Evictions increase under the Giammattei administration

By Gilberto Escobar 

Evictions of two types have been on the rise in Guatemala over the past two years: legal evictions based on a judicial order, and extrajudicial evictions, which are not based on a judge’s order and take place in the dark hours of night or early dawn. The majority of these evictions are carried out by men wearing ski masks who set fire to everything and flee.

Echoes of Guatemala’s Civil War can be seen in these illegal evictions—violent scenes of men wearing disguises so that nobody knows who they are.

In September 2022 I started following the case of an eviction. I did what we journalists do: I asked questions and investigated. Many questions swirled around my head, and I asked myself who was behind these evictions.

This question led me to continue my investigation. I consulted various specialists. One tole be that evictions are a sign of a failed State: a State that cannot peacefully resolve normal problems and, most importantly, is incapable of meeting the needs of the population.

According to official data from the Ministry of the Interior, 119 legal evictions were registered from January to October 2022. There is no data on extrajudicial evictions.

In the town of El Estor, in Izabal, where many evictions have occurred, the official count for the same 10-month period is only 11.

2022 will go down in history as the year with the most evictions out of the last seven years. On the other hand, 2020 had the fewest registered evictions: only five. But these statistics only count evictions carried out by a judicial order. The others, which are carried out violently, are not quantified.

That the number of evictions is on the rise is no coincidence. Rather, it is a strategy of the business sector and other State institutions who have dedicated themselves to evictions since 2019.


The Public Ministry, CACIF, and organized crime 

There are three institutions that have been created in the past three years that pay attention to this usurpation, as they call it. Two are from the business sector and one from the State.

First, the Association for the Defense of Private Property (ACDEPRO), which was founded in 2019 by Carlos Torrebiarte. That same year, the Coordinating Committee of Agricultural, Commercial, Industrial, and Financial Associations (CACIF) created the Property Rights Observatory, with the slogan “I’m a Landowner.” The other is the Public Ministry’s Special Prosecutor for Crimes of Usurpation, created in October 2021.

On March 17, 2021, the CACIF and Public Ministry, directed by the Attorney General Consuelo Porras, signed an agreement where both institutions pledged to cooperate on the matter of private property statistics.

But before signing this agreement, CACIF created the Observatory of Property Rights in December 2019 with the goal of monitoring and communicating statistical information on cases where property rights are violated.

The Special Prosecutor for Crimes of Usurpation had more than 800 dossiers of cases of eviction to investigate between October 2021 and November 2022. It also has registered more than 700 complaints between January and October 2022 that are pending investigation.

In the indigenous communities where these evictions are on the rise, there is also a food crisis and other challenges related to rebuilding efforts.

One of the last evictions carried out in 2022 was in the Community of Se’Inup, El Chal, Petén. It was an extrajudicial eviction. 150 armed, masked men entered the house, set it ablaze, and left it to burn down to ashes.

Gilberto Escobar: Journalist. He writes for the digital media No-Ficción and has also published in Prensa Comunitaria and Plaza Pública. His articles focus on community dynamics, evictions, conflicts, and migration.