UPDATE 07/10/21: The Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court rejected the cassation appeal to review Bernardo’s prison sentence, finding there were no flaws or violations of Bernardo’s human rights in the previous court decisions, contrary to the arguments lawyers made during the cassation appeal. Benardo continues to be unjustly imprisoned, despite the fact that there is no evidence that he has committed a crime. We must keep taking action to demand Bernardo’s immediate release.

Bernardo Caal Xol stands up for his land and his people - but because he opposed a power plant, he's been thrown in jail without any evidence. 

Bernardo Caal Xol holds a whole people in his heart. Through his teaching and trade union leadership, he has made it his mission to empower his people, the Indigenous Maya Q’eqchi’ in north central Guatemala. He has done everything he can to peacefully protect their land and natural resources from plunder and biodiversity loss.

So, when a company licensed by the government dammed the Maya Q’eqchi’s Cahabón river to build two hydroelectric power plants, Bernardo and his people protested. The river is one of the longest in Guatemala, and is sacred to the Maya Q’eqchi’. Construction of the power plants had already stripped their forests; now they were losing the precious water they needed to survive. Bernardo demanded a stop to the power plants’ activities, saying the authorities had failed to properly consult his people – a requirement under international law.

But his actions put him at odds with the company, and economic and political elites. Bernardo was publicly smeared with repeated and baseless accusations. In 2018, a judge sentenced him to more than seven years in prison, convicting him without any evidence.

“Why am I in jail?” Bernardo asks. “For denouncing what they are doing to the rivers, defending what little is left.”

Tell Guatemala to free Bernardo today.