Guatemala Farmers Losing Their Land to Europe’s Demand for Biofuels
by John Vidal (The Guardian) Indigenous smallholder farmers are being violently evicted as companies move in to satisfy Europe’s hunger for biofuels
…Over the next four days, 10 more villages were cleared. By the end of March 2011, around 800 families – about 3,200 people from 14 communities – had been forced off land they believed they had a right to live and work on. Within months, hundreds of hectares of the lush valley in the province of Alta Verapaz were being planted with sugar cane that would be turned into ethanol for European cars, including British ones.
…There is a long history of land disputes in the Polochic valley and across Guatemala, with companies claiming title over land that communities believe they have bought or have historical rights over. In this case, the land had been sold to one company by a larger one that had been receiving rent from the communities, who had been on the land for generations. At the time of the evictions, the land was under threat of foreclosure and negotiations were taking place with the government.
…(M)ore than 300 requests for land have been made in the past few years by large companies to mine for gold, silver and nickel; prospect for oil; develop hydroelectric power; or grow biofuel crops. More than 150 other areas have been identified as places of potential conflict over resources. The Polochic valley has been earmarked by international companies as suitable for biofuel crops. READ MORE and MORE (New York Times) and MORE (Renewable Fuels Association)