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A long media campaign to discredit the La Via Campesina in Guatemala by associating it with “destabilizing groups” had been identified and reported by its Committee of Peasant Unity (CUC-CLOC-Via Campesina). The campaign ended with the aggression of its main leader in San Juan Sacatepequez municipality, Guatemala.
In November of 2012, Rafael Gonzalez of the CUC told Real World Radio about this campaign through newspaper columns, television and radio reports were they insult the organization by calling it names used during the dirty war and the repressive regime of Efraín Ríos Montt against the insurgents.
At the time the campaign was clearly identified through the use of criminalization and justification of violent acts against CUC leaders.
The case was brought before the Human Rights Attorney of Guatemala because the campaign involved death threats against CUC leaders.
On January 24, CUC leaders went to San Juan Sacatepequez, where the company Cementera Progreso has been aiming to operate for the past 10 years but has always been met by community resistance.
Peasant leaders of several organizations appeared to show their solidarity with the people resisting the corporation and were ambushed by its employees.
“They were carrying machetes and stones and told me that they have been meaning to kill me for quite some time because they accuse me of causing divide in the community. Fortunately, they did not dare kill me at the time so they made several threats and hit our vehicles”, Daniel Pascual told Real World Radio.
After the incident and with the intervention of the mayor of the municipality, Fernando Bracamontes Marquez, who accused the organization of opposing private investment, a new media campaign to discredit the CUT began, making the organization more vulnerable to potential aggressions.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples James Anaya visited the community in 2011 and confirmed the community’s right to decide over the project that endangers its livelihood.
Daniel Pascual informed they have requested precautionary measures before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights by claiming their right to response in the media where they have been smeared, and lawsuits were filed against people who threatened the organization.
“They want to see us crushed, they want to silence us so that we will not stand up for our rights. We welcome all solidarity in this battle to defend human rights activists. They want to criminalize and bring our leaders to prison”, said Pascual.
Reality vs Fiction
The leader of La Via Campesina Guatemala also mentioned the remarks made by president Otto Perez Molina in his recent official visit to Spain, where he undermined the importance of agrarian and territorial conflicts in the country.
While Perez Molina was talking about peace and stability before potential European investors, Pascual says that the number of violent murders every day is 15 and some local media say the overall agrarian conflicts resulting from agribusiness and transnational mining total 1,300 cases.
“The President seemed a merchant eager to sell or give away our natural resources. But that will not succeed, there is huge resistance in many parts of the country”, he said.
* Interview by Ana Guadalupe Matzir of Asociación de Promoción y el Desarrollo de la Comunidad (CEIBA-Friends of the Earth Guatemala), Ana Guadalupe Matzir.
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