On October 31, 2020, 300 PNC officers carried out an eviction of the community, of El Estor, firing tear gas and using weapons against families. Amidst the repression, Jose Choc Chaman was killed; his murder remains unpunished.
During the raid Manuel Pérez was also killed and seventy year old Martín Tut, was disappeared.
Located in southern El Estor, the community has been living on a parcel of land allegedly owned by Juan Maegli, who rents the land to the Naturaceites company for planting and processing African palm. Company employees have accused the community of “usurping the land” but community members deny the accusation, claiming, “As indigenous people, we have the right to access the land as the Constitution says.” For years, the community has experienced threats and attempted evictions, often resulting in violence.
Following the violence in El Estor, thousands of protesters blocked roads across 12 departments, as part of a plurinational strike. The strike—organized by the Campesino Development Committee (CODECA)–denounced “extreme economic crisis, corrupt political officials, and the repression of the system headed by Giammattei and his members of Congress” and once again called for the President’s resignation.
Mounted in solidarity with Maya Q’eqchi defenders in resistance to a mine in El Estor, protesters called for authorities to overturn the state of siege imposed on the community and respect the Constitutional Court ruling that upholds their right to consultation.
The National Civil Police (PNC)–some clad in full riot gear–were dispatched to the protests across the nation and were reported in some areas to be using excessive force. For example, in El Trebon police reportedly attacked women and children with their clubs and one officer was seen carrying an unauthorised knife. Guatemalan Congresswoman Vicenta Jeronimo denounced the repression saying, “A government that sends police into the streets to repress protesters in one that is violating our rights.”
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights denounced the state of siege, reminding “the State of Guatemala that this type of measure is exceptional and must be adapted to the requirements of international law and that it does not constitute a sustainable and effective response to face and resolve social or political conflicts.”
In a statement published on October 4, the Commission condemned human rights violations committed against indigenous defenders and demanded respect for “the unique relationship between indigenous peoples and their territories [that] has been widely recognized in international human rights law.”
Front Line Defenders and the Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (UDEFEGUA) condemned the violence against defenders, calling on “the Guatemalan authorities to stop and condemn police brutality against protesters, their families, people who exercise legitimate journalistic work, as well as the right to protection of civil society.”