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Supporting Indigenous Peoples’ Territorial Rights in Guatemala

November 15, 2022

Recently, we welcomed a delegation of Indigenous leaders from Guatemala who were visiting Washington, D.C., to present their case for territorial rights in Guatemala to the Interamerican Human Rights Commission.

Me with the Guatemalan delegation

Momentum against corruption in Guatemala’s justice system and favor of land rights was stopped by the Trump administration and some members of Congress who supported the Guatemalan President’s expulsion of a U.N. anti-corruption commission. Many judges and prosecutors who had fought corruption were forced into exile. 

Things have worsened under the Giamattei government in Guatemala as the justice system has turned against Indigenous Peoples and is allowing false charges to be brought against rights defenders. It has become risky for civil society organizations to speak freely. There have been increased attacks on human rights defenders and increased evictions of Indigenous communities from their lands on behalf of private companies.

In addition to visiting the InterAmerican Commission, the delegation of Kaqchikel and Q’eqchi’s leaders visited Congressional offices and the State Department. They objected to the Biden Administration’s recent transfer of a Trump administration gift of 95 Jeeps and motorcycles to the repressive Guatemalan Government. Such US vehicles have been used by the military to threaten rights defenders and evict Indigenous peoples in the recent past. The Indigenous leaders encouraged U.S. policymakers to address the root causes of refugees leaving Guatemala, such as human rights violations, corruption, and lack of land and territorial rights for Indigenous Peoples.