Weekly News Roundup

July 13 – July 20

  • Byron Estrada released from prison On Friday July 13th a judge determined that Byron Estrada, convicted of the assassination of Bishop Juan José Gerardi in 1998, had fulfilled half his sentence and had shown good conduct as well as studied and worked during his time in prison. As a result he was released from prison. The Public Prosecutor’s Office renounced its right to appeal the decision.
  • Experts issue report on violence in Guatemala Experts from the Resource Center for the Analysis of the Conflict (CERAC) said Friday that while the militarization of Guatemala to enforce the so called “mano dura” (iron fist policy) to fight cartels and violence is valid, the measure has to be temporary in order to guarantee human rights in the country. Jorge Restrepo, one of the analysts from CERAC, said that a prolonged militarization can damage both the image of the institution and society itself.
  • Goldcorp declared guilty by The People’s International Health Tribunal The People’s International Health Tribunal was established by community members in San Miguel to analyze the impact of the Marlin Mine in Guatemala, the Filos Mine in Mexico and the Siria Valley Mine in Honduras. Goldcorp, the Canadian mining company that operates the mines, was declared responsible for affecting communities in all three countries with its excavations. The judges unanimously decided that Goldcorp was violating human rights in the community where it is operating.
  • The continuous presence of members of the Guatemalan Army worries communities in Cuarto Pueblo in the Ixcan Province The brigade was established on Wednesday June 11th. Since then the army has barged into the public school, paralyzing academic activities and has interrogated members of the community on the activity of community leaders and organizations. In March1982, the army carried out one of the single most violent massacres of the internal armed conflict in Cuarto Pueblo. Since then community members have opposed militarization. Roni Urizar, army spokesperson, stated that the army is only undertaking socialization activities in cooperation with local authorities.
  • San Miguel Ixtahuacán receives compensation from Goldcorp The community received Q33.5 million in voluntary pay from the mining company, in addition to an obligatory Q11.1 million already paid to the state, as part of the revenues of the Marlin Mine. Joel Domingo Bámaca, the mayor of San Miguel Ixtahuacán, said that the money will be used to invest in health, education, and infrastructure.
  • López Fuentes’ defense presents counter-suit against Claudia Paz y Paz Moisés Galindo, the defense lawyer for the retired general López Fuentes, accused of genocide and crimes against humanity, presented a counter-suit against Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz. The defense asked Paz y Paz to remove herself from the case against López Fuentes, after her statement affirming that genocide was committed in the country.
  • Report on mining injustices across Guatemala Rights Action recently led a group of Canadian and American citizens on a trip throughout the country, in which they visited a number of communities currently involved in resistance to mining projects. The visits included communities fighting against Goldcorp, Radius Gold, and Hudbay Minerals where community members testified to the protests, attacks and the threats the mining projects pose.
  • Two reports released on Violence Against Women in Guatemala The Guatemalan Women’s Group (GGM) presented the report  on the status of violence against women in the country. The report focuses on the attacks on women, the support groups and the aid provided to victims of violence. Additionally The Mutual Support Group (GAM) released a report which estimates that almost 86% of the victims of domestic violence are women. The report stated that 3,167 women have been killed in the past four years as a result of violent attacks. Mario Polanco, GAM’s director, said that only 2% of the cases have been investigated. The report also points out that the government of Guatemala only spends .07% of it’s budget on projects designed to prevent domestic violence.

GHRC accompanies Guatemalans as they mourn the death of truth

By dismantling Peace Archives Directorate, the entity designed to oversee and manage the entirety of documents pertaining to human rights violations committed during the internal armed conflict, Secretary Arenales Forno and President Pérez Molina extinguished an invaluable contribution to the preservation of historic memory and to the State´s obligations under the Peace Accords, at the same time obstructing efforts to investigate the military for egregious human rights violations and crimes against humanity.

Marco Tulio Alvarez, former Director of the Peace Archives Directorate reads out GHRC’s denouncement of the closure of the Archives in Guatemala

On June 29th, the day that the Peace Archives Directorate officially closed, a funeral was held mourning the death of the truth. As part of the activity, GHRC presented copies of the petition signed by supporters denouncing the closure. The petition was read, twice, to those gathered.

“Arenales Forno, Secretary of War”

Forno, the Secretary of Peace, was responsible for the decision to close the Peace Archives. He has also denied that there was genocide was committed in Guatemala.

