The Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights participated at the 2012 Rethinking Power and Resistance conference. The conference is a project of the Embrey Women’s Human Rights Initiative at the Center for Women’s & Gender Studies, University of Texas at Austin.
Mayra Gomez, Co-Executive Director of the GI-ESCR, was a keynote speaker and discussed forced evictions, the impact of forced eviction on women, and how to resist forced evictions locally and globally.
Mayra and Bret Thiele, Co-Executive Directors of the GI-ESCR, also participated on a panel discussion on the Polochic forced evictions in Guatemala, along with two Guatemalan women forcibly evicted from their homes in the Polochic valley and Heather Teague, Director of Polochic Evictions Counteraction.
In March, 2011, twelve Q’eqchi’ Maya communities were violently evicted from the lands where they lived as subsistence farmers in Panzós, Guatemala. Hundreds of anti-riot police, members of the Guatemalan Army, private security forces, and paramilitaries used heavy farm machinery and fire to destroy crops and houses. They left 750 poor families (about 3,000 persons) on the side of the highway, with no shelter, food or water, and without access to farm land. This wave of evictions came about in a struggle for land and natural resources among large landowners, companies dedicated to export monoculture, and Q’eqchi’ farmers who survived the Guatemalan Internal Armed Conflict (1960-1996).
In coordination with the evicted communities, a group of six organizations from Guatemala and the United States filed a petition on their behalf against the State of Guatemala in the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR). As a result, on 20 June 2011, the IACHR granted Precautionary Measures and asked the State to guarantee the human rights of the evicted persons. The Polochic Evictions Counteraction is an activist research team that formed at the time of the evictions and has been working since then as partners with the communities to analyze their situation and advance their goals at the local, national, and international levels.
During the conference, the GI-ESCR worked with community leaders to develop a plan of action to contribute to the Polochic Evictions Counteraction campaign through legal advocacy and leveraging UN special procedures, with a particular focus of pushing the litigation before the IACHR. The GI-ESCR also provided “know your rights” training to the Polochic representatives who will now take this human rights information back to their communities.
For more information on the Polochic forced evictions, see: