Earlier this month, we offered PSAC members in the Prairie Region the opportunity to participate in the Social Justice Fund’s Education in Action trip to Guatemala, March 8-22, 2013. We received 20 applications from members interested in this opportunity, which proves how many dedicated members we have in our region. It also indicates that our union’s involvement in social justice work has wide support, which is essential to our continued success in providing aid to communities in Canada and abroad. Unfortunately, however, due to circumstances beyond our control, we’ve decided to cancel this trip.
The Comité Campesino del Altiplano (CCDA), our host on the trip, cannot guarantee the safety of the delegation, following an outbreak of violence in the region of Patulul, Suchitepequez, not far from the head offices of the CCDA in Quixayá, Solola. The violence started when a group of unknown extortionists began targeting the micro-bus drivers who provide public transport to the local communities. A young driver was shot and killed on January 26 when he resisted.
Several communities mobilized to demand protection from local authorities who have ignored their pleas. Instead, the government has sent in squadrons of anti-riot police, effectively militarizing the area. The angry crowds blocked highways, and overturned and burned a police vehicle in protest. Simultaneously, drivers have stopped offering bus services, leaving the region without transport.
While the trip’s cancellation is certainly disappointing, the security of the delegation and the communities in Guatemala is a priority. This also stands as a reminder of the violence and hardship the people of Guatemala, and similar developing countries around the world, face every day, and reinforces the importance of the work we do.
Members can support the CCDA by purchasing the fair trade coffee “Café Justicia” that is sold directly out of the PSAC office in Ottawa. Café Justicia is organic and shade grown coffee from the highlands of Guatemala. Supporting Café Justicia has tremendous benefits to the communities and the farmers’ cooperative. The coffee plantation was developed and is managed by CCDA members.
Additionally, contact the PSAC Regional Office in your area to find out how to get involved with PSAC’s Human Rights Committee to contribute to human rights and social justice efforts in your community.