This originally appeared in El Faro
NOT LONG BEFORE NOON ON THE DAY he was imprisoned, Francisco Chox, an indigenous GuatemalanTV journalist, was covering a protest in the Sololá department. Three weeks earlier, on May 25th, the government of Alejandro Giammattei dispatched the military to impose a state of emergency over two neighboring municipalities in the department, Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán and Nahualá. Decades-old territorial disputes between the indigenous communities had erupted the previous day, with a clash that left one dead and several wounded. Dozens of people in the area have been killed in armed confrontations in recent years from an intercommunal conflict rooted in economic disparities and inequities in land ownership between the municipalities.
On June 11th, protests over the federal military occupation broke out in the town of Alaska in Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán, the poorer of the two municipalities. The disturbances, according to one report, began after a group residents of Nahualá ascended the hillside towards land disputed with Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán to clean their crops and replace piped water services, a move seen as a provocation by many in the latter community. Catching wind of the protest, Chox—who works for department-wide station Canal Nim, goes by the nickname “Chivo” and, according to multiple interviews, is highly recognizable for wearing indigenous garb—jumped on his motorcycle and headed to Alaska. Once he got to the scene, where a roadblock had been set up on the highway, a group of protesters recognized him as a journalist from Nahualá and promptly zeroed in on him as a target.