Protecting the lives of the Maya Q’eqchi’ leaders and advocates is central to the work of the Indian Law Resource Center. Land-related conflicts have marked the relationship that the Q’eqchi’ communities have with governmental security forces and mining companies’ security personnel. These communities in El Estor have faced several attempts to forcibly evict them from their traditional lands, to make way for nickel exploration and exploitation activities. These actions were illegal, as they were not enforced by the proper authority or they lacked an eviction order issued by a court. In most cases, the mining company’s security personnel has engaged with Guatemala’s police and military forces. Even the governor of El Estor has, with the support of the mining company, attempted to evict the communities, without securing any court order.
The communities have not only faced eviction attempts but have seen their houses burn up in flames and have suffered the loss of community members. To help bring an end to these intimidation tactics, the Center reached out to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, urging it to secure protection measures for the leader of Agua Caliente Lote 9, his attorney and their respective families. We also ensured protection for key members of Defensoria Q’eqchi’, a local non-governmental indigenous organization that provides support to the Maya Q’eqchi’ communities in El Estor. We continue to monitor developments in the area to document new threats against community members, leaders, supporters, and advocates; we will seek further protection if necessary to ensure their safety.