Guatemala News Update: October 6 – 10

Request to Lift “State of Prevention”

Residents of San Juan Sacatepéquez are requesting that the government lift the “state of prevention.” There is extreme tension between soldiers and civilians; soldiers are intimidating children, and some offer them candy in exchange for the names of their parents or the whereabouts of people the Public Ministry is searching for.

Supreme Court Asked to Take Action on Nominations

Human rights ombudsman Jorge de León Duque has demanded that the Constitutional Court take action in order to resolve the controversy surrounding the recent selection of thirteen judges. Claudia Escobar, a judge from the Fifth Circuit of Appeals, has also renounced the elections. Some minority sections of Congress are asking that the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala investigate, though the organization has yet to receive a formal request.

No Respect for Human Life

Archbishop Óscar Julio Vian Morales claims Guatemala has no respect for human life, speaking in light of recent violent incidents, such as the kidnapping and murder of a ten year-old girl named Dulce Velásquez. To combat rising violence, Vian proposes a better education system and the cultivation of values in children.

Halt in Adoptions May Be Fueling Border Surge

In 2008, Guatemala halted all adoption proceedings. Before this, about 4,000 children a year were adopted by American parents. Some experts are saying that this halt is contributing to the recent surge of migrant children to the United States. Advocates point out that if adoptions had not been halted, many of these children risking their lives en route to the United States could have been legally adopted in the first place. In the United States, these children face detention centers and deportation, while in Guatemala, they face poverty and exploitation by gangs.

Mexican Raids Resume

Mexico has resumed raids against the influx of Central American immigrants crossing its borders in order to reach the United States.

Guatemala News Update: September 29-October 3

Former Guatemalan Police Chief to Stand Trial

A trial began this week against former police chief Pedro García Arredondo, who is being charged with ordering the massacre of 37 people who were peacefully protesting inside the Spanish Embassy in 1980. The massacre, which involved soldiers and police setting fire to the embassy, occurred in the context of Guatemala’s 36-year-long civil war. Thirty-seven people, most of them indigenous Mayans, were killed.

Child Migration to US “Neither Sin or Crime” Says Guatemala Foreign Affairs Minister at United Nations General Assembly 2014

Guatemalan Foreign Affairs Minister Carlos Raul Morales spoke to the United Nations General Assembly on the importance of promoting greater prosperity in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, in light of the recent child migration crisis. Morales spoke about the importance of working with the United States to resolve the issue, but warned against criminalizing the children, citing the culpability of human trafficking networks.

European Union Donates $15.4 Million To Strengthen Justice in Guatemala

The European Union has appropriated $15.4 million in aid to Guatemala. The money will go towards improving the quality of justice services, such as the Institute of National Forensics and the Penitentiary System, among others. Continue reading

Five Years Later: Celebrating the Life of Adolfo Ich Chamán

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GHRC stands in solidarity with families and community members gathering today in El Estor, Guatemala to commemorate the five-year anniversary of the assassination of Adolfo Ich Chamán. On September 27 of 2009, Adolfo was murdered by private security forces working for … Continue reading

Carta de Solidaridad: Recordando la vida de Adolfo Ich Chamán

Angelica Choc con una foto de su esposo, Adolfo Ich Chamán. Foto por James Rodríguez.

Angelica Choc with a photo of her husband, Adolfo. Photo by James Rodríguez.

Guatemala, 27 de septiembre de 2014

Han pasado cinco años desde aquel día en que cortaron la vida del profesor Adolfo Ich Chamán. Con su asesinato se hizo evidente, una vez más, que en Guatemala siguen corriendo muchos riesgos quienes tienen como opción de vida trabajar en servicio de los demás. Y ese era Adolfo Ich Chaman, el profesor, el padre, el esposo, el vecino, el ser humano que por sus convicciones a favor de los derechos, la justicia y la vida hoy no está con nosotros físicamente, pero que hoy le estamos recordando. Continue reading

Guatemalan News Update: September 22-26

Community Members and Organizations Commemorate 5th Anniversary of Killing of Adolfo Ich

On September 27 of 2009, Adolfo Ich Chamán was murdered by private security forces working for the Fenix nickel mine in El Estor, Guatemala. Adolfo’s death was part of a wave of violence committed by employees of CGN, the Guatemalan subsidiary of Canadian mining company Hudbay Minerals, against anti-mine activists. On the same day that Adolfo was killed, seven others were injured, including German Chub, who was shot and left paralyzed.

Community members in El Estor will commemorate Adolfo’s death, as well as the ongoing community resistance, through ceremonies and events to take place on September 27, 2014. Representatives of GHRC will be present at the commemoration in Guatemala. Today, a memorial in solidarity with those in El Estor will also be held in Toronto in front of Hudbay’s corporate headquarters.

State of Emergency in Guatemala Town After Clashes

On September 22nd, Guatemala declared a “State of Prevention” in San Juan Sacatepéquez, a municipality outside the capital. The emergency measures, which suspend constitutional rights, were allegedly put in place in response to acts of violence committed in the community of Los Pajoques on the 19th and 20th of September. The clash, which killed eleven people, resulted from disagreements over the construction of a cement factory and proposed highway which would cut through the community.

