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AT LEAST 40 families were forced to flee their homes in northern Guatemala over the weekend after armed paramilitaries targeted them with arson attacks.
Guatemala’s Committee of Peasant Unity (CUC) called on the government to prevent further attacks after the former workers of the Cubilguitz coffee farm were targeted.
The workers, members of the Q’eqchi’ indigenous group, were sacked 15 years ago without severance pay. Since then they have demanded land as compensation and have occupied part of the farm in protest.
“Last night, the 40 families were forced to leave their homes and their belongings and residences were looted, similar to the 1980s,” a CUC statement said, referring to massacres carried out by right-wing gangs during the country’s bitter civil war.
The land belongs to Dorothee Dieseldorff, whose family runs the coffee brand Dieseldorff Kaffee. She denied being involved in a labour dispute and disputed the CUC’s characterisation of the situation.
Landowners have been accused of mobilising paramilitaries to drive workers off their land and as many as 39 indigenous people were killed in such incidents between 2017 and 2018, according to a UN Human Rights Commission report issued last year.
President Alejandro Giammattei said that authorities were investigating the incident.
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