Guatemala News Update: August 18-22

 

House burning in 9 de Febrero. (Photo: Konga)

House burning in 9 de Febrero. (Photo: Konga)

Hundreds evicted and three killed in conflicts over hydroelectric dam

An agreement signed between the mining company Hidro Santa Rita and President Otto Pérez Molina on July 30 resulted in a violent eviction in Monte Olivo, Cobán, Alta Verapaz. 1,600 police were mobilized in response to the subsequent protests resulting in dozens of arrests and injuries, as well as the deaths of three campesinos in Semococh. Several indigenous organizations reported that police officers instigated the conflict that led to the extrajudicial killing of the three men. There was reportedly no consultation with the communities that would be affected by the project’s installation prior to the agreement’s signing.

Chixoy Dam protesters demand reparations or return of land

Around 350 people from the community La Campana in Chicamán, Quiché blocked the main entrance to the Chixoy Dam, demanding economic reparations or the return of their land from the dam’s operators, the National Electrification Institute (INDE). With the help of the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office and other mediators, the protesters agreed to dialogue with INDE and have left the site of the dam.

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In Ferguson and in Guatemala

Over the last week, we have listened with growing horror as news reached us from Monte Olivo, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. Since 2010, residents of the region who oppose the construction of the Santa Rita hydroelectric dam have been victim to various attacks, including one in August 2013 that left two young boys dead.http://org.salsalabs.com/dia/track.jsp?key=-1&url_num=2&url=http%3A%2F%2Forg.salsalabs.com%2Fo%2F2690%2Fp%2Fdia%2Faction3%2Fcommon%2Fpublic%2F%3Faction_KEY%3D16152

Then, last week, according to the Prensa Comunitaria, the government deployed over 1,000 police to Monte Olivo to evict 160 families of the community 9 de Febrero. As helicopters flew overhead, police and day laborers destroyed homes and assaulted residents, leaving several people injured. Five people were also arrested in Monte Olivo, as well as two others in nearby Raxruhá. In response, hundreds of people blocked the highway to prevent the passage of the police. In an ensuing conflict between protesters and police, three men were killed in the community of Semacoch, allegedly by police gunfire, and several people were injured, including six police. Eight police were also detained by protesters, but have since been released.

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Guatemala News Update: August 11-15

Agreement to construct hydroelectric project leads to violent eviction

An agreement signed between the mining company Hidro Santa Rita and President Otto Pérez Molina on July 30 resulted in a violent eviction in Monte Olivo, Cobán, Alta Verapaz. As a result of the eviction and subsequent protests, 24 people were arrested, six police officers injured, and three people died. There was reportedly no consultation with the communities that would be affected by the project’s installation.

Another Goldcorp crime is exposed

An interview with a woman by the alias of “Doña A” recounts the alleged 2009 murder of her husband by employees of the Marlin Mine in Northwest Guatemala. Her husband informed neighboring communities about the negative effects the mine would have and also helped organize a community referendum. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: August 3-8

Preliminary hearing against Judge Yassmín Barrios begins

The Liga Pro Patria (League for the Nation) presented a preliminary hearing against Judge Yassmín Barrios for the crimes of breach of duties, coercion, and the right of the accused to counsel. The charges are in reference to actions taken by Judge Barrios during the genocide trial.

US and Guatemala officially form Bilateral Working Group

The Pentagon proposed the creation of a Defense Bilateral Working Group between Guatemala and the US. Julio Ligorría, Guatemala’s ambassador to the United States, attributed US interest in this working group to a high level of confidence in the Guatemalan army. The formation of a Bilateral Working Group on Matters of Defense was ratified by Guatemala’s Minister of Defense, General Manuel López Ambrosio, and only five other Latin American countries who are considered strategic military allies to the US (Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Chile, and Peru) have similar working groups. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: July 28-August 1

Another threat to the peaceful resistance of La Puya

At 2 a.m. on July 31 in San José del Golfo, employees of Kappes, Cassiday & Associates (KCA) and Mining Explorations of Guatemala (EXMINGUA) tried to enter the El Tambor mining site, destroying spaces the San José del Golfo community had been using for cooking, meetings, and celebrations in the process. The workers were trying to move three vans and heavy equipment used for washing minerals onto the site, and at 8:24 am were joined by 200 police officers who threatened the residents of San José del Golfo with eviction if they did not allow the workers to enter the site. The peaceful resistance of La Puya eventually withdrew without using force around 11 a.m. and let the machinery pass onto the site to avoid violence.

Guatemalan Court rules in favor of Sipacapa residents against Goldcorp subsidiary

On March 24 the Mayan Council of Sipacapa demanded that the “Los Chocoyos” mining permit, which was granted to the Goldcorp Inc. subsidiary Entre Mares de Guatemala S.A. by the General Director of the Ministry of Energy and Mines, be canceled. Last Friday, July 18, a Guatemalan court ruled in favor of the residents of Sipacapa and declared that the Guatemalan government must consult with the local population before granting any kind of mining permits, in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and ILO 169. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: July 21-25

President Molina comes to the US

On Friday, July 25, the presidents of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador met with President Obama to discuss the child migrant crisis.

In related news, President Pérez Molina recommended during an interview with the Washington Post that the US give 10% of the $20 billion currently allocated towards border security and processing to Central American countries in order to “attack the root of the [migration] problem.” In previous statements President Molina said this money can go towards fighting organized crime and violence in the countries. In the interview the President also suggested that US foreign policy has played a role in Guatemalan suffering in reference to the connection between the internal armed conflict and the Cold War.

The OAS issues declaration on child migrants

The Organization of American States adopted a declaration regarding unaccompanied child migrants from Central America. The declaration, which was prepared by representatives from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, expresses, “solidarity with the governments of the region, so that the problem of unaccompanied migration of children is addressed from a humanitarian perspective that ensures the well being and respectful treatment of the children and that allows for family reunification where appropriate.” Continue reading