“Genocide did happened”

“You don’t bury truth, you bury impunity”

Member of the union representing the employees of the Peace Archives Directorate who were fired.

Weekly News Roundup

July 6 – July 12

  • FLACSO receives Peace Archives documents. The Center for Documentation at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences received a variety of studies and documents from the Peace Archives Directorate, according to Ruth Del Valle. Del Valle, the coordinator of the Memory, History, and Justice program at FLACSO, explained that the intent is that the research carried out by the Peace Archives will be useful and well-known.
  • Social groups in Santa Rosa reject mining activity. Various representatives from Santa Rosa de Lima, Nueva Santa Rosa y Casillas, Santa Rosa, presented their views against mining in a press conference on July  The communities are in opposition to the San Rafael mine in the northern part of the department; Enrique Arredondo, mayor of Santa Rosa, said that 98 percent of the community had rejected the mine in a consultation last year.

Indigenous Activist attacked in El Quiché, Guatemala / Activista indígena atacada en El Quiché, Guatemala

GHRC Denounces Attack on Lolita Chavez

Summary

On July 4, Lolita Chavez, indigenous activist and human rights defender, narrowly escaped being lynched as four others were beaten by a violent group of people allied with Estuardo Castro, the mayor of Santa Cruz del Quiché and member of the ruling Patriot Party.

Although she avoided harm this time, GHRC is gravely concerned for Lolita’s ongoing safety and well-being. Likewise we are distressed by the harassment and attacks against other members of the K’iche’ People’s Council.

Background


Lolita Chavez is a indigenous woman known for her warm smile, energetic personality, and her selfless commitment to the rural communities of Guatemala’s Quiché department. As a leader within the K’iche’ People’s Council (Consejo de Pueblos K’iche’s – CPK) Lolita has accompanied 87 communities in their struggles for self-determination and resistance to harmful development projects which could threaten the health of families and cause irreversible damage to the environment.

This opposition to “development at any cost” has placed these communities, and in particular the members of the CPK, at great risk. Powerful local, departmental, and national political figures — closely aligned with transnational corporations — have made it perfectly clear that they are not interested in consulting with indigenous communities or entering into real dialogue with local organization and leaders. Guatemalan authorities have instead responded with threats, defamation, intimidation, and violence.

On June 12th of this year José Tavico Tzunun, a member of the CPK who hosted meetings at his home, was assassinated by armed gunmen who broke into his house after midnight. A few days previous to the attack he had received a phone message that threatened: “If you continue to bring people together for meetings, you will pay the consequences…”

On June 26th Lolita, in representation of the CPK, presented a formal accusation against the mayor of Quiché, Estuardo Castro, for “abuse of power, racial discrimination, arrogance and authoritarianism, exclusion and marginalization” in his dealings with the indigenous communities. She also denounced a death threat against another community leader, Gaspar Tipaz Gómez, for his participation in the protests. Lolita added: “We hold the mayor and the municipal government responsible for anything that happens to us or our families.”

The Attack against Lolita

Around 4:15pm on July, 4, Lolita and other women were returning home from a peaceful gathering in Santa Cruz del Quiché to protest Mayor Castro’s blatant disregard for the opinions and proposals of the indigenous communities. When they arrived at the community of Xatinap Quinto La Laguna their bus was intercepted by eight people armed with knives, rocks, machetes, and other sharp objects. The assailants shouted “Mayor Castro is in charge here and we’re here to do the mayor’s justice.” They demanded that Lolita be handed over to them. When the community members refused, the mob threw rocks at the bus and forced three women and a child off the bus.

One woman, age 20, had her arms held behind her back while being beaten with a piece of wood. She also received a knife cut to her right wrist. Another woman, age 40, had her left eye scratched and her blouse torn. The third woman, 52, had her lip split open and her front teeth shattered when struck in the face by a rock. The 11 year-old girl had her left ankle fractured by another thrown rock.

Lolita avoided falling into the hands of the attackers because the bus driver decided to make a break for it and escape. Lolita immediately contacted the police, who took nearly half an hour to arrive on the scene. Once there, the officers instantly sided with the attackers saying that Lolita and the other members of the K’iche’ People’s Council were “delinquents and agitators” and that the authorities were “tired of having to listen to all of their demands.”

