Guatemala

Guatemala: "We will not buy what is ours"

On Fri, Sep 30, 2016

By: Manuela Picq
Date: September 29th 2016
Source: Intercontinental Cry Magazine

Challenging Terra Nullius in the courts of Guatemala

Copones is a large Maya Q’eqchi’ territory in Guatemala, in the northern province of Quiché along the Mexican border with Chiapas. Q’eqchi’ communities have lived in Copones for millennia, caring for rivers and the land generation after generation. Their territory extends over 20,000 hectares of clean rivers and fertile land.

Amnesty International
Date of publication
août 2016
Geographical focus

Defendemos la tierra con nuestra sangre explora el aumento de la estigmatización, las amenazas, los ataques y los homicidios, así como la falta de justicia, a los que se enfrentan las personas y comunidades que luchan por proteger el medio ambiente frente a los proyectos en gran escala de minería, extracción de madera y producción de energía hidroeléctrica.

Amnesty International
Date of publication
septembre 2016
Geographical focus

An insidious wave of threats, bogus charges, smear campaigns, attacks and killings of environmental and land activists in recent months has made Honduras and Guatemala the most dangerous countries on earth for those protecting natural resources, Amnesty International said in a new report six months after the brutal murder of Indigenous leader Berta Cáceres.

The report, We defend the land with our blood,explores the increasing stigmatization, threats, attacks, killings and lack of justice faced by individuals and communities fighting to protect the environment from large-scale mining, logging and hydroelectric projects.  

“Defending human rights is one of the most dangerous professions in Latin America but daring to protect vital natural resources takes these risky jobs to a whole new, potentially lethal level,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International. 

An astounding 65 percent (122 out of 185) of the murders of human rights defenders working on issues related to land, territory or the environment registered across the world in 2015 were from Latin America, according to Global Witness. Eight took place in Honduras and 10 in Guatemala alone – making them the highest rate per capita in the region.  

“The tragic murder of Berta Cáceres seems to have marked a deadly turning point for human rights defenders in the region. The lack of a transparent and effective investigation into her killing has sent the abhorrent message that shooting someone, point blank, for standing up to powerful economic interests is actually allowed,” said Guevara-Rosas.

Honduras: Deadly attacks

The murder of Indigenous leader and human rights defender Cáceres in her home a few hours from the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, on the night of March 2 was one in a string of deadly attacks against her organization.   

The  leaderof theConsejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (COPINH), she had worked for years to protect the Gualcarque River from the potentially negative impact of a dam that is being planned in the area.

Since the campaign against the dam began in 2013, Cáceres had received several death threats, which were never properly investigated. The Honduran authorities failed to provide her with effective protection despite the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights requesting the government to do so.

Attacks, threats and harassment against members of COPINH and its sister organization MILPAH (Movimiento Indígena Lenca de La Paz Honduras) which works to protect the land of the Lenca Indigenous people, increased after Cáceres’ murder. Members of the community say that unknown individuals have been harassing them near their homes and the community radio station.

On March 15, Nelson García, another leader from COPINH, was shot dead on the street as he was riding his motorbike back home, after meeting the community to organize a protest later that day. Authorities have opened an investigation which is yet to shield any results.

On July 6, the body of land rights activist Lesbia Urquía, was found in a dumpster in the city of Marcala, on the border with El Salvador. A few days later, authorities arrested two men in connection with her death but they have not yet been charged.

A week later, Martín Gómez Vásquez, another MILPAH leader, was pelted with stones as he left the western Honduras community of Azacualpa. He said the attackers were members of a family that alleges ownership of a portion of the Lenca community’s ancestral lands. The Honduran authorities have not launched an investigation into this attack.

Date of publication
juin 2016

La comunidad de Monseñor Romero se encuentra en la zona costera de Guatemala, región acaparada por los monocultivos de caña de azúcar, banano y palma africana. Para generar autoempleo, mejorar la fertilidad de sus tierras y evitar la explotación laboral de la agricultura industrial, la comunidad cambió sus cultivos tradicionales de maíz y ajonjolí por la producción orgánica de la flor de loroco (Fernaldia pandurata). La nueva actividad genera autoempleo para las familias e independencia económica a favor de las mujeres, contribuye a regenerar suelos degradados, afirma la seguridad alimentaria y conserva la biodiversidad.

Date of publication
février 2014

 It is well recognized that secure land and property rights for all are essential to reducing poverty because they underpin economic development and social inclusion. Secure land tenure and property rights enable people in urban and rural areas to invest in improved homes and livelihoods. Although many countries have completely restructured their legal and regulatory framework related to land and they have tried to harmonize modern statutory law with customary ones, millions of people around the world still have insecure land tenure and property rights.

