A group of armed people wearing balaclavas attacked and threatened the indigenous Kaqchikel community in Santa Fe Ocaña in San Juan Sacatepequez, 15 kilometers away from Guatemala City Tuesday. The attack is believed to be related to the construction of a cement plant in their territory, which the community opposes.
About 70 people reportedly opened indiscriminate fire on the peaceful blockade installed by the Santa Fe Ocaña community shortly after 3 p.m. Tuesday, injuring 17 persons including women and men. The attack is believed to have been carried out because the blockade prevented five construction trucks of Cementos Progreso from reaching their destination.
The blockade was installed by 12 communities of San Juan Sacatepequez to prevent the construction of the cement plant and a local ring road both of which have been rejected by locals. While some are in favor of the developments, arguing it would bring economic growth to the region, others have questioned the environmental impact.
Local authorities said the armed group was still on site Tuesday night, and the attackers were allegedly identified as part of the Cruz Blanca village, which has close relations with the cement company, according to Waqinb' Kej, a Mayan national coordinator of indigenous struggles.
The people of Santa Fe Ocaña have accused members of other villages, such as Cruz Blanca, of collaborating with Cementos Progreso on the project and the attacks of violence, including this and other deadly paramilitary attacks.
“We ask national and international human rights organizations for their help in these events that harm the physical integrity, life and work done by rights defenders...” a press release by the Waqinb' Kej said. The group also called on Guatemalan authorities to find the responsible people and human rights institutions to “safeguard the life and integrity of those who fight in defense of territory and natural resources.”
In a visit on June 22, the Human Rights Prosecutor Jordan Rodas and the UN Human Rights High Commissioner verified Cementos Progreso's aggressive stance against the local communities and called for an end to violence in the area.
El 22 de junio Procurador de Derechos Humanos @JordanRodas verificó junto @Oacnudh_GT y organizaciones indígenas y campesinas las violaciones de derechos humanos cometidas por personal de la Planta Cementera de Cementos Progreso y del “Anillo Regional”.— PrensaComunitaria (@PrensaComunitar) 3 de julio de 2018
Foto y fuente: CUC pic.twitter.com/ZxvMQkPX2f
“In June 22 the Human Rights Prosecutor @JordanRodas along with @Oacnudh_GT and indigenous and Campesino organizations verified the human rights violations committed by staff of Cementos Progreso's cement plant and the 'regional ring.'”
The representative Leocadio Juracan, also a campesino leader, condemned the attacks against the communities in resistance in San Juan Sacatepequez.
Since 2005, 12 communities of San Juan Sacatepequez have opposed the San Gabriel cement plant, belonging to Cementos Progreso, due water pollution, and other environmental risks. The blockade started in February this year.