Rally to Protect Central American Children

Rally to Protect Central American Children
Friday, July 25, 3:00 pm | White House (16th and Pennsylvania Ave, NW)

On Friday afternoon, the Presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras will be meeting with President Obama and Vice-President Biden to discuss the dire situation facing refugee children.

Let’s join together to call on President Obama to uphold and defend the legal rights of children, ensure that families can be reunited and protected here in the U.S., and to take responsibility for U.S. economic and military policies in Mexico and Central America that helped create this crisis in the first place.

There are many powerful political forces who are exploiting a crisis to increase deportations, further militarize the U.S.-Mexico border and increase U.S. funding for repressive police and military forces under the banner of the so-called “War on Drugs.”

As our friends at Presente.org report, “The House and Senate are ramming through a bill, deceptively named the ‘HUMANE Act’, that would speed up the deportations of refugee children back to Central America. If it passes, President Obama is likely to sign it — despite a pledge not to send kids back home to their deaths.” (Take action here today!)

This is a critical opportunity to show the peoples of Central America that we are taking a stand for the rights of all families to live together in peace and with dignity and calling on our own government to end its policies that support repression, displacement and exploitation in their countries, from corporate-rights agreements like CAFTA to continued aid and training for repressive police and military forces.

Please join the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, the Guatemala Human Rights Commission, the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN), Sisters of Mercy, and the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns on Friday, July 25th at 3 pm at the White House.

Whether or not you can join us on Friday, please sign the petition today against the so-called HUMANE Act, which would roll-back the rights of unaccompanied minors to have a hearing with an immigration judge and fast-track the deportation of thousands of children.

Let us know if you can make it! Please contact Alexis at CISPES (202) 521-2510 ext. 205 (alexis@cispes.org) or Kathryn Johnson at GHRC at (202) 529-6599 (kjohnson@ghrc-usa.org) with any questions or if you can help volunteer with turnout.

Recommendations for US Government Action: Smart Responses to Increased Migration from Central America


Reducing impunity and violence; strengthening the rule of law

  • Provide resources and technical assistance for shelters for girls and women victims of violence and strengthen and expand States’ and localities’ capacity to respond to and sanction violence against women and girls. Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador struggle with endemic levels of intra-familial violence and have grappled with a sharp and disproportionate increase in the murder rate of women and girls. Additional programming is needed to improve investigation and prosecution of femicide and sexual violence. In Honduras, only one shelter is currently functioning; the two other shelters in the country have compromised security mechanisms. For women and girls fleeing forced sexual encounters with gangs, a swiftly expanding phenomenon in Honduras, none of the shelters in- country are sufficiently secure to offer protection. In Guatemala, approximately 61% of victims of sex crimes reported between 2007 and 2011 were 17 or younger. Gender discrimination, lack of resources, and lack of training – for law enforcement, hospitals, and courts – result in neglect of cases, improper collection of evidence, lack of investigation, and extremely high rates of impunity for perpetrators.
  • Provide support and assistance to crime victim and witness protection systems. Mechanisms for offering protection, safety, and shelter for crime victims, including providing for the personal security of witnesses to crimes committed by organized criminal enterprises and police, must be enhanced throughout the region. Investing in such mechanisms will allow witnesses and crime victims to participate in justice processes while staying in their countries of origin.
  • Invest in community-based comprehensive youth violence prevention strategies. Programs like the Paso y Paso social education program in San Pedro Sula, Honduras and the Puente Belice Program in Guatemala are being pioneered in cities struggling with some of the highest levels of violence in the world. In Los Angeles, California and Santa Tecla, El Salvador such programs have yielded verifiable reductions in youth violence and victimization. Evaluations show declines in homicides and gang crimes in Los Angeles over four years, and Santa Tecla, which started its program in 2003, has a 40% lower homicide rate than other surrounding communities.

Continue reading

Guatemala News Update July 14-18

National Guardsmen may be sent to assist Border Patrol

President Obama has been asked to authorize the deployment of at least 1,000 members of the National Guard with access to drones, helicopters, and night vision to help Border Patrol agents deter migration. According to Prensa Libre, Obama has said that he would be willing to deploy the guardsmen as a temporary measure, provided there is room in the budget.

