Human Rights Update: 4/26 – 5/7

1. Community leaders attend public hearing to halt unlawful eviction order

2. The US will support border security forces in Guatemala

3. Pattern of judicial harassment continues against human rights defender and Q’eqchi’ indigenous leader, María Cuc Choc

4. GHRC and civil society organizations denounce the removal of supreme court justices in El Salvador

5. US will Increase Humanitarian Aid and Food Assistance to Central America


1. Community leaders attend public hearing to halt unlawful eviction order

On May 5th, the Second Chamber of the Court of Appeals held a public hearing with Plan Grande community representatives and their attorney from the Bufete para Pueblos Indígenas to discuss an eviction order issued against 42 families in the village of Plan Grande in El Estor, Izabal. The eviction order was delivered in 2016 when locals were accused of invading land owned by CXI and Inversiones Cobra. Community members deny these accusations and insist that the indigenous Q’eqchi people have resided on this land since 1831. Attorney Wendy Geraldina López, director of the Bufete para Pueblos Indígenas, pointed out at the hearing that the eviction order violates the community’s rights to due process. 

Environmental and land rights defender Abelino Chub Caal was present at the hearing and requested that the judges repeal the eviction order. Abelino expressed his serious concern over the attempts to dispossess indigenous peoples of their land and protect the interests of big companies. He predicts that the judges will follow through with the eviction order because indigenous people in Guatemala are continuously treated as “inferior” by the justice system. 

In a 2018 report by the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Francisco Cali Tzay expressed a similar concern.

“In many cases, court rulings disregard the rights of the indigenous peoples and indigenous claims are not heard as promptly as those of other parties. Previous rights are being ignored, including in situations in which a community has a recognized ownership title.” 

2. The US will support border security forces in Guatemala

On April 26th, Vice President Harris spoke with Guatemala’s president Giammattei. The two leaders announced an agreement to train members of a Guatemalan task force responsible for securing the country’s borders. Security forces and military personnel in Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras have been repeatedly reported to endanger the lives of migrants heading north. In March nearly 172,000 migrants attempted to cross the border into the US, a 71 percent increase from the previous month.

Harris attributes the acute causes of migration to recent hurricanes that have devastated the region, food insecurity, and the COVID pandemic. “Root causes” have been defined by the administration as government corruption, poverty, and lack of economic opportunity. 

This joint task force was announced two weeks after the Biden administration struck a deal with Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras to increase the number of military personnel at their borders. Mexico is set to deploy 10,000 troops to its southern border, Guatemala agreed to send 1,500 police and military members, and Honduras is expected to send 7,000 troops to its borders. Additionally, Guatemala will install 12 military checkpoints along known migratory routes in the country. 

Special assistant to President Biden on immigration policy Tyler Moran stated that the increase in troops at the border, “not only is going to prevent the traffickers and the smugglers, and cartels that take advantage of the kids on their way here, but also to protect those children.”

Security forces and military personnel in Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras have been repeatedly reported to endanger the lives of migrants heading north.


Harris will travel to Mexico and Guatemala in June.

3. Pattern of judicial harassment continues against human rights defender and Q’eqchi’ indigenous leader, María Cuc Choc

María Cuc Choc and her lawyer from the Bufete para Pueblos Indígenas, Wendy López, were supposed to appear at Puerto Barrios Criminal Court in Izabal on May 6th, 2021 for Choc’s hearing. María is a human rights defender and Q’eqchi’ indigenous leader from El Estor, Izabal.  In 2018, she was arbitrarily detained on unsubstantiated crimes of aggravated trespassing, threats, and illegal detention. Since 2018, the court has repeatedly postponed Choc’s hearing while mandating that she stay in the Department of Izabal. Her lawyer from the Bufete para Pueblos Indígenas confirmed on Thursday that the court has once again suspended the hearing, continuing a pattern of judicial harassment of human rights defenders.

María Cuc Choc has actively defended the environmental and land rights of the Q’eqchi’ people since 2004. She works closely with the Lote 8 community in eastern Guatemala which was illegally evicted from their land in 2007. The evictions were issued to clear land for Hudbay Minerals, a Canadaian mining company. During the evictions, scorched-earth tactics were used and 11 women were assaulted by company security guards. Choc accompanied some of these women to file lawsuits against the company. As a result of her efforts to document and report the human rights violations by several canadian mining companies, Cuc Choc has been criminalized by the state.

The accusing party has failed to appear in court or present any evidence for the crimes issued against Cuc Choc.

4. GHRC and civil society organizations denounce the removal of supreme court justices in El Salvador

GHRC and other civil society organizations denounced the May 1 decision by El Salvador’s Congress to dismiss the Attorney General, as well as five Supreme Court justices. This is contrary to the law and constitutionally mandated separation of powers.

5. US will Increase Humanitarian Aid and Food Assistance to Central America

On April 26th, Vice President Harris announced an additional $310 million in U.S. government support for humanitarian relief and to address food insecurity in the Northern Triangle. 

The funds will come from USAID, along with the Departments of State, Defense, and Agriculture. USAID will provide $125M to deliver emergency food assistance and mitigate the impacts of drought and the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department of State will provide $104M to protect refugees, asylum seekers and displaced persons. The Department of Defense will provide $26M to increase its partnership activities in the region, education, health, and disaster relief. 

Along with this $255M in humanitarian funds, $55M will be distributed to address the immediate food shortage needs of marginalized groups. The Department of Agriculture will provide $25M to strengthen the agricultural sector and finance impoverished Guatemalan farmers, and $30M to expand meals and literacy programs for children in Guatemala and Honduras.

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