"There has been no coverage in the American press, but the situation in
the Sierra del Lacandon, on the Usumacinta River in Guatemala, has
been deteriorating. Large groups of invading settlers, many backed by
narcotraffickers, are destroying the jungle in this critical protected
area," wrote Dave Pentecost of the Daily Glyph to the Aztlan listserv on August 7, 2006.
"The Maya site of Piedras Negras is in the Sierra del Lacandon Park. The guard post for that site at El Porvenir and two other posts were burned to the ground and the guards evacuated recently. This is part of an ongoing battle that in June of this year resulted in 8 hostages, two of them injured by gunfire. The invaders are demanding title to the land, which is a protected area, administered by the Defensores de la Naturaleza and CONAP in Guatemala.
"You can read my site for updates on this situation:
"Or go directly to these recent news reports:
Noti7 [Información Guatemalteca]
"Earlier, guard posts at Yaxha were burned in a similar dispute, and last week three guards at Tikal were ambushed and killed:
"I am preparing a report for Frontline on the situation in the Usumacinta watershed, but it is quickly going beyond anything I have the power to record and present. What we are seeing is the complete ungovernability of large areas of Guatemala, and these are areas with high biodiversity and great cultural treasures."
The contact information for Dave Pentecost is as follows:
This alarming advisory was followed the next day by the following message from archaeologist Charles Golden to the Aztlan listserv:
"Many thanks to Dave Pentecost for posting the links to news reports on the Sierra del Lacandon and Piedras Negras.
"I wanted to write to emphasize the situation is dire. This could be the moment in which Piedras Negras is lost to the looters for good, and the remaining portions of the park are burned or logged out. I have worked in the area since 1997, and I have experienced all the many, many problems that plague the Usumacinta. I have never seen such a crisis. Previous attacks on Piedras Negras or on the park authorities were sporadic and limited to one location. The current situation represents a concerted, multi-pronged attack designed to cause the Guatemalan authorities to abandon the parka plan that has, for now, succeeded. The Usumacinta is now a free trade zone for looters, loggers, and narcos.
"I want to ask, on behalf of my friends in the Defensores de la Naturaleza, administrators of the park, who are valiantly trying to get the Guatemalan government to respond to this crisis, and on behalf of the Instituto de Antropologia e Historia in Guatemala which is similarly trying to protect Piedras Negras that you write to your representatives in congress and to the US ambassador in Guatemala City encouraging them to take action. In the past, political and economic support from the United States through the Embassy has been successful in getting action from the Guatemalan government.
"You can e-mail Ambassador James M. Derham at AmCitsGuatemala@state.gov
"If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact me.
The proper form of address for a United States ambassador would be:
The Honorable James M. Derham
Dear Mr. Ambassador