Shared by Phil Neff NISGUA - ACOGUATE
On March 18, 2011, representatives of the community and cooperative of Santa Maria Tzejá filed a complaint with the Public Ministry in Playa Grande, Ixcán, regarding the unlawful search of cooperative property by a Guatemalan military unit on March 5. Military presence in the community has been noted during at least two occasions during recent weeks, coinciding with the season of commemorations for the massacres committed by the Guatemalan military in the Ixcán in 1982.
In late February a community member in Santa Maria Tzejá observed a military unit photographing public works signage and infrastructure in the community; when asked what the troops were doing in the village, they replied that they were monitoring government compliance with financing for public projects.
On the night of March 5 the mayor of Santa Maria Tzejá was contacted by a commanding officer of the 6th Infantry Brigade, based at the Playa Grande military base, which was re-opened in 2009, informing him that military units had been dispatched to the community due to reports of gunfire. Although the mayor replied that no shots had been heard, the military unit stated its intention to stay the night in the community and effected a search, without warrant, of property belonging to the Zona Reyna cooperative.
Although the unit left early the next day, community members stated in a community assembly that news of the army's presence caused fear and anxiety among survivors of the internal armed conflict and massacre, and a majority of community members endorsed a statement calling for an official complaint and an end to further army incursions.
Santiago Botón, a local television journalist, recorded a short segment about the incident, including statements from both community members and a military official, which can be viewed on YouTube.
In the video, a community representative can be heard describing the military's search of cooperative property, stating that "the cooperative members decided that this was not permissible, it's as if we were returning to the 1980s when the war began, so we decided to make an official complaint." A military official wearing Kaibil special forces uniform is also interviewed, saying, "Yes, we have been visiting communities in a large part of the Ixcán, with the intent of helping the Presidency of the Republic in monitoring the government's public works.
It is not a presence designed to implement re-militarization, it is in order to be closer [to the communities] and to collect data that the government needs." A municipal official explains that Santa Maria Tzejá and the military have an agreement prohibiting patrols in the community, while a representative of the Public Ministry responds that there is not yet sufficient information to classify the incursion as an error or a crime.
Community members in Santa Maria Tzejá continue to receive accompaniment by ACOGUATE and the Guatemala Accompaniment Project; we will maintain GAP Sponsoring Communities and former accompaniers informed about this and other incidents in the community and region, and will be in contact if any solidarity actions are to be implemented.