En español . . . An indigenous leader in Guatemala’s Agua Caliente, Rodrigo Tot led his community to a landmark court decision that ordered the government to issue land titles to the Q’eqchi people and kept environmentally destructive nickel mining from expanding into his community.
Rodrigo Tot, un líder aborigen de Agua Caliente, Guatemala, guio a su comunidad a una decisión judicial que sentó un precedente histórico, la cual ordenó al gobierno que emitiera títulos de propiedad para el pueblo Q’eqchi y evitó que la destructiva minería de níquel se expandiera a su comunidad.
An indigenous Q’eqchi leader, Rodrigo Tot, 59, was born in central Guatemala just as the mining boom of the 60s was underway. . . .
Tot found legal support with the US-based Indian Law Resource Center (ILRC) and Defensoria Q’eqchi, a small human rights organization in Guatemala. The team spent years preparing its case to establish the community’s legal claims to the land, including a geographical study of Agua Caliente and the land’s chain of ownership. As one of the few people of Agua Caliente who spoke Spanish, Tot translated all the details of the proceedings for the community, organized meetings to help gather evidence, and fielded questions from villagers.
On February 8, 2011, two years after the community of Agua Caliente filed its lawsuit, the Constitutional Court issued a landmark decision. Recognizing the Q’eqchi’s collective property rights, the court ordered the government to replace the missing pages from the registry and issue land titles to the people of Agua Caliente. The ruling came as a surprise to environmental and indigenous activists around the world who were well aware of corruption in Guatemala’s legal system and had been skeptical of the court’s ability to see how egregious these violations had been.
The victory has come at an enormous personal cost for Tot. In 2012, two of his sons were on a bus to Guatemala City when they were shot in what appeared to be a staged robbery. One of them died, and the other survived with grave injuries. . . .
The case has been escalated to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and is currently being reviewed under an expedited status.
Read the complete story about Rodrigo Tot on the Goldman Prize website . . .
Latin America is the most dangerous region for environmental and human rights activists, with more than 570 murdered between 2010 and 2015, according to the London-based group Global Witness.