The OAS condemns suggested accelerated deportation of child migrants

General Secretary of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, criticizes the notion that child migrants are a threat to US security and demands that their rights be respected. He elaborates by emphasizing that international standards say children have the right to an immigration interview, must receive humane treatment, and be given shelter.

Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office investigates protocol for receiving children returning to Guatemala

In response to claims by different migrant organizations that Guatemala does not have the necessary conditions to care for children who are deported from Mexico or the US, the Human Rights Ombudsman was present at La Aurora International Airport to observe how Guatemalan authorities are treating children upon their return to Guatemala. It was found that the appropriate protocols have been established for minors who are reentering the country and they are being moved to shelters that are well-maintained. Continue reading

More Families Violently Evicted Over Nickel Mine in Guatemala

(En español abajo)

On the morning of July 10, 2014, 400 members of the Guatemalan National Police, accompanied by private security guards from the Guatemalan Nickel Company (CGN) — a subsidiary of Canadian mining company HudBay Minerals — violently evicted at least 80 families from the community of Nabalija. CGN claims to be the owner of the land, although families have occupied the area for over a year. The eviction left several people injured.

At a press conference on July 16 in Guatemala City, Angelica Choc spoke out about past abuses committed by CGN — including the murder of her husband, Adolfo Ich, by the the company’s former head of security, as well as the rape of nine women by CGN security officers. An Ontario Court has made a ruling that will allow a case to be brought against HudBay, marking the first time a Canadian company is tried in Canada over actions committed by one of its international subsidiaries.

Angelica Choc speaks at a press conference in Guatemala City.

Angelica Choc speaks at a press conference in Guatemala City.


Ante la opinión pública nacional e internacional, exponemos y denunciamos que el territorio del pueblo Q’eqchi’ ubicado en el municipio de El Estor, se viene librando una lucha sin descanso desde el año 1960 hasta hoy día para hacer valer nuestro derecho de acceso a la tierra, a un lugar digno donde vivir, trabajar, alimentar a la familia y fortalecer nuestra cultura e identidad.

El jueves 10 de julio, la Policía Nacional Civil, los guardias de seguridad de la Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel -CGN- y los cuadrilleros contratados por es ta empresa, actuaron en contra de Comunidad 30 de junio Se’ Chaj, en el marco de una serie de ilegalidades: (1). La jueza Sandra Janeth Méndez Nájera autorizó el desalojo, pero nunca le notificó a la comunidad. (2). Sin enseñar la orden de desalojo los policías comenzaron a disparar bombas lacrimógenas en contra las mujeres y la niñez que se encontraba en la comunidad 30 de junio Se’Chaj. (3). El resultado ae esta acción violenta, por los grupos ya mencionados, es de 3 jóvenes heridos, cuyos nombres no se mencionan por temor a represalias, también fueron quemadas varias viviendas. (4). 15 estudiantes, que se encontraban en el interior de ia escuela, ubicada a 100 metros, del lugar donde se llevó a cabo el desalojo violento, resultaron intoxicados por las bombas lacrimógenas.

Por eso denunciamos públicamente que la Jueza, Sandra Yaneth Méndez, ha estado siempre a favor de la empresa CGN. Es la tercera vez que acciona en contra de las comunidades Q’eachi’ lo que nos hace pensar que está parcializada a favor de la Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel. La primera vez, en el desalojo al Lote 8, Lote 9 y Setal, acompañó a los guardias de seguridad privada de dicha empresa, también ha protegido a sicarios contratados por la CGN. muy bien identificados por las comunidades, este grupo paralelo intentó masacrar ¡as familias que se encontraban en la comunidad SETAL, el 30 de junio de 2012

Responsabilizamos del desalojo violento, realizado el 10 de julio de los presente año, al Gobierno de Otto Pérez Molina, ai gobernador departamental de Izabal y a la Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel CGN, ya que dicha empresa pretende despojarnos de nuestras tierras a cualquier costo, actuando muchas veces con el respaldo de instituciones gubernamentales ya que el 30 de mayo de este año el presidente Otto Pérez Molina autorizó y participó en la inauguración de una nueva fase de explotación minera de esa empresa. La imposición de la misma ha sido contra la voluntad de las comunidades afectadas y nunca se hizo ía consulta previa como reza ei convenio 169 de la OIT.

