Impoverishment of landless people in Guatemala and land policies of the Guatemalan government are the topic of a talk by activist Aparicio Pérez Guzmán. His remarks will be translated into English during the talk.
October 2, 2002 GENEVA, N.Y.—Guatemalan lands rights activist Aparicio Pérez Guzmán will speak on “The Impunity of Global Actors” at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 9, in the Sanford Room of the Warren Hunting Smith Library, as part of the Human Rights and Genocide lecture series at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.
Guzmán will speak about issues related to the impoverishment of the landless in Guatemala; privatization and land policies imposed by the government, foreign governments and international development institutions; and the impunity of land-owners, national and foreign, who use repression directly against communities of landless people.
Guzmán will be speak in Spanish and Marie Manrique of Rights Action will translate his comments. This event is free and the public is invited to attend.
Guzmán is currently working with the landless workers of Guatemalan eastern department of Izabal. In Izabal, there are currently at least 16 land conflicts between landless workers who are reclaiming lands after labor disputes with transnational companies (including Del Monte subsidiaries) and national farms that, according to the 1996 Peace Accords, are to be distributed to the landless farmers. In 2001-2002, six land-rights activists have been killed in Izabal.
Guzmán, an indigenous Mayan Mam, was born in 1965 in a small village on one of the numerous export-plantations that cover Guatemala’s southern coast. From a young age, impoverishment and economic necessity forced Guzmán to work at survival wages on the large sugar, cotton and cattle export-plantations in the coastal region. Although his formal studies were abruptly ended in his youth, he recently completed his primary education.
Continuing his commitment to human rights and justice for his community, where he had been a catechist and literacy promoter, Guzmán affiliated with Campesino Unity Committee (CUC) in 1992. CUC works to unite Guatemalan farmers to stand up for their land rights. He has held various national positions with CUC. Currently he is co-secretary of National and International Relations for CUC, and also serves on its coordinating board. From 1992-1994, his efforts to organize landless farm-workers and support their demand for the legal minimum wage on a local cattle plantation ended in his two-day illegal detention in 1994.
Manrique works in Rights Action's Guatemala office. An accomplished translator, speaker and writer, she does educational and outreach work with Rights Action related to development, human rights and environmental issues. Rights Action raises funds for community development, human rights and emergency relief projects in southern Mexico, Central America and Peru.
The Genocide in the 20th Century series was founded in 1999 to improve understanding of all life-annihilation processes inherent in our modern world. This year, the program has been expanded to include issues of human rights. Past speakers include two Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, Greensboro Massacre survivor Sally Avery Bermanzohn, Rwandan survivor Louise Mushikiwabo, and Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. The discussion series features speakers, faculty-student reading groups and special seminars, and is supported by the Colleges' President, the Provost, the Fisher Center, the Department of Religious Studies, the Zachor Fund of Rochester, and by Hobart alumnus Dr. E.P. Franks.