Alberto Cucul, Ranger of Laguna Lachuá protected park, is assassinated

June is clouding over with the murders of those who defend land and nature in Guatemala. Today, June 8, 2020, Alberto Cucul, who was a ranger in the Laguna Lachuá protected park, and was shot. Cucul was traveling on a motorcycle when some people intercepted him on a road through the Northern Transverse Strip to his work in the park, fatally injuring him with firearm shells. Cucul had worked for 13 years in this park and lived in the Pie del Cerro village in Cobán.

It is not the first time that a park ranger or worker has suffered this type of attack. Many of them have had to endure threats and attacks on their physical integrity by people who illegally cut down, or are engaged in trafficking in species. In some other cases, when there are interests involved in obtaining resources (as in the case of mining companies, those who intimidate those who protect the resources so coveted by them. In other cases, also these drug trafficking groups kill those who stand in their illegal drug trade and / or crop expansion routes.

According to a study by Mongabay in Central America, working conditions for rangers are difficult because they do not have the greatest resources to protect themselves. They indicate:

Almost 80% of park rangers currently face hazardous working conditions. Surveys revealed that most of them have encountered life-threatening situations at work, while two-thirds have been involved in violent interactions.

Likewise, the report indicates that the majority work under less than normal working conditions, without job security and very few benefits, minimal free time and limited benefits. This only shows “that governments do not care about natural resources, much less who protects them”. Yet despite the danger, rangers’ primary motivation is their love of nature and the love to conserve the species in each park where they work.

This is evident in Guatemala when the majority of complaints about environmental crimes in Laguna Lachuá do not progress. The National Council of Protected Areas mentioned in an interview with Prensa Libre that, 1000 cases were counted out of all the denouncements reported to the Public Ministry, but that only one of them reached a conviction. As if that were not enough, the sentence was not fulfilled due to the granting of an “opportunity criterion”, that is to say that the benefit of the application of the sentence was considered not to be a worthwhile benefit in the end.

We demand justice for Alberto Cucul and for all those murdered for defending nature.