Lolita Chávez about land and life in peril in Guatemala

January 29, 2014

This time just a short presentation of Guatemalan human rights defender Lolita Chávez who spoke in Ottawa, Canada, for a group of supporters some time ago (March 2013): Lolita Chávez says it is love of life that motivates her to risk her own as an outspoken Maya Kiche activist against racism, mining, and hydroelectric project developments in the highlands of Guatemala. As a result of her leadership in Guatemala’s Indigenous movement, she is a frequent target of threats, accusations and attempts to label her as working against the national interest, as some sort of enemy of the state. In Guatemala, as in many other parts of Latin America today, Lolita’s story is all too common. Indigenous people, farmers, environmentalists and journalists who speak out against mining projects and policies are paying a steep price. Such activists are increasingly targets of smear campaigns aimed at slandering them as delinquents, saboteurs or terrorists. They are also frequently subject to unfounded accusations and dilated legal processes, from which they are often released without charge, but nonetheless made to endure months, even years of burdensome stress. In the worst cases, they are targets of further violence and even assassination. Recent reports from Peace Brigades International, Amnesty International, the Inter American Commission on Human Rights and the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders support this perception. At the root of various cases, in Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Ecuador and Peru, are aggressive industry and state promotion of the interests of Canadian mining companies.I n Guatemala, Goldcorp played a direct role in accusations against eight women living near its Marlin mine in the department of San Marcos. One of the women cut the power supply to the mine because of her frustration over the electrical post having been erected on her property without adequate information and after her complaints were repeatedly ignored. For four years, these rural, Indigenous women lived with warrants out for their arrest. As Goldcorp grew to become one of the largest gold producers in the world, with the Marlin mine as one of its top profit makers, these women lived in turmoil until a Guatemalan women’s movement successfully fought to have the charges dropped in 2012.

via Resistance when land and life are in peril: Guatemalan human rights defender speaks in Canada |

One Response to “Lolita Chávez about land and life in peril in Guatemala”

  1. […] The Guardian article also draws attention to an often overlooked aspect of support networks: fighting stress. The initiative also encourages activists to pay attention to the stress they accumulate from sustained threats, attacks, sexual harassment and smear campaigns. The risk of burnout is increased further by the fact that most women activists receive no salary and so also undertake paid work, at the same time as spending several hours a day on domestic chores. After getting supportive messages, Lolita Chávez, a Guatemalan K´iche’ (Mayan language) human rights defender is quoted as saying:  “I said to myself: ‘Maybe others think I am a terrorist but there are sisters telling me I am a defender of human rights’,”… “It was a counterbalance.” Chávez also spent three weeks in Mexico at a workshop to help her look after her own mental and physical health, which, like most women activists, she had neglected for years. ”The initiative has filled me with life, but there are many sisters out there who are still waiting for this kind of support,” Chávez told the Mexico City meeting. “It is possible to do what we do and not be a martyr.” (see also: […]

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