Ante estos hechos, las comunidades Q’eqcht’s exigimos:

Al ministro de gobernación que cesen les desalojos en contra de nuestras comunidades. Y que no defiendan los intereses de la Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel que está violentando los derechos de miles de familias Q’eqchi’.

A la institucionalídad agrada dei país atender, de urgencia, las demandas de legalización de tierra para las comunidades Q’eqchi’ del municipio de El Estor, Izabal.

Al Ministerio Público que investigue a ios cuerpos paralelos de seguridad de la CGN que participaron en el desalojo violento del 10 de julio último y del atentado armado en contra de las familias de la comunidad Setal el 30 de junio del año 2012.

A los jueces que respeten los procesos de d:áiogc y negociación que las comunidades Q’eqchi’ llevan con la institucionalidad agraria de este país, para ia legalización de sus tierras y no emitan ordenes de Desalojo a su saoor y antojo o valiéndose solamente por la información que ies brinca la CGN y otros empresarios. También les exigimos imparcialidad en sus sentencias.

Al Ministerio Público a la Procuraduría de Derechos Humanos, a la Comisión Internacional contra la Impunidad en Guatemala CICIG y al Alto Comisionado de los Derechos Humanos de las Naciones unidas que se investiguen el actuar de la jueza Sandra Yaneth Méndez ya consideramos que dicha acción judicial (desalojo violento del 10 de julio), no está apegado a derecho.

A la Procuraduría de Derechos Humanos que rinda un informe verídico y objetivo del desalojo violento llevado a cabo el 10 de julio contra la Comunidad 30 de junio Se’ Chaj y que se forme una comisión permanente para verificar las constantes violaciones a nuestros derechos que comete personal de la CGN.

Hacemos un llamado a la población de E! Esíor a organizamos en contra de los atropellos que estarnos viviendo. No permitamos que la CGN siga abusando de nuestros derechos. Y por nuestra vida y ía vida de nuestros hijos e hijas defendamos el poco territorio que nos queda.

Consideramos que ¡a solución a la problemática social que ha generado la CGN en la región, es que el Estado de Guatemala, haciendo uso de su soberanía y rescatando su dignidad cancele las licencias de explotación otorgadas a dicha empresa.



Another Land Rights Leader Is Criminalized in Guatemala

CUC Coordinator Daniel Pascual at a march in 2012. Photo by James Rodríguez.

CUC Coordinator Daniel Pascual at a march in 2012. Photo by James Rodríguez.

*Summary of an article from the Centro de Medios Independientes (Center for Independent Media) called “Libertad de Expresión en disputa” (Freedom of Expression in dispute)

On July 8, Daniel Pascual, coordinator for the Committee for Campesino Unity (CUC), spoke at a public hearing in Guatemala’s Constitutional Court about the importance of protecting both Freedom of Thought and Freedom of Expression. Around 300 community members, authorities and social leaders from all over Guatemala came to support Pascual and CUC.

Recently, the Third Chamber of the Court of Appeals ruled that individuals who do not practice journalism in any of its forms can be held criminally responsible for their publications. The CUC sees this as a violation of fundamental rights that puts democracy at risk, and for this reason has brought this ruling to the highest court. The action also appears to be a case of criminalization of one of the leading land rights leaders in Guatemala.

In January of 2013, Pascual was accused by Ricardo Méndez Ruíz, of the Foundation Against Terrorism, of claiming that Ruíz was planning his assassination, and is now being charged with defamation, libel and injury.

Pascual says that Ruíz is manipulating statements he made at a press conference in January 2013 regarding aggressions he had faced as a member of CUC. At the press conference, Pascual named Ruíz, among others, as having defamed both the CUC and his own person in newspaper columns, flyers, and online. However, Pascual maintains that he never said Ruíz – or anyone else – was planning to assassinate him.

