Guatemala News Update: November 10-14

Law Ratified to Implement Chixoy Dam Reparations Plan

On November 8, Guatemala’s president, Otto Perez Molina, apologized on behalf of the Guatemalan government for the human rights violations that 33 indigenous Maya Achi communities suffered because of the construction of the Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam. Many were forced to relocate against their will, losing their land and livelihoods and 444 men, women and children from affected communities were massacred.

President Perez Molina signed into law Decree #378-2014, an agreement to provide $153.8 million in reparations to those affected by the Chixoy Dam. Starting in 2015, the money will be distributed among the 33 communities over the next fifteen years. In addition, some of the money will go toward community development projects in the Chixoy Dam affected area.

Third Day of Campesino Protests in Guatemala

On Thursday, November 13, for the third day in a row, campesino organizations blocked highways and roads in the north, west, and east of the country to call on the Guatemalan Congress to repeal certain laws that affect them negatively and approve others that would support farmers.

A related article describes protests outside of the Congress by a group demanding to be heard about its request for a rural development law.

On November 14, Daniel Pascual, leader of the Committee for Campesino Unity (CUC), denounced the death of Vásquez Cruz, a resident who was involved in the protests. Cruz died from injuries received when security forces attempted to end the road blockade in Sanarate, El Progreso.

Miriam Pixtún Visits Midwest as Part of GHRC Fall Speaker’s Tour

As part of GHRC’s Fall Speaker’s Tour, Miriam Pixtún visited the Midwest to discuss the roots and goals of the “La Puya” nonviolent resistance movement and to describe the Guatemalan government’s overwhelming lack of respect for indigenous rights. As an active member of the movement, Miriam shared her experiences at La Puya, and also spoke about government corruption, racism sexism in Guatemalan society. She also met with indigenous groups to compare experiences with environmental resistance movements in the US and Guatemala. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: November 3-7

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Admonishes Guatemalan Government

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concluded its session of hearings with, among other things, a strongly worded admonishment of the Guatemalan government. The Commission stated it was “deeply concerned about the authorities’ denial of genocide and the position the State delegation took in the hearings, in which it defended the application of amnesty to grave human rights violations.” The statement also expressed concern about Guatemala’s lack of recognition of judgments from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, saying it constituted “an act of defiance.”

Over 18 cases from Guatemala have been brought through the Commission to the Court, for the State violation of protections enshrined in the American Convention on Human Rights. A recent resolution by the Court found Guatemala to be in contempt of court for lack of compliance with 11 sentences relating to human rights violations during the internal armed conflict.

Agreement Published to Give Reparations to Families of Chixoy Dam Case

On November 6, 2014, the Journal of Central America published the agreement to give reparations to families affected by the Chixoy hydroelectric dam built in the 1980s. 1,200 million Quetzals will be provided to different municipalities in Quiché, Alta Verapaz and Baja Verapaz by 2029. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: October 27 – 31

IACHR Hearings on Guatemala

At hearings at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on Tuesday in Washington, DC, Guatemalan organizations discussed access to justice and the legacy of the internal armed conflict, as well as the situation of human rights defenders, militarization and judicial independence.

In addition, the IACHR has expressed concern about the excessive militarization of Guatemala. The organization points to the presence of the military in schools, civilian security squadrons, and the use of martial law. In response, the Guatemalan government has denied the existence of militarization in the country and claims that the army only supports the police in security matters if the situation requires it.

Inter-American Court of Human Rights Finds Guatemala Guilty of Failing to Investigate Activist’s Death

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) announced that it found Guatemala guilty of failing to investigate the death of human rights defender Florentin Gudiel Ramos. The court also determined that the government failed to provide adequate protection for his daughter, Makrina Gudiel, who is also a human rights activist. The State has failed to comply with eleven similar rulings in other human rights cases, prompting the IACtHR to declare Guatemala in contempt of court in August 2014.

Makrina visited the US this year as part of GHRC’s Spring Speaker’s Tour. Read more about Makrina’s fight for justice here.

Guatemalan Officers Face Sexual Slavery Charges in Historic Trial

Guatemalan activist and feminist Luz Mendez writes about another historic case moving forward in Guatemala. On October 14th, Guatemala’s High Risk Court ruled that two army officers would be charged for sexual crimes perpetrated against Q’eqchí women at the military outpost of Sepur Zarco. These crimes were committed over a six-year period between 1982 and 1988. The trial is the first for sexual slavery during armed conflict that has been presented in the country where the acts took place, and could establish an important precedent in ending impunity for crimes of sexual violence.

Guatemala News Update: October 20-24

State of Prevention Extended 15 Days in San Juan Sacatepéquez

On October 21, the government extended the “State of Prevention” imposed upon San Juan Sacatepéquez by another fifteen days. The State of Prevention, which has been in place since September 21, suspends constitutional rights in the wake of a violent clash in the community of Los Pajoques. The conflict resulted from a dispute over the construction of a cement factory and a highway.

On October 24, a group of women from San Juan marched through Guatemala City to demand an end to the State of Prevention. The women presented a complaint regarding alleged abuses with the Human Rights Ombudsman and ended the march in front of the presidential offices to call on the government to end its use of martial law.

SJS-marchThree Linked to Criminal Network Run by Byron Lima Oliva

The ex-Director of the Penitentiary System, Édgar Camargo; the wife of Byron Lima Oliva, Alejandra Reyes Ochoa; and an ex-agent in the National Civil Police, Carlos Cermeño, have been linked to criminal activity headed by Byron Lima Oliva. Charges against them include conspiracy, bribery, and money laundering. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: October 13-17

Process for the Election of Judges in Guatemala in Question

At least 80 actions have been filed with the Constitutional Court related to the process of selecting the magistrates for Guatemala’s Supreme Court and appeals courts.

The United Nations, the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office and several national and international organizations have requested that the Constitutional Court (CC) order a repeat of the process from the very beginning, alleging that there were various violations of the law which governs the process. The CC also ordered that until it is able to rule on the actions, the appointment of the new magistrates is suspended, and the existing magistrates will remain in their positions.

In addition, one judge who was appointed to a court of appeals, Claudia Escobar, resigned in protest claiming that she had been pressured by a member of Congress, Gudy Rivera, to rule in favor of Vice President Roxana Baldetti and the ruling Patriot Party in exchange for the appointment to the court. In response, the CICIG requested the Rivera’s immunity from prosecution be removed.

In a separate process, two lawyers have been charged with abuse of power with the Third Appeals Court Judge, Erick Gustavo Santiago de Leon. The Public Prosecutors Office alleges that the attorneys offered Santiago de Leon Q16 million to reduce a fine for a company from Q93 million to Q3 million. Meanwhile, the magistrate was reelected to the appeals court. Continue reading

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