Carmen Morcos (Guatemala)

Carmen Morcos (Rights Action and ADIVIMA, Guatemala): Carmen graduated from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2000 with a B.S. in Finance. She then worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers in their Dispute Analysis & Investigations Group for almost three years. At the time of her fellowship, Carmen was pursuing a joint degree at Georgetown university – a Master of Science in Foreign Service and an MBA with a concentration in international development in Latin America.

The History of ASCRA in Pacux (Asociación Campesina Río Negro Rabinal Achi)

05 Apr

Back in 1982, Pacux began as a model village, which was a counterinsurgency strategy used by the military to control the civilian population. The military established these model villages within or along military bases. Daily life was very militarized and under military control. The communities were required to have civil patrols and military commissioners, as well as judicial authorities (all civilian-based).

These people were often abusers of human rights, often of their own community members. Some say they were forced by the military to commit these violations, otherwise their own families would have faced the consequences.

After the massacres and displacement, as Pacux became more involved in the struggle to obtain compensation due to the construction of Chixoy Dam, the community leaders realized the debilitated state of their community after having been a model village for so many years. They wanted help in creating democratic institutions that had been destroyed by the military.

Rights Action got involved in their struggle and hired experts in popular education to conduct workshops within the community. They invited at least one representative from each family that had been affected by the dam to participate. A series of 6 workshops were conducted in small groups (20 people, about 30 workshops).

During these workshops, the community reconstructed their life history, what life was like before and after the dam, effects of the dam and the massacres, their displacement, and hopes for the future. The objective was to have everything discussed as a community, not so much to document it. As previously mentioned, some community members were involved in human rights violations, therefore there was an attempt to reconstruct relationships and memories and discuss how the community could function together in a healthy manner.

As a result of these workshops, Pacux decided to create ASCRA. They wanted to have a more formal legal identity, which would help them get more recognition in their struggle to seek reparations for the dam. At the end of the workshops, while representatives of all affected families were present, the community elected a board of directors (4), and established commissions e.g. women’s commission, youth commission, housing commission.

Each commission has one person at the head, who is in charge of mobilizing the community along that commission line. ASCRA currently has 13 people total and has just had elections to welcome their new board and commissioners.

Posted By Carmen Morcos (Guatemala)

Posted Apr 5th, 2007

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