“What we seek is to prevent freedom of expression from being penalized in Guatemala,” said Pascual. “If the Court rejects this appeal, it would endanger democracy and the freedoms of every human being.”

Guatemala News Update July 7-11

International PBI accompaniers allowed to stay in Guatemala

Two Peace Brigades International volunteers were told on July 1 that their temporary residence permits were revoked for allegedly  “disturbing the public order.” Both volunteers were observers at the police eviction of the Peaceful Resistance of La Puya in May. However, on July 11 the Interior Minister Mauricio López Bonilla annulled the revocation order.

Migration discourse continues

Senator John McCain said he will seek to reduce the $80 million in annual aid to Guatemala from the US if Guatemala does not significantly reduce the number of children crossing the border. On a similar note, Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security, stated that the US government’s priority is to return irregular migrant minors to their home countries. He stated that minors will be cared for while in the US but will not have the option of receiving humanitarian relief to stay in the US. Continue reading

Rally at the White House: Fighting for Central American Minors and Their Families

On Monday July 7th, GHRC was present at a rally in support of the Central American children detained at the US border as well as their families. Since last October, nearly 60,000 minors have been detained. Young migrants face a variety of push and pull factors that motivate them to make what is frequently a perilous journey to the US, and a significant number are fleeing violence in their home countries.

Once they are detained, children face being held in uncomfortable and overcrowded Border Patrol facilities. They must navigate their removal process without the right to an appointed counsel or child advocate and face being repatriated back to the potentially dangerous situation they initially fled from. Monday’s rally served as an opportunity to show solidarity with these young people and their families, as well as to appeal to the US government to prioritize the best interests and welfare of minors who have entered the country irregularly.

White House Rally Continue reading

GHRC participates in TASSC Annual Survivors’ Week

TASSC-buttonMembers of the GHRC team were honored to attend the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC) 17th Annual Survivors’ Week last month. The event provided an opportunity to stand in solidarity with TASSC’s mission to end torture as well as to empower survivors of torture.

Sister Dianna Ortiz, a survivor of torture in Guatemala, originally started TASSC as a GHRC program in 1998. TASSC has since expanded to become an independent organization that carries out impressive advocacy and assistance work. In the words of one survivor, “I arrived in the United States less than 10 months ago and TASSC has provided me with so much support. I would never have imagined that I would be meeting with a member of the United States government to tell my story and advocate on behalf of survivors.”

The TASSC Survivors’ Week week consisted of presentations, testimony from torture survivors, advocacy outreach on Capitol Hill (including 26 congressional meetings), and a concluding vigil in front of the White House.

At the Opening Session, GHRC team members and 115 other participants learned more about addressing torture worldwide. Juan Méndez, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, warned that impunity is the greatest enemy of the anti-torture movement and serves as an invitation for torture to continue. He also explained that while torture and genocide conventions emphasize the prevention of torture, they frequently do not give specific recommendations. Thus, it is important to remember that it is the individual state that holds the most responsibility in implementing prevention mechanisms. Méndez also discussed how reparations themselves are not enough; survivors need to be given a part in creating their own rehabilitation programs.

Speakers also presented on inhumane immigration detention policies here in the US. Yohanes Birhane, of TASSC, described the ways in which Border Patrol facilities employ methods of psychological torture against individuals apprehended after entering the US irregularly. Detainees are often placed in “ice boxes” — very cold rooms with no amenities — and frequently sleep on the floor, have no access to a shower, have limited access to toilet paper and sanitary items, are denied adequate food and may face other degradations. Border patrol personnel frequently tell detainees that they will only be allowed to leave if they sign expedited removal papers that may be provided in English only. While many individuals have suffered these conditions, survivors are reluctant to give testimony because they fear that to do so may impact their legal status. Birhane therefore appealed to American citizens to advocate on behalf of detainees and to support S1817 and HR3130, two bills that address degrading treatment at the border.

More information about TASSC is available here.


