Source Prensa Communitaria
Early on the morning of 10 May 2018, paramilitaries entered the village of Choctún Basilá in the municipality of Cobán, Alta Verapaz and opened fire. José Can Xol was killed as he was trying to help Lidia Esperanza with her six children, who had been attacked in her home. When the shots were fired, the community members called the National Civil Police (PNC), but they said they couldn’t come as they didn’t have petrol for their cars.
Although the members of the community have legal documentation to prove their legal title to the land, they have been frequently threatened and attacked by a group of local landowners who have formed a cooperative to try to claim the land. This conflict has already resulted in the shooting dead of a young girl.
The members of the community have been the targets of a constant campaign of judicial harassment. 90 arrest warrants have already been issued for members of the community. Manuel Coc, husband of Lidia Esperanza, was arrested with Juan Bautista on 13 September 2018, while Jorge Coc Coc and Marcelino Coc were arrested earlier this year.
Reactions to the murder
Cobán Lesbia Artola, leader of the CCDA said “This cooperative is arresting our comrades and killing them when they cannot get an arrest warrant.” In a press release, the CCDA expressed its position regarding the murder. “We blame the State of Guatemala for the death of our comrade José Can Xol, and the increase in the vulnerability of the communities, for not resolving the agrarian problems and for the criminalisation of the indigenous and peasant social movement, thus provoking the most serious situation for families, violating all their rights. ”
CCDA spokesperson, Leocadio Juracán in a statement posted on Facebook said, “This new act of violence against the communities is nothing more than a reflection of the lack of attention and interest on the part of the state in resolving the agrarian conflict in the country”. The Human Rights Ombudsman (PDH) Jordán Rodas issued another statement expressing his concern over the murder of two human rights defenders in a week. He demanded a prompt investigation into both the murder of José Can Xol and Luis Arturo Marroquín, leader of the Committee of Campesino Development (Codeca), the Public Ministry (MP) and the PNCC to find the masterminds behind the killings.