Lack of access to land and the fear of eviction epitomize a pervasive exclusion of poor people from mainstream social, economic and civic opportunities, especially women. To address these problems, tools and strategies to increase poor people’s access to secure land and housing tenure need to be devised. The Global Land Tool Network (GLTN), whose Secretariat is hosted by UN-Habitat, recognizes that security of tenure for the poor can best be improved by recognizing a range of types of land tenure beyond individual titles. The current thinking focuses on a “continuum of land rights” that is being promoted and increasingly accepted worldwide. 

In this synthesis report, the issue of tenure security is addressed and assessed in several countries where government, civil society, the private sector and development cooperation initiatives have been implemented for decades. The selected case studies from fifteen (15) countries ensure not only a geographic balance but they also represent countries with different socio-economic and land-related histories and that have followed different pathways. The studies’ key findings underline the still precarious state of tenure security in many countries.

The findings also show best practices for legal and administrative reforms that have generated incentives for long-term investment in land, or incentives to include the poor more comprehensively. The case studies will hopefully work as a kind of “compendium” on the current state of tenure security, its future challenges and perspectives. They will allow for comparisons between countries and regions and address, besides others, policy makers, the private sector, civil society organizations and donors. Also, they will help applied researchers and implementers of “ground checks” and may support students of different disciplines to cope better with complexity in tenure issues.

This work was undertaken through a joint endeavour with the Chair of Land Management at Technische Universität München (TUM) and the Sector Project Land Policy and Land Management of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). The findings will enhance our knowledge of serious tenure security challenges and hopefully will inspire additional policy debate on implementation, inclusion, or incentives, as well as new research on secure land and property rights for all. The findings will also be useful to GLTN’s global partners (currently more than 63 consisting of professionals, development partners, research and training institutions, technical and civil society groups) to address land tenure and land reform, amongst other issues.

Date of publication
juillet 2013
Geographical focus

This regional study encompasses three
Central American countries: Nicaragua, Guatemala and
Honduras. The focus of this report is Guatemala. The study
is motivated by several factors: First is the recognition
that sub-national regions are becoming increasingly
heterogeneous, and economically differentiated as part of
ongoing processes of development and diversification, with
some areas advancing, and others being left behind. Second
is the acceptance that one rural strategy does not fit all;
design of an appropriately tailored rural strategy requires
understanding the assets, markets, and institutions that
frame household opportunities and livelihood strategies.
Third, rural heterogeneity requires identification of
sufficiently homogeneous areas and household types to
facilitate policy formulation, investment strategies, and
project design. Fourth, there is a need to bridge the gap
between conceptual strategies, and their timely
implementation in order to obtain tangible and sustainable
results. To this end, it is necessary to identify the
appropriate sequencing, and complementary of investments in
assets needed to drive growth and reduce poverty. The
study's focus on assets is appropriate given
historically stark inequalities in the distribution of
productive assets among households in the region. Such
inequalities are likely to constrain how the poor share in
the benefits of growth, even under appropriate policy
regimes. Rural poverty in Guatemala is characterized by
three important features. First, geographic isolation,
caused by varied topography, and inadequate transport
networks, is an important correlate of poverty. The second
dominant feature of rural poverty is ethnic exclusion.
Poverty rates are far higher among indigenous groups and
groups whose primary language is not Spanish. Third, rural
poverty is concentrated in particular areas: that is, it has
a particularly strong spatial dimension in Guatemala.
Findings indicate that the high degree of overlap between
high poverty rates, and high poverty densities in areas such
as the Western Altiplano, means that investments there
should reach significant proportions of the country's
rural poor. Thus, to generate substantial gains in poverty
reduction and broad-based growth, complementarities between
productive, social, and location-specific assets must be
addressed. Specifically, the report focuses on access to
land, and strong local level institutions, and social
capital, to compensate for lack of physical assets. This
also requires a move from geographically untargeted
investments in single assets, to a more integrated and
geographically based approach of asset enhancement, with
proper complementarities.