Click here to read GHRC’s statement detailing concerns over the State of Prevention in San Juan Sacatepéquez.

Congress Receives “Acceptable” List for the Supreme Court of Justice

On September 22nd, a list of twenty-six candidates for the Supreme Court of Justice was sent to Congress. Thirteen Supreme Court judges were then elected from the list candidates, amongst suspicions that the final list had already been decided upon prior to the vote. Human rights groups have expressed frustration at the selection proceedings, which have been criticized as being opaque, responding to private interests, and guaranteeing a “pact of impunity.”

New Talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry

On September 23rd, government officials from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras met with Secretary of State John Kerry to present plans to stop the influx of unaccompanied immigrant children into the United States. The plans were the result of a July meeting with President Barack Obama. Chancellor Carlos Raúl Morales, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, said, “The idea is that from these plans, a discussion with the United States will open for two or three months…”

Plans for Immigrant Family Detention Center Draws Criticism

Federal officials are planning the construction of a new detention center near San Antonio to house Central American immigrant children and their parents. This new center could be run by a for-profit prison firm with a history of holding families in deplorable conditions. Advocates warn against the use of detention centers to house families. “It breaks down the structure of families,” said Michelle Brané, director of migrant rights and justice at the Women’s Refugee Commission.

New Instances of Political Repression of “Los q’eqchies”

This article looks at the connection between violence and the exploitation of natural resources in Alta Verapaz, where the construction of a hydroelectric dam is being planned. On August 15th, the National Civil Police violently evicted dozens of families and entered the village of Semococh in order to capture two leaders of Codeca, an organization of peasants and indigenous peoples calling for justice and better living conditions. The conflict ended in a violent clash between the police and villagers, which left three villagers dead.

Martial Law Declared Again in Conflict Over Natural Resources

GHRC expresses concern about the declaration of a “State of Prevention” in the municipality of San Juan Sacatepéquez, allegedly in response to acts of violence committed in the community of Los Pajoques on the 19th and 20th of September. Despite the localized nature of the conflict, the administration of President Otto Pérez Molina made the controversial decision to suspend basic constitutional rights, such as freedom of speech and assembly, throughout the entire municipality for the next 15 days.

sjs-collage-eblastLos Pajoques is one of twelve communities in San Juan Sacatepéquez that have been involved in an ongoing resistance movement to the construction of a cement quarry and processing plant, and recently have opposed the construction of a highway that would cut through the community on its way to the quarry. Their opposition is grounded in concerns about the profound impact that the operations of the cement factory could have on the environment, in an area renown for the cultivation of vegetables and flowers.

The violence, which reportedly left 11 dead, was a tragic manifestation of the division, tension and desperation that has existed in San Juan Sacatepéquez since the arrival of the powerful cement company, Cementos Progreso, in 2006. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: September 8-19

IACHR Declares Guatemala in “Contempt of Court”

The IACHR published its resolution from a May supervisory hearing at the Inter-American Court, in which the Court asked the government of Guatemala to report on the progress it had made in 11 cases, including the Rio Negro and Military Diary cases.

In its resolution, released August 22, the Court stated: “Guatemala did not inform about advances in compliance [...] but instead assumed a radical change in its position intended to question the Court’s decision [...]. For example, Guatemala questioned the ability for the Court to try crimes before 1987, and negated the continuing nature of the crime of forced disappearance.

The Court explicitly stated that Guatemala’s position expressed at the hearing “constitutes a clear act of contempt of court,” and reminded Guatemala of its legal obligations to comply with Court sentences — above and beyond any domestic laws — including amnesties.

Violence Possible in Mining Sector

Amnesty International released a new report about mining in Guatemala, calling attention to the growing social unrest and conflict provoked by these projects. According to the report, the Guatemalan government is exacerbating social conflict and the likelihood of violence by failing to consult with local communities before awarding mining licenses to companies. Despite fierce opposition to mining licenses, the government has awarded at least 240 licenses to businesses so far. The report can be read in full here.

Hundreds Protest over Rural Development Act

On September 18th, hundreds of indigenous and rural citizens protested in front of Guatemala’s Congress to show support for the passage of the Rural Development Law and to repeal a law that would prohibit any obstacles which block roads or limit transportation. The Legislative Branch should consult the indigenous towns before passing laws that directly impact them, yet the government recently passed several laws without the approval of indigenous groups.

The protests caused several road blocks which were maintained for three to four hours. During violent attempts by the police to break up community roadblocks by Ch’orti’ communities in Chiquimula, reporter Norma Sansir was arrested by the police. There have been several other instances of violence against reporters and government actions that contradict the idea of free press.

On September 23, Norma and four others who were arrested were released from jail.

Prior Agreements Shown in Court of Appeals Nomination Process

The process to choose nominees for the Court of Appeals began yesterday (September 17th). As a final list of candidates was compiled, questions arose over whether some names included in the list were already agreed upon, prior to the vote.

Extension of CICIG mandate to be considered

Despite previous recommendations not to extend the mandate of the CICIG — a UN-backed international body charged with helping State institutions investigate serious crime — President Pérez Molina announced that the executive branch will consider an extension of the CICIG in respect to specific sectors that would benefit from its support.