On July 13, community members in Cuarto Pueblo, Ixcan denounced a military presence and asked Guatemalan authorities to stop the militarization of their community.
Invited by local authorities, the army has arrived in Cuarto Pueblo multiple times in the past few months without the knowledge or consent of the wider community. The soldiers have told community members that they are there to provide security at events and carry out health and development surveys, but the mere presence of heavily armed soldiers, some of whom are visiting houses and asking a series of personal questions, has caused concern and anxiety among community members who lived through the 1982 massacre. In a declaration, community members called for the immediate withdrawal of the soldiers and asked that the army never return to Cuarto Pueblo.
We express our solidarity with local human rights organization ADDHAI and the wider community that has spoken out against the army's presence. In March of 1982, the Guatemalan army carried out one of the single most violent massacres of the internal armed conflict in Cuarto Pueblo. We hope that authorities will respect the decision of survivors and other community members to oppose militarization only 30 years later.
Cuarto Pueblo is only one of numerous communities that have noted an increased military presence in the region. In 2009, the government re-opened the military base in Ixcan that had been closed since 2004 as part of the demilitarization stipulated in the Peace Accords. When the base re-opened, local organizations expressed concern about the remilitarization of the region and the location of the base, a space shared with university facilities and the regional hospital with the only high-risk maternity care center.
In May of 2011, community members of Santa Maria Tzeja filed a legal complaint after the army searched the local cooperative.
The government contends that the army's presence in the region is needed to
patrol borders, provide security and combat drug trafficking, on the rise as
A number of communities in the region, particularly those that suffered massacres during Guatemala's brutal war, are concerned that the army's presence also serves to re-establish control over population and territory and to ensure the implementation of large-scale dams and oil drilling projects long-planned for the region.
In 2007, a referendum was organized in Ixcan based on international conventions on the self-determination of indigenous peoples and national laws on decentralization. Over 80% of participants in the referendum voted 'NO' to large-scale dams and oil drilling in the region. The government has recently announced the advancement of the large-scale Xalala dam, in spite of the referendum results.