US-funded Biodiesel Colonialism

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January 10, 2011 by Kate Savage

“As corrupt corporations and politicians shift wealthy nations to greater ethanol and biodiesel use, the US government believes that harvests of ancestral q’eqchi’ lands should be exported to fill the cars of US citizens and not the stomachs of q’eqchi’ families.”

Miravalle: community under attack.

Please read the article below (and take action!) about a Q’eqchi’ community in Guatemala that is being evicted from their land by a US-financed biodeisel (African palm) grower.  At the same time, children in the region are suffering from severe malnutrition.  This story is becoming common-place in Latin America.

Questions which come to my mind include: What does this say about ‘environmentalist’ solutions which do not consider (and don’t actively work against) current relations of domination?  How can we–as citizens, consumers, activists–support food- and material-sovereignty of oppressed communities?  I look forward to your answers.

From http://www.guatemalasolidarityproject.org:

Jan 9 Guatemala Siege Alert: US, Colombian Officials to Help “Restructure the Social Fabric Through New Model Police Precinct”

Announcement comes as Human Rights Ombudsman Denounces Increasing Number of Children Dying from Hunger

GSP Denounces Continued US Support of the Siege and its Impact on Increased Hunger in the Region – Over 100,000 Q’eqchi’ Children in High Risk

Action Needed – Details at Bottom

January 9, 2011

The GSP urgently denounces US support of the continuing state of siege in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, and calls for action in solidarity with q’eqchi peasant communities in the region. Under the siege, police and soldiers can arrest anyone without warrant, as well as control the press and prohibit assembly and possession of arms. We call for the immediate release of political prisoner Pablo Sacrab Pop, kidnapped by wealthy land owner Benjamin Soto and handed to police on December 28, 2010.

Guatemala’s assault on the basic rights of Guatemalan citizens through the state of siege will move into its “second phase” next week. According to Guatemala’s Minister of the Interior, Carlos Menocal, US officials will travel to the region along with Luis Alfonso Novoa, former Colombian Vice Minister of Defense, to kick off the new phase. According to Menocal, US officials will support a new “model police precinct” in its efforts to “reconstruct the social fabric.”

The Guatemalan police force, US officials and former Colombian military officials should not be overseeing the construction of the social fabric in the region. The US is violating Guatemala’s sovereignty by training, equipping and accompanying the military and police who are heading the siege. This is a thinly veiled attempt to support wealthy stockholders in the continued plundering of q’eqchi’ lands, and to terrorize peasant leaders and communities which are organizing for their rights. The Guatemalan military and police force are guilty of both collaborating with drug cartels in Alta Verapaz and of committing genocide against Alta Verapaz’s majority q’eqchi population. It is dishonest for the US to claim that the military needs to be given totalitarian power over the q’eqchi’ peasant population in order to fight drug cartels. Nor does the US have the right to impose military power over q’eqchi’ communities.

At the same time, the Guatemalan Human Rights Ombudsman’s office has denounced an increase in hunger and hunger related deaths in Guatemala, with Alta Verapaz having the second highest rate of child malnutrition in the country. Over 100,000 q’eqchi’ children in Alta Verapaz are suffering from chronic malnutrition, according to UNICEF and census information. This is a direct result of the US-supported violent theft of q’eqchi’ lands. Q’eqchi’ communities have no way to feed themselves as the Guatemalan military and police facilitate the theft of their farmlands and the new owners only offer occasional work for salaries well below the minimum wage.

Until 1944, US supported dictator Jorge Ubico applied a forced labor law in which q’eqchi’ peasants had to carry identification cards proving that they were working on a plantation. After a brief period of democracy, the US overthrew the government in 1954, bombing the capital to take control and then financing four decades of internal war during which US Army School of the America’s graduates organized acts of genocide against Guatemala’s majority indigenous population. In 1996 Peace Accords were signed, and the US pledged to support a “market solution” to the demand for land from the peasant population. This market solution has brought more profit to shareholders and more suffering to q’eqchi’ families, so communities are organizing and demanding that the government recognize their basic rights.

Their demands are not outrageous, they want to be able to eat three times a day, have a small plot of land to work, and live without government and business repression. Their nonviolent organizing has been forced to move underground due to US support towards the blatant violation of the Peace Accords through the state of siege.

Many q’eqchi’ children deeply suffer the consequences of this violently enforced market solution. As corrupt corporations and politicians shift wealthy nations to greater ethanol and biodiesel use, the US government believes that harvests of ancestral q’eqchi’ lands should be exported to fill the cars of US citizens and not the stomachs of q’eqchi’ families. Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom has announced that the state of siege will last until January 18, but that it might be extended. The US government’s willingness to continue supporting the police and military’s violations of q’eqchi’ rights will likely determine if the siege ends.

Take Action:

1. Call or write members of congress asking them to oppose the state of siege and denounce the continued government repression of the peasant movement in Alta Verapaz. If you send an email, please cc: us at solidaridadguatemala@yahoo.com so that we can follow up on their actions. Below is a sample letter

2. Send a financial contribution to communities facing eviction. Checks should be made out to “UPAVIM Community Development Foundation” and mailed to UPAVIM, c/o Laurie Levinger, 28 McKenna Rd, Norwich, VT 05055. Write the word “evictions” in the notes/memo of your check, and all funds will go to communities facing eviction. Or donate via paypal at http://upavim.pursuantgroup.net/english/donate.htm, you will see the paypal link, and you must include the words “GSP evictions” in a note to ensure the funding is delivered correctly. The GSP will take no percentage of such donations.

Sample letter:

Dear Congresswoman/man ,

I am writing to ask you to call for an end to the state of siege declared on December 19, 2010, in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, and the continued repression of indigenous leaders in the region. According to Guatemala’s Minister of the Interior, Carlos Menocal, US officials will be accompanying police and soldiers in the region to begin what he calls the “second phase” of the siege. In addition, many of the police and military officials leading the siege have been trained and equipped by the US government.

I am very concerned about the immediate physical safety of peasant leaders who continue to be targeted by the police and military, including Pablo Sacrab Pop who was arrested on December 28, 2010, despite committing no crime. I am also very worried about human rights violations by the company Chabil Utzaj, which has received US government funds and has organized violent attacks against q’eqchi’ families in Alta Verapaz. Please contact the US Embassy in Guatemala at your earliest convenience and ask them to intervene with the company to prevent them from continuing such attacks.

Sincerely,

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