GHRC and Partners Rally to Protect Central American Children

Gallery

This gallery contains 11 photos.

On July 25 in front of the White House, GHRC in conjunction with CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador), School of the Americas Watch, the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, and CARECEN (Central American Resource Center) hosted a … 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

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

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.

Guatemala News Update: June 9-13

Community opposition to Xalalá Dam

On June 7, 500 local leaders rejected the authorization of project feasibility studies for the Xalalá hydroelectric project. Cristian Otzín, lawyer for the communities, has announced that they will present a legal challenge to the project based on the failure to respect the process of prior consent, failure to respect the right to life, and anomalies in the project contract.

In a meeting with President Molina, the Executive Council of the Guatemalan Confederation of Cooperative Federations (Confecoop) expressed their interest in investing in the Xalalá dam, as long as the surrounding communities approve and want to be involved. Government officials and Confecoop will meet again in six months to evaluate the project’s development.

In related news, local residents removed a roadblock they had maintained since Monday to protest the construction of a hydroelectric project in their community of Camotán, Chiquimula. Continue reading

Victories for Communities Affected by the Chixoy Dam

On Wednesday, May 28, over 1,000 men and women from the communities of Rio Negro left their homes. Traveling on dirt roads, over rocky mountain passes, and up a rain-swollen river they gathered at the resettlement village of Pacux. At 2 am the following morning, they boarded dozens of buses bound for Guatemala City. Six hours later, drawing on strength born of righteous indignation, they began their protest in front of the office of President Otto Perez Molina. They vowed to sleep in the streets, if necessary, until the President heard their message.

The signs carried by protesters and the slogans they shouted made clear their single demand: full implementation of a reparations plan — promised by the Guatemalan government — for damages they suffered over 30 years earlier due to the construction of the Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam. Stand with the communities by taking action now. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: June 2-6

Chixoy reparations to be handled by Executive branch

A six hour-long meeting between communities affected by the Chixoy Dam and government officials determined that the Executive Branch will be the only entity to handle the communities’ promised reparations. This decision was a victory for community members, as earlier in the week government officials had suggested the reparations be fulfilled via the Legislative Branch. Communities viewed this as a tactic to withhold the economic portion of the reparations plan. Although a formal plan has not yet been agreed upon, communities say that they are making progress and will move forward with the negotiation process.

The World Bank decided to postpone its vote on a requested $340 million loan to Guatemala; the discussion will likely take place within the next few weeks. The Guatemala Human Rights Commission was among the 34 NGOs that wrote to the World Bank requesting the delay. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: May 26-30

New mining equipment arrives at La Puya amid calls for dialogue

After the violent removal of protesters by police last Friday, May 23, new mining equipment has been brought into the site of the El Tambor mining project. On Saturday, protesters from the peaceful resistance of La Puya regrouped near their original position and a mass was held on Sunday to pray for those injured in the eviction. Photos of the eviction and march in solidarity with the movement can be found here.

Archbishop Óscar Vian deplored the absence of real dialogue regarding
mining and energy projects and called for the government to stop approving
projects before entering into the dialogue process with communities.

GHRC Executive Director Kelsey Alford-Jones was quoted in an article about the non-violent resistance at La Puya. Government officials have equated leaders of the resistance with criminals and terrorists, which Alford-Jones points out is reestablishing the “idea of the internal enemy” that was so present during the internal armed conflict.

Pending the investigation of their cases, a judge ordered the house arrest of four community leaders from La Puya who have been active in the peaceful resistance movement against the El Tambor mining project. The four community leaders, who have been accused of illegally detaining and threatening four mining workers from El Tambor in 2012, are scheduled to stand trial August 18th. The judge dismissed the case against a fifth leader of the peaceful resistance movement, Yolanda Oquelí, on the grounds of lack of evidence. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: May 19-23

Violent Eviction at La Puya

On Friday, after more than two years of non-violent resistance against a gold mine, the communities in resistance of “La Puya” were evicted from their blockade at the entrance to the mine. Police arrived early in the morning to escort mining company trucks and heavy machinery. By the afternoon, hundreds of police — including many in full riot gear — moved in on the protesters with tear gas and flash bombs, beating those who refused to move. Over 20 people were injured.

Just days before, attempts at negotiation were made, but ultimately stalled when the government refused to allow the negotiations to be recorded. The Vice-Minister of the Interior insinuated that the government had agreed to accompany the mine equipment because the dialogue was effectively “broken.” Community members at La Puya reiterate that they want to complete the negotiation process with the government, but with transparency.

Although machinery was successfully brought into the mine, those at the Puya have already stated they are committed to continue their resistance. GHRC will continue to monitor the situation and support communities’ rights. Continue reading

Update from La Puya: New Alert as More Machinery Arrives

* Translation of information from Prensa Comunitaria (Community Press):

New Aggression Against the Peaceful Resistance in La Puya

Heavy machinery and employees of the US mining company Kappes, Cassiday & Associates (KCA) and the company EXMINGUA are trying to violently enter the lands of the “El Tambor” Mine in the municipality of San José del Golfo.

The alert was activated at 4:30 in the morning this Friday, May 23, when women, men and children who form part of the resistance movement at La Puya saw a group of industrial vehicles with machinery arrive.

The community members raised the alarm at the possibility that the government of Guatemala — through the Interior Ministry — might violently evict those present at the site, putting at risk the lives of women, men, and children of the communities of San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc. Continue reading