On 8 June, 2020, Alberto Cucul Cho, an environmental defender in Alta Verapaz, was murdered as he travelled to the Laguna Lachuá National Park where he had worked as a park ranger for the previous thirteen years.
The Laguna Lachuá Foundation, in a message broadcast on its social networks, reported that a colleague of Alberto Cucul found him wounded in a remote part of the Park. In the minutes before he died Cucul Cho said to his colleague: “They already screwed me, tell my wife to make sure my son studies,”
The Laguna Lachuá National Park is located in the department of Alta Verapaz, in the north of Guatemala, where people live under pressure from the advance of African palm crops, the illegal felling of fine woods, the hunting of protected species and the spread of industrial scale farming.
The Association of University Students spoke on social networks about the killing of Alberto Cucul: “The rangers and other institutions continue to be threatened, attacked and even killed for carrying out their work, turning their work into a risky occupation due to the insecurity and violence that is perpetuated against those who are dedicated to safeguarding protected areas”.
The murder of Cucul Cho was just the latest in wave of attacks on indigenous and land rights defenders.
On 6 June, 2020, indigenous Q’eqchi leader and Mayan traditional medicine specialist Domingo Choc Che was burned alive in San Luis, Petén, after being accused of witchcraft.
On June 15, Medardo Alonzo Lucero, a defender of indigenous rights and territory and a member of the Ch’orti’ community La Cumbre, in Olopa, Chiquimula, was murdered.
On June 23, Fidel López, a member of the Campesino Development Committee (CODECA), was killed in Morales, Izabal.
On July 20 Abel Raymundo, a land and territory defender in Lelá Chancó de Jocotán, Chiquimula, was murdered.
On August 10, French citizen Benoît Maria, who had dedicated many years to the defense of Guatemala’s indigenous peoples, was murdered.
On August 11, Misael López Catalán, a community leader and CODECA member in Jalapa, was murdered, making him the eighteenth CODECA member killed in the last two years.
Five days later, Maya Q’eqchi indigenous leader Carlos Mucú Pop was assassinated in the community of Santa Rosa, Sayaxché, Petén.
In addition, community leader and pastor Carlos Enrique Coy has been missing since August 3rd. To date this year, fourteen human rights defenders have been murdered, at least one woman defender among them.
On 23 March, 2020, the Platform for the Defense of the Land and Territory of Guatemala, made up of seven organisations, held a mobilisation in the main square of Guatemala City to demand that the government take measures to protect human rights defenders.