The Polochic is a valley of fertile lands located in the north-eastern region of Guatemala. Since 1888 their lands were privatized in farms and given to oligarch families of Germans. These families employed Maya-Q’eqchi’ families as mozos-colonos for the production of coffee and livestock care. The Q’eqchi’ population has struggled since then for the access to the land from which they were deprived, but they have always been severely repressed. The population suffered in 1978 one of the first massacres of the Internal Armed Conflict, in which 53 peasants died after claiming land access in the town square of Panzós. Conflicts for the land have been aggravated due to the accelerated expansion in the valley of oil palm monocultures in 1998 and sugarcane in 2005, property of the Maegli and Widdman families respectively, who occupy more than three quarters of their fertile land. The settling of these monocultures and the palm oil mill have also brought with them intoxications and eye diseases due to the aerial spraying of the sugarcane as well as water and air contamination.
Many Q’eqchi’ communities have been deprived again from their lands and displaced to less productive areas. However, many of them continue sowing maize as a form of resistance and as a sole way of subsistence in the farms owned by cattle ranchers and do not hold any formal land rights.
In 2010 some families decided to occupy 13 farms that had come to auction after the economic collapse of the sugarcane mill, and asked the government to sell the farms to them. The communities settled in the fertile part of the valley suffered daily threats, intimidation and murder from the private security of the palm and sugarcane companies in order to force them to abandon the land. At the same time a negotiating table was set up with representation of both the companies and the communities, as well as of State and human rights institutions. While these meetings were being held in March 2011, through a public-private agreement 779 families from 15 communities were violently evicted by the army and the police (directed by the Widdman family), their houses were burnt, their crops about to be harvested were destroyed, and the peasant Antonio Beb Ac was murdered. Months later the peasants Oscar Reyes and Margarita Chub Che were murdered as well, and women, children and peasants were wounded by shooting from the private security.
The case of the evictions was presented to the Human Rights Inter American Commission, which replied in June 2011 forcing the government to assist to the evicted families through four precautionary measures.
In March 2012 the Marcha Indígena Campesina y Popular (Indigenous Peasant and Popular March) is organized, with over a thousand people who walked 200 km of the country. The civilian population, with the support of organizations, demanded the government to respect the precautionary measures, to adjudicate and regularize the occupied lands, and to order the capture of the responsible of the murders and aggressions. The government committed to accomplish these demands.
In June 2012 the cases of violation of human rights of the Q’eqchi’ communities were considered in the 14th Universal Periodic Review for Guatemala, from the Human Rights Council of the UN.
In April 2013 Intermon Oxfam and La Via Campesina carry out Crece-Vamos al Grano campaign, which collected 107.000 signatures from people of 55 different countries that were delivery to the president of Guatemala government in order to press him to give means for living to families evicted.
In October 2013 only 140 families were relocated on farms outside the Polochic valley without enough means to cover their basic need to live. 611 families evicted continue in the valley suffering violence and living in extreme poverty.