Neo-Colonization in Guatemala – European biofuel companies steal land from Mayan farmers
Guatemala farmers losing their land to Europe’s demand for biofuels
Indigenous smallholder farmers are being violently evicted as companies move in to satisfy Europe’s hunger for biofuels
Maria Josefa Macz and Daniel Pascual were called at five in the morning, and asked to come quickly to the Polochic valley in southern Guatemala. Ethnic Maya Q’eqchi communities of smallholder farmers said they were being violently evicted by state security forces from land they had farmed for generations. Helicopters with armed men leaning out were flying overhead, private security guards and paramilitary forces were attacking people, and houses and crops were being burned. The farmers could not speak Spanish and needed help dealing with the police, as well as legal advice on how to stop giant biofuel companies taking their land.
When Macz and Pascual, human rights workers from the Guatemala Campesino Unity Committee (CUC), arrived after a six-hour drive from the capital, Guatemala City, two of the communities had been brutally evicted. Over the next four days, 10 more villages were cleared. By the end of March 2011, around 800 families – about 3,200 people from 14 communities – had been forced off land they believed they had a right to live and work on. Within months, hundreds of hectares of the lush valley in the province of Alta Verapaz were being planted with sugar cane that would be turned into ethanol for European cars, including British ones.