very close to Guatemala City. The actors are the same: on one side a cement corporation, which has the express support of the government and completely ignores the communities’ decision against the project; on the other side thousands of indigenous and peasant families whose livelihoods are being threatened and whose leaders are being criminalized.
The project owned by Progreso SA has been resisted by the so called ‘Twelve Communities’ for the past five years, who expressed their will in a community consultation held in December of 2012. However, last week the company pretended to demand permission from Mother Earth to install the cement plant, in the presence of indigenous authorities. The organizations said in a declaration that this is a racist attack and a “mockery of the native peoples’ , especially the Mayan people’s cosmovision”.
In response to the ceremony celebrated by the company, the organizations called a massive and peaceful demonstration where nearly 12,000 people participated in San Juan Sacatepequez against the use of ancient peoples’ authorities to legitimize the installation of the cement plant. The demonstration was peaceful, according to Daniel Pascual’s account to Real World Radio.
However, on the following morning, at times when community members were heading to sell their flowers in Guatemala City, Mariano Camey Car, a member of the resisting community and councilor of the tenth municipality of San Juan Sacatepequez, was arrested.
Several hours later, members of Mariano’s community mobilized to know his whereabouts and found that there were arrest warrants against two other community leaders that were arrested: Lorenzo Car Hernández and Margarito Camey Zet, both accused of “inciting violence” in the communities.
Daniel Pascual says the three leaders were detained for 24 hours and were only released after paying a 250USD bail, but their cases are still open, forcing them to appear every fortnight before the police authorities and to stay in the country.
Outrage and review
After highlighting the seriousness of the case, the Guatemalan peasant leader talked about the growing capture of corporations of people, organizations and ancient authorities, which has sparked the concern of the communities, although “they do not represent the Guatemalan indigenous communities”.
In response to this, Pascual says there is a “review” process that leads to questioning the Mayan or indigenous arguments that go against the community principles of good living. Daniel says the implementation of extreme neoliberal policies by Otto Perez Molina’s administration through the privatization of public services and natural resources has led to a process of unity between indigenous communities, as well as of peasants, women, environmental and youth movements.
“There is an important awareness raising process of the mestizo population”, which has built their own concept of territory, says Daniel, who is a point person of La Via Campesina Central America.
The organization of an indigenous-peasant demonstration in March of 2012, besides the Maya Waqib’ Kej coordination and convergence has led to closer relations, according to Pascual, and it represents a step forward in the resistance and the coming up with proposals in a country where the murder of community leaders, the declaration of a state of emergency and the action of private armed groups hired by corporations are very common.
However, he said that because the movement is in its initial stage “we need to be really careful so that this is not captured or used for other ends”.
Pascual also talked about the call for a national mobilization on August 9th and the organization of a meeting of community communicators at the end of this month that will focus on communication strategies and the legal defense as key for the resistance in Guatemala.
Photo: Telesur Guatemala
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