The case of Bernardo Caal Xol is featured on this video from VICE as part of the Amnesty International campaign ‘Write For Rights’.
“Why am I in jail? For denouncing what they are doing to the rivers, defending what little is left?”
Bernardo and other members of the Maya Q’eqchi’ Indigenous community in north central Guatemala risk everything to protect their land against destruction. In 2015, the Q´eqchi´s communities became aware of ongoing constructions of two hydroelectric power plants in the Q’eqchi’s Cahabón river. The river is one of the longest in Guatemala, and is sacred to the Maya Q’eqchi’. Construction of the power plants had already stripped their forests and they were losing the precious water they needed to survive. Bernardo and other members of the community decided to speak out, and risked everything to do it.
In response to his protests, Bernardo was publicly smeared with repeated and baseless accusations. In 2018, a judge sentenced him to over seven years in prison – without any evidence.
Bernardo’s incarceration is representative of the wider problem of human rights abuses against Indigenous people across the Americas. They safeguard 80 percent of the world’s remaining biodiversity, but their safety is often at risk from big corporations looking to exploit natural resources. As of November 2021, Bernardo has been imprisoned for a total of three years and nine months.
Bernardo’s case is featured in the 2021 edition of Write for Rights, Amnesty International’s annual global letter-writing campaign.
You can join their campaign to demand Bernardo’s release here: https://www.amnesty.org/en/petition/g…
You can read a piece by PBI Canada about Bernardo’s case which includes a link to a video interview with him here, PBI-Guatemala interviews wrongfully imprisoned Maya Q’eqchi river defender Bernardo Caal Xol.
You can also read more here on GSN, World Water Day – It Is Time To Free Bernardo Caal Xol. Both these latter two include links to the Amnesty petition to free Bernardo.
Categories: Accompaniment, Corruption, Criminalisation, Environment, Guatemala, Human Rights, Impunity, Indigenous peoples, Justice, Land, Legal, Mining, Resource Extraction, Solidarity in Action, Solidarity in Action/Guatemala, Video, Violence