Date of publication
juillet 2013
Geographical focus

This regional study encompasses three
Central American countries: Nicaragua, Guatemala and
Honduras. The focus of this report is Guatemala. The study
is motivated by several factors: First is the recognition
that sub-national regions are becoming increasingly
heterogeneous, and economically differentiated as part of
ongoing processes of development and diversification, with
some areas advancing, and others being left behind. Second
is the acceptance that one rural strategy does not fit all;
design of an appropriately tailored rural strategy requires
understanding the assets, markets, and institutions that
frame household opportunities and livelihood strategies.
Third, rural heterogeneity requires identification of
sufficiently homogeneous areas and household types to
facilitate policy formulation, investment strategies, and
project design. Fourth, there is a need to bridge the gap
between conceptual strategies, and their timely
implementation in order to obtain tangible and sustainable
results. To this end, it is necessary to identify the
appropriate sequencing, and complementary of investments in
assets needed to drive growth and reduce poverty. The
study's focus on assets is appropriate given
historically stark inequalities in the distribution of
productive assets among households in the region. Such
inequalities are likely to constrain how the poor share in
the benefits of growth, even under appropriate policy
regimes. Rural poverty in Guatemala is characterized by
three important features. First, geographic isolation,
caused by varied topography, and inadequate transport
networks, is an important correlate of poverty. The second
dominant feature of rural poverty is ethnic exclusion.
Poverty rates are far higher among indigenous groups and
groups whose primary language is not Spanish. Third, rural
poverty is concentrated in particular areas: that is, it has
a particularly strong spatial dimension in Guatemala.
Findings indicate that the high degree of overlap between
high poverty rates, and high poverty densities in areas such
as the Western Altiplano, means that investments there
should reach significant proportions of the country's
rural poor. Thus, to generate substantial gains in poverty
reduction and broad-based growth, complementarities between
productive, social, and location-specific assets must be
addressed. Specifically, the report focuses on access to
land, and strong local level institutions, and social
capital, to compensate for lack of physical assets. This
also requires a move from geographically untargeted
investments in single assets, to a more integrated and
geographically based approach of asset enhancement, with
proper complementarities.

Date of publication
août 2014
Geographical focus

Household fuel choice in the past, has
often been analyzed and understood through the lens of the
energy ladder model. This model places relatively heavy
emphasis on household fuel switching in response to rising
incomes. This report views energy use through a household
economics framework. The household economics framework
clarifies that, in addition to income and market prices, the
opportunity costs of firewood collection also need to be
taken into account, in shaping demand for all fuels. The
opportunity costs of firewood collection are determined by
household cash, labor, land, and wood resources. Fuel
choices therefore need to be understood in terms of relative
household resource scarcities. The household economics
framework also makes it clear that it may be perfectly
rational for households to use a portfolio of different
energy sources at any point in time. The results of logit,
and multinomial logit regression analysis suggest that
expenditure, education, household size, region, ethnicity,
electrification status, and gender composition are important
in influencing fuel choice. Prices and opportunity costs of
firewood also matter. It remains intriguing that so many
urban households continue to use wood, which is not a cheap
fuel when it has to be purchased. Experience of household
energy use in Guatemala suggests that, as household fuel
policies elsewhere concerned with switching from biomass,
need to look beyond simple pricing instruments to a wider
array of policy options. Household energy strategies must be
based on the realization that large groups will continue to
meet their cooking needs with fuel wood for the foreseeable
future. Strategies therefore cannot rely exclusively on
inter-fuel substitution. A balance needs to be struck
between policies aiming at inter-fuel substitution, and
policies seeking to ameliorate the negative consequences of
fuel wood, such as improved stoves and better ventilation.
And, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) needs to be targeted
primarily to areas where households rely on expensive
purchased wood.

Date of publication
août 2013
Geographical focus

This poverty assessment report has three
main objectives: 1) to conduct an in-depth, multi-
dimensional analysis of poverty building on the framework of
the World Bank's World Development Report (WDR) for
2000/2001 using both quantitative and qualitative data; 2)
to examine the impact of government policies and spending on
the poor in key sectors; and 3) to use the empirical
findings to identify options and priorities for poverty
reduction in the future. Policy options are outlined not
only in general, but for the specific themes and sectors
covered. Chapter 2 examines the poverty "problem"
using an array of monetary and social indicators, as well as
perceptions of poverty identified by Guatemalan communities
and households themselves. In general, poverty is determined
by key household endowments and characteristics. These are
analyzed in Chapter 3. Yet historical forces and contextual
factors also play a crucial role in shaping patterns of
poverty. These factors are discussed in Chapter 4. Chapter 5
examines the relationship between poverty and economic
growth in Guatemala from a "macro" perspective.
Chapter 6 builds on this macro-economic context to further
examine the livelihoods and earnings opportunities of the
poor at the household level ("micro" perspective),
with a focus on rural livelihoods. The poor also rely on a
portfolio of assets in order to forge opportunity, including
education (Chapter 7), health (Chapter 8), basic utility
services (Chapter 9), land and financial assets (Chapter 6),
and access to transport (Chapter 10). Generally, the poor
suffer from an unequal distribution of these assets. Chapter
11 provides an operational assessment of vulnerability,
while Chapter 12 reviews existing social protection and
social risk management mechanisms to assess their adequacy
and offer insights into ways in which to strengthen them. As
discussed in Chapter 4, one of the key remaining challenges
for the Peace Agenda is the modernization of the state and a
strengthening of community and social participation. Chapter
13 also considers the role of other important actors in
development, namely the private sector, NGOs, and religious
organizations. Finally, Chapter 14 builds on the empirical
findings in the rest of the report to build an agenda for
poverty reduction in Guatemala. Broadly speaking, a
concerted strategy should be adopted to reduce poverty by
building opportunities and assets, reducing vulnerability,
improving institutions and empowering communities.

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