The tense situation was only diffused by the arrival of ambulances to attend to the injured women. None of the assailants was detained or arrested. In fact, in a perverse distortion of justice, the attackers claim that they were the victims and have filed charges against Lolita and the others. While absurd, these bogus charges could likely result in arrest warrants for Lolita and others.

Also troubling are reports from El Quiché that Lolita’s name is being disparaged during “official” news broadcasts on the local radio station accusing her of provoking disturbances in the area, an obvious attempt to criminalize her activism.

GHRC’s Concerns

GHRC laments that this incident is just the latest in a series of violent attacks against human rights defenders, particularly those defending the collective rights of indigenous communities to self-determination and the protection of their natural resources and the environment.

GHRC calls on the Guatemalan government to fully guarantee the safety and security of Lolita Chavez and the other members of the Consejo de Pueblos K’iche’.

GHRC calls on the Public Ministry to transfer the case of the murder of José Tavico Tzunun to the Office of the Human Rights Prosecutor, to guarantee that the investigation take into account the relevant human rights elements surrounding his assassination.

GHRC calls on the Interior Ministry to investigate the conduct of the police officers in the aftermath of the attack, in particular their refusal to arrest those responsible for this crime.

GHRC calls on the Mayor of Santa Cruz del Quiché and his municipal government to engage in honest dialogue with the participation of independent observers, to attend to the just demands of the communities and to immediately cease any and all actions designed to provoke division, discord and violence amongst the communities.

GHRC fully supports the rights of the indigenous communities of El Quiché to determine the type of development that best respects their rights and embodies their beliefs and world view. We reject the imposition of any external model that is based on exclusion and exploitation.

Send a postcard to Lolita and the members of the CPK!

GHRC will be delivering postcards with messages of support to these brave activists as they continue with the difficult and often dangerous work of defending indigenous rights and natural resources.

You can send a postcard to the GHRC office before July 27th, and GHRC staff will deliver it to Lolita and the K’iche’ People’s Council in Guatemala.

GHRC/USA
3321 12th St. NE
Washington, DC 20017

Don’t write in Spanish? Don’t worry! You can start the postcard with “Estimados miembros del Consejo de Pueblos K’iche’s”. Below are some sample messages that you could send. Feel free to mix and match.

  • _Estoy_____ en solidaridad con Los Pueblos K’iche’s. (Or you can fill in the name of your group to say “_____stands in solidarity with the K’iche’ people”)
  • Respaldamos su lucha por sus derechos y la madre tierra. (We support your struggle for your rights and Mother Earth)
  • Que sigan adelante con la lucha para la dignidad de los pueblos K’iche’s. (Keep up the fight for the dignity of the K’iche’ people)
  • El pueblo de _____ presente en la lucha. (The people of ______ present in the struggle)
  • El pueblo unido jamás será vencido. (The people united will never be defeated)
  • Lamentamos la violencia contra de los miembros del Consejo de Pueblos K’iche’s. (We lament the violence against the members of the K’iche’ People’s Council.)
  • Apoyamos los derechos colectivos de los pueblos indígenas de Guatemala. (We support the collective rights of the indigenous people of Guatemala)

You can also write a letter to the Guatemalan Prosecutors Office and the Presidential Commission for Human Rights urging them to provide protection to the K’iche’ People’s Council and investigate the recent acts of violence.

             ____________________________________________________________________

GHRC Denuncia el ataque a Lolita Chavez               

Resumen

El 4 de julio, Lolita Chávez, activista indígena y defensora de derechos humanos, logró evitar ser linchada, mientras que cuatro personas fueron golpeadas por un grupo violento de personas aliadas con el alcalde de Santa Cruz del Quiché, Estuardo Castro, miembro del Partido Patriota que actualmente ostenta el poder en Guatemala.

Aunque salió ilesa, la Comisión de Derechos Humanos de Guatemala (GHRC por sus siglas en ingles) está bastante preocupada por la seguridad y el bienestar de Lolita. Adicionalmente la Comisión se encuentra muy consternada con el hostigamiento y los constantes ataques en contra de otros miembros del Consejo de Pueblos K’iche’s.

