Hurricanes continue to batter Guatemala. Poverty (and poor government planning) are making things worse.

With little response from the government, “Only The People Save The People” has become the rallying cry.

Jackie McVicar writes in America Magazine of the challenges facing the community of Chicoyou in the wake of Hurricane Eta, which struck Central America a little over a week ago.

Chicoyou is a returned Maya Q’eqchi community that was evicted from their homelands by the military during the country’s genocide to build a military complex known as Military Zone 21, which became a torture centre and site of mass clandestine graves.

Esperanza Pop and her neighbors have been collecting water from a ditch running by their village in northern Guatemala. Their land has been saturated with rainfall since Tropical Storm Eta hit last week, but the 56 Maya Q’eqchi’ families of Chicoyou have no access to water for drinking, washing their clothes and bathing other than the water they can “tap” running by the edge of the road.

Their small communal well was destroyed by the torrential rains. “It all collapsed,” Ms. Pop said, “everything was filled with mud. We have nowhere to go to get water.” The Verapaz Union of Peasant Organizations reported that the majority of the homes in Chicoyou were destroyed.

Eta pounded Guatemala, tearing up roads, bridges and schools and stranding tens of thousands of Guatemalans in emergency shelters. In her community “a few people with kids went to the shelters but most stayed here,” Ms. Pop told America. Although President Alejandro Giammattei insisted that his administration had warned locals, she said no one from the government told the people in her village about the risks of staying.

The piece is prefaced by a short note relating to Hurricane Iota which is now starting to affect Central America.

Even as the region digs out, as recounted below, from Eta, Hurricane Iota has intensified into a rare category 5 storm and is expected to make a “catastrophic” landfall on Central America later today.

You can read the full piece by Jackie, with links and photos, here, in America Magazine.

Categories: Corruption, Culture, Environment, Evictions, Guatemala, Human Rights, Indigenous peoples, Land, Natural Disaster, Resource Extraction

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