Facing criminalization for defending their lands and ongoing impunity on genocide, indigenous leaders in Guatemala are meeting this week with the United Nations to help plan an upcoming meeting on indigenous issues worldwide.
Sixteen elected representatives from indigenous communities around the world sat down with leaders like controversial Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales and president of the Constitutional Court Gloria Porres to discuss developments in cultural, economic and social rights and in education, health and the environment.
Morales, a former comedian known for a blackface act and for mocking Guatemala’s indigenous, has been reportedly linked to perpetrators of genocide against the indigenous Ixil Mayans during its decades-long civil war. He was “the figure for all the ex-generals from the war,” said an Ixil leader to VICE News, accusing him of denying the genocide ever took place.
Morales has also not stopped one of the biggest threats facing indigenous communities, displacements for agriculture, mining and hydro-electric projects.
The U.N. also held pre-session meetings with indigenous mayors — who make up about one third of the country’s elected mayors — and organizations for indigenous women and children. Groups made proposals to Guatemala’s official Defender of the Indigenous Woman, Maria Roselia Pop Cal, on their rights to natural resources, anti-discrimination measures, increased political participation, as well as how to counter mega projects and gain justice for attacks on their land and community leaders.
This year’s theme for the 15th Session of the Permanent Forum conference in May is “Indigenous peoples: conflict, peace and resolution,” while next year’s will be indigenous women.