"Cahabon, like much of Guatemala, suffers from a high percentage of land disputes. At the moment it is estimated that 50% of the rural population who work small plots of land are waiting to be recognized as legitimate owners.
The lack of clarity in land ownership can be traced to the production of coffee that has existed in all of Alta Verapaz since the early 1900. At that time German immigrants arriving in Guatemala bought up large expanses of land to turn over to coffee production. As well as buying the land, the deals almost always included the buying and selling of the workers who lived on the land. During the Second World War, the majority of the German population was expelled from the country due to the alliance between Guatemala and the United States. This meant that many of the plantations were left without legal owners. Those who were living on the land were allowed to live there and work it as if it was their own.
Today the government - instead of initiating a process of distributing the land to those who have worked it for more than a century - has allowed multinational companies to establish mega-projects. These companies often track down the previous legal owners of the land, who no longer live in country, and make them attractive offers, especially as the coffee price has fallen."
You can read more of this article from Sam Jones on Get Resilient here