GHRC Condemns Expulsion of Two Human Rights Volunteers from Guatemala

GHRC condemns the recent decision to expel two Peace Brigades International (PBI) volunteers from Guatemala. The work of international observers and accompaniers to monitor, document and denounce human rights violations is important for the protection of human rights defenders. This arbitrary action by the Guatemalan Office of Migration Services and Interior Ministry puts defenders at increased risk and undermines efforts to promote human rights and peaceful conflict resolution.

Read PBI’s alert here (en español abajo):

A new attack against the right to defend rights

2nd July 2014

Dear Sir or Madam,

Please accept cordial greetings from PBI Guatemala. The purpose of this Alert is to bring attention to and share our grave concern following the cancellation of the temporary residence permits of two volunteers of the PBI Guatemala project. This measure was decided by the Sub-directorate for Foreign Citizen issues which is part of the Office of Migration Services (Dirección General de Migración, DGM) and the Ministry of Interior (Ministerio de Gobernación), in two resolutions dated 1st July, without stating the reasons or events that led to this decision. The resulting situation affects both individuals and their immigration status, as well as the work of international accompaniment and observation for the defense of human rights which PBI has carried out in Guatemala for over 30 years. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update June 29 – July 3

Guatemalan officials visit the US

This week Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina, along with other Central American officials, spoke with US Secretary of State John Kerry regarding their concerns for the unaccompanied minors arriving in the US. President Molina reportedly said there can be no unilateral decisions—that all the countries must work together—and Guatemalan ambassador Julio Ligorría added that the officials must also work to address the root causes of migration.

Guatemala’s First Lady, Rosa Leal, wife of President Otto Pérez Molina, also visited border patrol stations this week in Tucson and Nogales.

In addition, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Oscar Padilla, visited a military base in California where unaccompanied minor migrants are being held. He reportedly spoke to them about the dangers of traveling from Guatemala to the US unaccompanied, such as sexual assault, labor exploitation, and even death. Padilla said the conditions the children are being held under are “very good, the facilities are well distributed so the minors can receive very good care.”

Unaccompanied minor found dead

The body of 15-year-old Gilberto Ramos was found in brush in La Joya, Texas on Monday, June 30. Originally from San Jose Las Flores, Huehuetenango, his mother said that his motive for migrating to the US was to earn money to pay for her epilepsy treatment. He was accompanied by a coyote who charged the family $5,400—a portion of which they still owe. Once Gilberto reached Texas he reportedly phoned home to have his parents deposit an installment of the payment and it is presumed that shortly after the coyote abandoned him and he died of heat exposure.

Guatemalan Commission on Migrants declared to be in permanent session

The Legislative Commission on Migrants declared itself in permanent session to discuss the current migration situation and create public policy that favors migrants.

Public Ministry asks that ex-guerrilla Solano Barillas get 690 years in prison

The Guatemalan Public Ministry is asking that Fermín Felipe Solano Barillas be sentenced to 690 years in prison for his role in the El Aguacate Massacre. His trial is the first ever to hold a guerrilla accountable for a massacre perpetrated during the internal armed conflict.

Network of former soldiers has strong presence in Guatemalan government

Security experts are noting the reformation of military circles in various Guatemalan institutions and are arguing that the President’s affiliation with the military has opened the doors for retired soldiers to hold important positions in government and other institutions. For example, the current Interior Minister of Guatemala, Mauricio López Bonilla, is a retired Lieutenant Colonel.

March in protest of National Army Day

About 500 human rights activists and indigenous peoples marched in Guatemala City to reject the commemoration of National Army Day. The rejection was in remembrance of the human rights atrocities committed by the Guatemalan Army during the internal armed conflict, and participants also called for the reinstatement of Efraín Ríos Montt’s 80-year genocide sentence.

Complaint filed against Hidralia Energia

On June 27 a complaint was filed by various indigenous organizations to the Human Rights Ombudsman denouncing the occupation of ancestral land without consent, threats, the use of landmines, serious gunshot injuries to two people, the illegal detention of at least 17 people, and more, that were committed by Hidralia Energia. The organizations argue that Spain, the owner of the hydroelectric project, should be held responsible for funding the project without requiring prior consultation with the communities that would be affected.