Guatemala’s growing palm oil industry fuels Indigenous land fight

The Guatemalan palm oil industry, the world’s sixth-largest, faces resistance from Indigenous people demanding land rights.

Chinebal, Guatemala – Anibal Agurtia blows into the conch shell tied to a red string around his hand, calling people to the clearing. Already, a few dozen members of the Indigenous Maya Q’eqchi community of Chinebal have gathered to discuss an escalating land struggle in this remote area of eastern Guatemala.

Community members accuse a Guatemalan company of planting oil palm on their traditional lands, and they have built homes to reclaim the disputed tract – spurring an eviction notice, several police operations, and a day of deadly violence that remains ever-present in the memory of the settlement’s more than 500 residents.

“[Police] just killed him and took him away,” Matilde Ac told Al Jazeera about her husband, Jose Chaman, who was killed last year during a police operation related to the conflict with the palm oil company, NaturAceites. “I want it to be investigated.”

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