Historia

Lolita Chávez es una mujer indígena conocida por su sonrisa cálida, personalidad energética y su entrega a las comunidades rurales del departamento de El Quiché en Guatemala. Como lideresa dentro del Consejo de Pueblos K’iche’s -CPK- Lolita acompaña a 87 comunidades en su lucha por la autodeterminación y en la resistencia a los megaproyectos dañinos que ponen en riesgo la salud de las familias y causan daños irreversibles al medio ambiente

La oposición al “desarrollo a cualquier costo” ha puesto a estas comunidades, y en particular a los miembros del CPK, en gran riesgo. Autoridades locales, departamentales y nacionales – con fuertes vínculos a empresas transnacionales – han demostrado su falta de interés en consultar con las comunidades indígenas o entrar en un diálogo real con sus organizaciones y líderes. Todo lo contrario: las autoridades guatemaltecas han respondido con amenazas, difamación, intimidación y violencia.

El 12 de junio del presente año, José Tavico Tzunun, un miembro del CPK quien organizaba reuniones en su casa, fue asesinado por hombres armados que entraron a su domicilio pasada la media noche. Días antes del ataque José había recibido un mensaje telefónico en donde lo amenazaban que: “Si seguís reuniendo a la gente, te atenés a las consecuencias…”

El 26 de junio Lolita, en representación del CPK, presentó una acusación formal en contra del alcalde de El Quiché, Estuardo Castro, por “abuso de poder, discriminación racial, prepotencia y autoritarismo, exclusión y marginalización” en su trato con las comunidades indígenas. También denunció una amenaza de muerte hecha a otro líder de la comunidad, Gaspar Tipaz Gómez, por su participación en las protestas. Lolita dijo: “Hacemos responsable al Alcalde y al gobierno municipal de cualquier cosa que nos pase a nosotros o a nuestras familias”.

El ataque a Lolita

Alrededor de las 4:15 de la tarde el 4, Lolita, en compañía de otras mujeres, regresaba a su casa luego de una reunión pacifica en Santa Cruz del Quiché para protestar el flagrante desprecio del Alcalde Castro en relación a las opiniones y propuestas de las comunidades indígenas. Cuando llegaron a la comunidad de Xartinap Quinto La Laguna su bus fue interceptado por un grupo de ocho personas armadas con cuchillos, piedras, machetes y otro tipo de objetos corto punzantes. Los atacantes comenzaron a gritar: “El Alcalde Castro es el que está encargado aquí y vamos a hacer justicia por el Alcalde”. Los atacantes exigieron que las demás personas le entregaran a Lolita. Cuando los comunitarios se rehusaron, el grupo de atacantes comenzó a tirar piedras y obligaron a tres mujeres y a una menor a bajarse del bus.

A una de las mujeres, una joven de 20 años, la tomaron de los brazos por detrás mientras le golpearon continuamente con un palo. También recibió una cortada con un cuchillo en su muñeca derecha. Otra de las mujeres, una señora de 40 años, fue aruñada en su ojo izquierdo a la vez que le rompió la blusa que llevaba puesta. A la tercera mujer, una señora de 52 años, le rompieron el labio y le fracturaron los dientes cuando le lanzaron una piedra a su cara. La pequeña de 11 años quedó con un tobillo fracturado luego de ser atacada con otra roca.

Lolita logró evitar el ataque gracias a que el conductor del bus decidió escapar de la zona y huyó con el bus. Inmediatamente Lolita contactó a la policía, la cual se demoró casi media hora en llegar a la escena del crimen. Una vez ahí, los uniformados inmediatamente se aliaron con los atacantes en las acusaciones que establecían que Lolita y los otros miembros del Consejo de Pueblos K’iche’s eran “delincuentes provocadores”. Los oficiales afirmaron además: “les hemos aguantado tanto a ustedes por que tienen mucha demandas”.

La tensa situación solo se calmó con la llegada de las ambulancias solicitadas para atender a las mujeres que habían sido heridas. Ninguno de los asaltantes fue detenido o arrestado por la policía. De hecho, en una distorsión perversa de la justicia, los atacantes argumentaron que ellos fueron las víctimas y que iban a presentar cargos contra Lolita y los otros miembros del Consejo. Aun cuando los cargos son absurdos, estos podrían terminar en órdenes de captura contra Lolita y sus acompañantes.
Igual de preocupante son informes desde El Quiché que establecen que Lolita está siendo difamada durante programas “oficiales” de radio, en donde es acusada de provocar disturbios en el área. Lo anterior es un obvio intento de criminalizar su activismo.

