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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Guatemala state of siege extended for feuding communities

Guatemala on Wednesday extended by a month a state of siege in two indigenous communities locked in a century-old land dispute that boiled over last month into a massacre of 13 people.

The state of siege, imposed a month ago, restricts certain constitutional rights, such as the bearing of arms and right to protest.

The government said the lingering causes that provoked the state of siege and “the presence of armed groups” meant an extension was needed, according to a decree published in the official gazette, Diario de Centro America.

It said the extension in the neighboring western municipalities of Nahuala and Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan was necessary to “maintain constitutional order, the security of the State and to recover the governability of the territory.”

The state of siege must still be ratified by Congress, which is controlled by the governing party and its allies.

Last month, armed men with high caliber weapons ambushed a group of people from Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan who went to the village of Chiquix in Nahuala to pick corn, killing 13 people, including three children and a police officer.

The bodies of the three children, aged between five and 14, were chopped up into pieces and the victims were burned inside the truck they were traveling in. Three people have been detained over the massacre.

Both warring communities are members of the Mayan K’iche tribe and have been fighting over land — at times violently — for more than 100 years.

The Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan community claims those in Nahuala have stolen some of their land.

On January 7, a 6,500-strong contingent of police, soldiers and prosecutors came under fire when conducting searches and arrests in the Nahuala community as part of investigations into the massacre.

One police officer was killed and 19 injured. Two days later, President Alejandro Giammattei offered a reward worth around $6,250 for information leading to the arrest of four indigenous people accused of taking part in both incidents.

On Tuesday, Giammattei took part in a new meeting with leaders of the two communities to try to find an agreement over the border between them.

Indigenous people, many living in poverty, make up more than 40 percent of Guatemala’s population of almost 17 million people, according to official statistics.

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