Guatemala’s President Pérez Molina must deliver on promises made to Polochic families, say international NGOs

Published: 2nd December 2014
  • Almost 4 years after the violent evictions in the Valley of Polochic, 629 families in 14 communities remain landless. 
  • NGOs and civil society actors from Guatemala, Spain, Germany, United States and Paraguay, among others, urge President Pérez Molina to honour his promise of resettlement for all evicted families.
  • About 2 per cent of the Guatemalan population owns nearly 60 per cent of the country’s arable land – a major cause of inequality.

Guatemala City, December 2nd 2014 - The Guatemalan government is failing to deliver on its promises to relocate hundreds of Polochic families who were violently evicted from their land nearly four years ago. Representatives from the 14 affected Polochic Valley communities are today delivering a letter to the Guatemalan government demanding action. 

124 civil society organizations and networks from across Latin America, the Caribbean, US and Europe have signed the letter and are staging an action of solidarity at the Presidential House. Among them are the United Farmers Committee, Oxfam, Trocaire, ECAP, the Guatemalan Human Rights Commission and the Guillermo Toriello Foundation.

Four years on from the forced evictions, 629 families – more than 75 percent of those affected – remain landless, homeless and without access to essential services. The letter also details the president’s duty to adopt measures issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR ) in June 2011.

Over a year ago, President Pérez Molina said publicly that he wouldn’t rest until all 769 evicted families had been relocated and owned land. He also promised to relocate 300 families by the end of last year. None of this has happened.

As of today, less than a quarter of the families have been resettled and received title deeds. 

“Having these 140 families resettled is a first step. However, hundreds more are still deprived of their right to food, health, education and housing. With no land they cannot produce food, affecting their health and livelihoods,” said Maria Josefa Macz of the United Farmers Committee (CUC). 

Land and inequality

The letter also criticizes Guatemala’s agricultural policies, which include industrial monoculture as a business model and promote land concentration through foreign large-scale investments that have tax benefits.

“The concentration of land ownership in Guatemala and across Latin America is one of the greatest drivers of inequality. The country’s agrarian and rural problems are unavoidable and must be resolved as it is in the countryside where extreme poverty and inequality are most present. Structural reform is needed, starting with the transformation of land ownership, with the goal of social inclusion,” said Luis Paiz, Director of Oxfam in Guatemala.

Rural women are the most vulnerable regarding land tenure with only 7 per cent owning title deeds in Guatemala, while 60% of the food served each day in rural communities comes from small-scale farming. For this, there’s little investment or promotion by the government.

Having these 140 families resettled is a first step. However, hundreds more are still deprived of their right to food, health, education and housing.
Maria Josefa Macz
United Farmers Committee (CUC)

Notes to editors

Contact information

Johanna van Strien, Campaign coordinator, Oxfam in Guatemala
Cell phone: +502  3031-3162