Thousands of Indigenous peoples and campesinos in Guatemala have embarked on a nine-day protest march to the capital city, covering over 214 kilometers. Organized by the Comite de Unidad Campesino, (CUC) the march demands the attention of the State of Guatemala, as well as local, national, and international media to the issues facing the rural Indigenous and campesino majority of the country. Currently passing through the department of El Progreso, the march has been gaining the participation of different communities and activist groups throughout their journey, which started in the city of Coban, in Alta Verapaz on Monday, March 19th. Community Radio station Uqul Tinamit, a member of the Guatemala Radio Project's pilot radio network streamed online their on-location reporting of the event as it passed through the departments of Alta and Baja Verapaz, allowing community radio stations across the country to broadcast their programing.
The movement leaders have issued a press statement, “Declaration of the March for Resistance and Dignity, in Defense of the Earth and Territory” in which they have made the following demands– reiterations of longstanding grievances of the Indigenous and campesinos in Guatemala:
- Elimination of agrarian debt imposed by the state on farmers; a just redistribution of land, allowing farmers at least a terrain to provide subsistence crops.
- Termination of forced relocations, in particular the ongoing problem in the Polochic Vally, Alta Verapaz, where hundreds of families were violently evicted from their homes to make way for African palm and sugar plantations in March of 2011.
- End to persecution and criminalization of Indigenous people fighting for their rights, including the 8 Indigenous women of San Miguel Ixtahuacán who have orders for capture for speaking out against the Marlin Mine.
- Cancellation of the concessions for mining, petroleum, hydroelectric, and mono-culture agriculture.
- Approval of the bills in Congress benefiting poor and Indigenous communities, including Bill 4087, the Law for Community Media, that would legalize community radio.
Upon arrival to the capital, thousands will demonstrate outside the Congress and the Presidential Palace in Guatemala City, seeking audience with new President Otto Perez Molina.