"What gives me strength is the struggle that other people carry on - against the companies that dispossess people of their territory. To know that others continue the fight and that I am not alone."
- Bernardo Caal
On the 9 November 2018, Bernardo Caal Xol, spokesman for the Peaceful Resistance of Cahabón, was sentenced to 7 years and 4 months in prison for the crimes of illicit detention and aggravated robbery. Bernardo Caal has been in preventative detention since January 2018, in a case that Guatemalan human rights organisations see as an example of the criminalisation of environmental defenders, reflective of his key role in the resistance against the Oxec I and Oxec II hydroelectric projects on the Cahabón River.
PBI Guatemala has accompanied the Peaceful Resistance of Cahabón since July 2017. In August 2017, PBI provided security support to the good-faith consultation in which the 195 communities of the Cahabón River overwhelmingly rejected the Oxec hydroelectric projects, which threaten to seriously disrupt local ecosystems and water supplies. The communities are demanding revocation of the licenses granted to the Oxec company, for having been acquired without consultation of the local Q'eqchi indigenous commities, as required by Convention 169 of the International Labour Organisation.
PBI Guatemala has regularly visited Bernardo Caal in jail throughout his preventative detention, and accompanied him during the trial. In May 2018, he gave an interview to the PBI Guatemala team in which he discusses his struggle, and the reality of life in jail. The full interview can be read here.
If you share PBI's vision of a world where individuals and communities are free to protect their rights and lands without fear of reprisals and violence, you can help by donating to our Shoulder to Shoulder campaign.