GHRC is proud to announce that the Coordination of Associations and Communities for the Integral Development of the Cho’rti People [COMUNDICH] has been chosen to receive the Alice Zachmann Award for human rights defenders. COMUNIDICH will be represented in the award ceremony by Elodia Castillo Vasquez.
Cho’rti communities in the municipalities of Camotan and La Union in the department of Chiquimula, along the border with Honduras, are renowned for extreme levels of poverty and malnutrition. Not only are Cho’rti lands arid but these vulnerable communities have been illegally pushed off their lands by local families using violence and corruption of the justice system.
COMUNDICH is successfully pursuing lawsuits in national courts to recover land illegally taken from Chorti communities, and promote grassroots development projects so they may better feed their families.
Large landholders in the area often maintain Cho’rti lands under the control of heavily armed bands. In reaction to the defense of their lands, COMUNDICH communities are under constant attack. Over the past 10 years seven COMUNDICH leaders have been murdered, and in May of 2017, seven indigenous leaders organized in COMUNDICH were arrested, and remain wrongly imprisoned. While the extreme levels of malnutrition and the area’s importance as a border region have made the Cho’rti region a focus of the Alliance for Prosperity, Cho’rti communities explain they are not a part of the development plans and fear it will only deepen poverty by reinforcing illicit landholders interest in their lands.
Since 2012, the Guatemala Human Rights Commission has presented the annual the Alice Zachmann Human Rights Award to human rights defenders in Guatemala. The Alice Zachmann Human Rights Award recognizes commitment to promoting respect for human rights, even when confronted by threats and violence. This award aims to protect human rights defenders at risk of suffering acts of violence and other attacks, and honors the legacy of Sister Alice Zachmann who founded GHRC in 1982, and directed the organization tirelessly over 20 years.