Las preocupaciones de La Comisión de Derechos Humanos de Guatemala (GHRC)

GHRC lamenta que este incidente sea tan solo el último en una serie de ataques contra defensores de derechos humanos, en particular en contra de aquellos que defienden los derechos colectivos de las comunidades indígenas a la autodeterminación y la protección de sus recursos naturales y el medio ambiente

GHRC hace un llamado al gobierno de Guatemala para que garantice la seguridad de Lolita Chávez y los demás miembros del Consejo de Pueblos K’iche’.

GHRC hace un llamado al Ministerio Público para que transfiera el caso del asesinato de José Tabico Tunan a la oficina de la Fiscalía de Derechos Humanos, con el fin de garantizar que en la investigación sean tomados en cuenta los elementos relevantes de derechos humanos que rodean el asesinato.

GHRC hace un llamado al Ministerio de Gobernación para que investigue la conducta de los oficiales de la policía involucrados en la respuesta al ataque, en particular a aquellos que se rehusaron a arrestar a los responsables del crimen.

GHRC hace un llamado al Alcalde de Santa Cruz del Quiché y a su gobierno municipal a que entren en un diálogo honesto, con la participación de observadores independientes, para atender a las demandas justas de las comunidades indígenas, y que cese de manera inmediata cualquier acción encaminada a provocar división, discordia y violencia entre las comunidades.

GHRC apoya plenamente los derechos de las comunidades indígenas de El Quiché para determinar el tipo de desarrollo que mejor les respete sus derechos y que represente sus creencias y su cosmovisión. Rechazamos la imposición de cualquier modelo ajeno basado en la exclusión y la explotación.

Envíe un mensaje de apoyo a Lolita y las otras victimas

GHRC entregará postales con mensajes de apoyo a estas activistas valientes mientras que ellas continuen su trabajo dificil y muchas veces peligroso de defender los derechos de los pueblos indígenas y los recursos naturales

Se puede enviar un postal a la oficina de GHRC en EEUU antes del 27 de July y la personal de GHRC lo entrgará a Lolita y el Consejo de Pueblos K’iche’s en Guatemala.

GHRC/USA
3321 12th St. NE
Washington, DC 20017

Tambien se puede escribir una carta al Ministerio Publico y la Comisión Presidencial para los Derechos Humanos instando que provean protección al Consejo de Pueblos K’iche’s y investiguen los actos recientes de violencia.

Weekly News Roundup

June 29th – July 6th

  • Peace Archives officially closes. The Peace Archives Directorate officially closed on June 29th, after the previously announced decision to close the office on May 29. The labor union of Sepaz, the Peace Secretariat, has a number of activities planned to protest the event.
  • Residents of San Juan Sacatepéquez protest military base. On June 30th, residents of the community, as well as delegates from Huehuetenango, San Marcos, and Quiché, participated in a march to protest the inauguration of a military base in the department. Participants spoke out about the criminalization and repression represented by the new base. Another military base in Petén was also inaugurated on the same day; President Pérez Molina commented that he has instructed the Ministry of Defense to install at least nine new bases in the next 12 months. Plaza Pública reported extensively on the protest and inauguration.
  • Lider party denounces militarization and links to organized crime. Members of the Lider party accused the government of placing members of the military in civilian posts and of sustaining links to organized crime in the country. According to Roberto Villate, the head of the party, there are more than 75 members of the military who are linked to crime networks. Villate asked the Public Prosecutor’s office and the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) to begin an investigation into the networks; Francisco Cuevas, the secretary of Presidential Communication, admitted that although ex-military members have been contracted by criminal networks, it has been for their level of training.
  • Organizations condemn attacks against activists. The Center for Legal, Environmental, and Social Action (Calas), the Human Rights Defenders’ Protection Unit (Udefegua), and the international organization Frontline Defender condemned attacks against human rights defenders in Guatemala. They reported that there were 429 cases of violence against human rights defenders in 2011 and asked that the government guarantee the protection and safety of activists.
  • Judge rejects request by Ríos Montt. On July 5th, the Court of Third Instance rejected a request by ex-head of state Efraín Ríos Montt to declare the nullity of documents pertaining to the internal armed conflict. The request was based on the claim that the documents, containing the Sofía Operation and the Subversive War Manual, may not be in their original form.