Guatemala: Palm oil company, Industria Chiquibul, accused of attempted forced eviction of a community and the detention of a labour rights defender; the company did not respond

On the morning of April 13th, 200 families from the “Tierra Blanca Calle Principal” plantation in the Tierra Blanca microregion of Sayaxché, Petén, Guatemala were victims of an eviction attempt by the palm oil company “Industria Chiquibul, Sociedad Anónima”, carried out by 45 private security agents together with others identified as members of the security and technical-agricultural team of the company. This attack occurred in the context of a land occupation by former workers who are demanding payment of their labor benefits, without any favorable response from the company. In the event, Mr. Izáis Tiul Pop, a 30-yearold community member, was injured.

Another event related to the same palm oil company took place on Monday, April 6th, when Bernabé Gualná Caal, a member of the Sechaj Cooperative community, Raxruhá municipality, Alta Verapaz, was arrested. He worked with Industria Chiquibul from 2016 to 2019. He belonged to a group of workers who demanded that formal contracts be awarded, due to the practice used by agricultural companies of hiring through recruiters, thereby avoiding the direct employer-employee relationship, circumventing labor laws and failing to pay minimum wages and labor benefits.  He remains in preventative prison until his hearing in June 2020.

The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre contacted the company; the company did not respond.

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Article
19 May 2020

FORCED EVICTION ATTEMPT ON PLANTATION TIERRA BLANCA CALLE PRINCIPAL, (SAYAXCHÉ, PETÉN) AND CRIMINALIZATION OF DEFENDERS FOR EXERCISING LABOR RIGHTS

Author: Forum of International NGOs in Guatemala (FONGI)

...According to the complaint, on the morning of April 13, 200 families from the “Tierra Blanca Calle Principal” plantation in the Tierra Blanca microregion of Sayaxché, Petén, were victims of an eviction attempt by the palm oil company “Industria Chiquibul, Sociedad Anónima”, carried out by 45 private security agents together with others identified as members of the security and technical-agricultural team of the company. This attack occurred in the context of a land occupation by former workers who are demanding payment of their labor benefits, without any favorable response from the company. In the event, Mr. IZÁIS TIUL POP, a 30-yearold community member, was injured. According to reports, the attempted eviction was carried out without following legal procedures or mechanisms, abandoning dialogue between the company and the workers.

The eviction was not successful due to community opposition and, as a result, a pick-up truck and two motorcycles belonging to the palm oil company and the private security company hired to evict the community members, remained in the conflict area. Another event related to the same palm oil company took place on Monday, April 6, when BERNABÉ GUALNÁ CAAL, a member of the Sechaj Cooperative community, Raxruhá municipality, Alta Verapaz, was arrested. This person worked with Industria Chiquibul from 2016 to 2019, according to the complaint made by CONDEG to human rights and justice organizations.

He belonged to a group of workers who demanded that formal contracts be awarded, due to the practice used by agricultural companies of hiring through recruiters, thereby avoiding the direct employer-employee relationship, circumventing labor laws and failing to pay minimum wages and labor benefits. Bernabé was detained while in Cobán (departmental capital) to process a record request. According to the order to enter the prison issued by the Justice of the Peace, Bernabé Gualná Caal is accused of the crimes of: illegal detention, coercion, trespassing, and aggravated usurpation. It is thus presumed that the charges respond to events that arose in the context of the massive protests - originated by the non-renewal of the contract of several hundred workers - in which the entrance to the company was blocked for several days...

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19 May 2020

Industria Chiquibul did not respond

Author: Industria Chiquibul