The eviction of peasants in northern Guatemala turns 19 months into oblivion

The eviction of peasants in northern Guatemala turns 19 months into oblivion



"I have a strong pain in the tooth that I feel that lowers my heart and I can not stand it anymore," she sobs with a thread of voice Magdalena Tojá, one of the 490 people evicted 19 months ago from the community of Laguna Larga peasants. North of Guatemala, zone bordering Mexico.

Now, with some 40 fewer inhabitants, the peasants displaced by the armed forces, the police and the National Council of Protected Areas live in a camp on the dividing line, in improvised stalls with palm leaves, wood or sheets.

Despite having for 15 months with precautionary measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH), the settlers, mostly indigenous, are in oblivion.

On the night of June 2, 2017, Magdalena Tojá (45 years old) left the paradise she had arrived in around 2004: a humble wooden house with a sheet roof erected on 45 hectares of land, with fruit trees, corn crops, beans and chigua (pepitoria), a well of own water and a latrine; all in front of an elongated lagoon that was everything.

The peasants fled when they learned that some 1,500 policemen and soldiers were going to the community to get them out.

Established in a legal limbo -because the first settlers worked the land since 1984, five years before the Law of Protected Areas was created- Laguna Larga was installed as such in 2000 and since then it grew until it had an official school, cemetery and delimitations of the Council of Protected Areas.

The night of the eviction will be for the memory: about 2 kilometers away, sheltered between the mountain and the border line with Mexico, they saw at a distance the smoke and the light of the fire of some of their houses burned by the authorities.

Located now on the side of a smaller lagoon, the peasants can not even trust the water they drink, which is swampy.

Like Angel Daniel, 7, one of Magdalena Tojá's children, dozens of children with fever are infected with hives on the body and scalp. Some are babies of months that excrete yellowish liquids in the hives that dry and darken when they dry.

The work is scarce for those who venture to Mexico at the expense of being detained and deported, to work exhaustive days for 100 or 120 Mexican pesos (about $ 5) a day.

On the line that divides both countries, some children run barefoot on mud and stones trying to raise their kites made of plastic bags.

They pass by a "picop" vehicle nicknamed "El Rey del Lodo", owned by Obdulio Chomá Rivera, 52, parked in front of his stall. It is one of the few vehicles that cross the road that leads to El Desengaño, the Mexican community with which they trade.

Chomá and family are about to turn 19 in the community, counting the time in the camp, from where they question whether the wait is worth while the food is reduced to rice and beans donated by the Ministry of Agriculture in November. A sack of 80 pounds of each grain for 4 months that usually extend to 7.

"We are focused on returning, because the government proposes to send us to a farm in Izabal (east of the country) that is still occupied by livestock and there are alternatives, they have us in misery," warns Chomá to Efe.

According to the second lieutenant of Cavalry and commander kaibil of the battalion of the Selva Special Brigade, Kevin Siquén, the eviction was decided by a court because the community is "in a multipurpose area of ​​a protected area" and the Army complied with the order, which adds to the "combat" to the drug traffic, since the lagoon was a "perfect watering ramp".

But the priest Rogelio Guevara, of the Apostolic Vicariate of Petén, questions the supposed link with drug trafficking, because "what drug would lend itself to living in inhumane conditions and would not want to improve their homes?".

The Mexican organization Voces Mesoamericanas warns in its study "Des-waiting at the border: Report of the situation of the Laguna Larga community 6 months after its forced displacement", that the area was given in concession to a Canadian oil company.

In addition, Guatemala claims carbon credits for having more land in the protected area without inhabitants, a millionaire project that seeks to recover the so-called Candelaria Triangle, where Laguna Larga is located.

Night falls in the camp and a full orange moon appears. Some electrical devices connected to solar panels or car batteries come to light.

A television shows the Mexican soap opera La Rosa de Guadalupe and its volume competes with the microphone of an evangelical pastor who, 10 steps away, prays for unity and for the longing for the uncertain return.

Emiliano Castro Sáenz

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