State Security Forces Open Fire on Q’eqchi’ Community in El Estor

Guatemala Human Rights Commission (ghrcusa)

9th December 2022

In the early morning of December 6, hundreds of Guatemalan police and military forces attacked the Q’eqchi’ community of Chapín Abajo in El Estor, Izabal. The group arrived via boat, working alongside what witnesses have reported as local paramilitary groups, and entered the community by force. These State security forces were acting on behalf of the major land holder and African palm oil company, Naturaceites that filed an eviction notice, accusing the community of “usurpation of land.”

Video evidence reveals excessive force was used against the community. The forces opened fire, launched teargas, and beat community members. So far, two have been reported injured, including one minor who has been hospitalized from gunshot wounds and remains in critical condition. Dozens of community members, including children, were exposed to unsafe levels of tear gas. Five have been detained, including two minors. Local Q’eqchi’ Ancestral Councils have asked for an official observation mission from the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office (PDH) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to visit the area to verify the situation.

Both national and international groups came forward, denouncing the attack. The Forum of International Organisations in Guatemala (FONGI) condemned the excessive use of force and called upon the State of Guatemala to “comply with its human rights obligations.” In an alert published on December 7, GHRC expressed concerns for “the safety and well-being of indigenous communities in El Estor and throughout Guatemala, as cases of violent evictions by state security forces in collaboration with paramilitary groups have increased this year.”

An earlier update from the GHRC (dated 1st September 2022) shows that the government and security forces’ eviction tactics on behalf of national and international companies is actually a fully-fledged government strategy in favour of the elites of the country and to the harm of Guatemala’s own people. A 1st September [2022] update follows.


Police Attempt to Evict Communities in Purulhá for the Third Time  

In the early hours of the morning, hundreds of agents of the National Civil Police moved into the communities of Pancoc, Los Encinos and Mojón in the municipality of Purulhá, Baja Verapaz, in an attempt to evict the inhabitants of the communities. Unknown armed actors also entered the community, resulting in one injury by firearm. Community members speculated that the armed actors were hired by large landowners of the San Rafael and San Luis farms who have claimed ownership over Maya Q’eqchi’ and Poqomchi’ territories in the area and have filed several requests for evictions of the communities this year. The eviction was suspended once more, but police forces reportedly stayed in the area.

This incident marks the third eviction attempt by police in Purulhá this year that has resulted in violence. The community received precautionary measures issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2017 after threats made to them by large landowners in the area.