March Against Impunity Guatemala City, May 24, 2013

The march against impunity ended in front of the Constitutional Court, where the participants, including many community leaders, raised their voices in protest. Their petition: justice in the genocide case!

La marcha contra la impunidad, terminó frente a la CC, en donde los manifestantes, entre ellos varios líderes comunitarios, lanzaron varios mensajes al máximo órgano constitucional, la demanda de Justicia fue el llamado más fuerte. Image

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March Against Impunity Guatemala City, May 24, 2013

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The Guatemala’s highest court, the Constitutional Court (CC), recently snatched justice from the hands of the victims and survivors of General Efraín Rios Montt’s bloody dictatorship. On May 10th Montt was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity, and sentenced to 80 years in prison. The CC voted 3-2 to annul that sentence. Most analysts agree that the court was under severe pressure form the economic elite organized in CACIF (Coordinating Committee of Agricultural, Commercial, Industrial, and Financial Associations), itself accused of playing a nefarious role during the internal armed conflict.

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Despite the CC’s highly questionable decision to annul the sentence and repeat part of the trial, the verdict was handed down and RíosMontt was found guilty. Neither the CC nor Montt’s defense attorneys can erase the historic truth: in Guatemala there was genocide!

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Scholarships awarded to 28 girls and boys of Santa Cruz Barillas

Thanks to a donation for student scholarships given by St. Margaret’s Church in Annapolis, Maryland, GHRC was able to provide a unique symbolic contribution to the children of the political prisoners of Santa Cruz Barillas. A total of 13 girls and 15 boys received funds to support their school expenses for 2013.

The students and their families have been in a vulnerable position for the last 8 months awaiting the fate of their parents, who were detained in May 2012 during the State of Siege declared in their municipality by President Otto Pérez Molina. There were various irregularities during their detention, including their arrest and delivery by civilians to the police and military and the charges against them, claiming their responsibility for disturbances in the municipality.

However, those arrested are recognized and respected leaders who have distinguished themselves in defense of their land, particularly in their fight against a hydroelectric dam, funded with Spanish capital, along a river that is important for their communities.

On January 1, 2013, Judge Luis Fernando Pérez Zamora of Santa Eulalia ordered the immediate release of the 8 detainees and rejected all civil or legal action against them.

All of them – Diego Juan Sebastián, Andrés León Andrés Juan, Joel Gaspar Mateo, Ventura Juan, Antonio Rogelio Velázquez López, Pedro Vicente Núñez Bautista, Saúl Aurelio Méndez Muñoz y Amado Pedro Miguel – were declared innocent of the charges brought against them.

In the months that passed from their detention until their release, their wives and partners were faced with complete responsibility for their families. Economically, the situation was difficult, as the cost of going to Santa Eulalia to attend court hearings and to the capital to visit the prisoners in the preventive center where they were held was added to the families’ regular expenses.

GHRC distributed the scholarships on January 11, 2013, a day after the leaders of Santa Cruz Barillas were released. They went to all the children of 7 of the detainees and additionally, the children of two community leaders who have suffered persecution since May 2012.

In an interview with Arcadia Aurora Velásquez López, community leader of San Carlos Las Brisas in Santa Cruz Barillas, she explained that since she was forced to leave her house on May 2, 2012, she has been unable to return. She was issued an arrest warrant without any legal basis, her only crime was speaking out against abuses committed by the company Hidro Santa Cruz.

La licencia de la mina El Tambor debería ser suspendida

Robert H. Robinson visitó el punto de resistencia en La Puya, San José del Golfo; conversó con la población, llegó al lugar en donde la mina pretende instalarse y escuchó de voz de sus protagonistas sobre la historia de resistencia pacífica que desde marzo de 2012, la población de San José del Golfo y San Pedro Ayampuc han mantenido.

Robinson y Steve Laudeman, realizaron un análisis al Estudio de Impacto Ambiental de la Mina Progreso VII Derivada (El Tambor). El pasado miércoles 13 de febrero Robinson hizo una presentación del estudio en San José del Golfo.Image

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ImageMilton hace un recorrido a Robinson para que conozca el lugar en  donde pretende instalarse la minera.

ImageEn La Puya, Robinson conoce acerca de la resistencia pacífica, escucha atento sobre las acciones de provocación hechas por supuestos trabajadores de la mina en noviembre y la intimidación y violencia de la que fue objeto la resistencia en diciembre.

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ImageRobinson hace la presentación del análisis realizado al Estudio de Impacto Ambiental hecho por la empresa minera, explica sobre las enormes deficiencias que tiene, pero sobre todo de los enormes riesgos de salud a los que la población cercana a la mina estaría expuesta. La recomendación es clara: suspender la licencia a la Mina Progreso VII Derivada.

Image Al final de la presentación, Kelsey Alford-Jones, Directora de GHRC, hace entrega de una manta elaborada por la delegación de estudiantes de American University, que visitó La Puya en enero pasado: “No están solos, su lucha tiene un impacto mucho más allá de lo local, de lo nacional, alcanza la comunidad internacional, hay mucha gente que está realmente impresionada con todo el esfuerzo y la lucha que ustedes han llevado a cabo”.

ImageYolanda Oquelí, habla sobre la importancia del estudio presentado por Robert Robinson, que reafirma que su preocupación y lucha son legítimas “el no se imagina lo que ha aportado para nosotros…”, con emoción Yolanda expresa que saber que mucha gente en otros países se siente parte de la lucha no tiene precio y no lo paga ningún dinero del mundo.Image

Fotos: Comunidades de San José del Golfo nuevamente bajo ataque

ImageImage El líder comunitario Álvaro Sandoval da declaraciones a los medios.

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Bomba lacrimogena utilizada por la PNC en contra de la población, varios niños y niñas sufrieron intoxicación.

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ImageGobernación desplegó entre 400 y 500 antimotines y agentes de la PNC y más de 60 radiopatrullas para realizar el desalojo.ImageImageOrganizaciones de Derechos Humanos: GHRC, OACNUDH, PDH y Fundación Sobrevivientes, escuchan los planteamientos de las comunidades.

GHR_4120Yolanda Oquelí dialoga con el viceministro de seguridad, Edy Byron Juárez Prera, para buscar una solución pacífica al conflicto provocado por la presencia de los antimotines.

GHR_3960Yolanda sintiéndo la presión de proteger a los hombres, mujeres, niños y niñas de la resistencia.

GHR_4165GHR_4176Para evitar el desalojo violento inminente, se permitió la presencia de 15 agentes antimotines en la entrada de la mina. Sin embargo, la resistencia de las comunidades a la minería se mantiene.

GHR_4207La comunidad celebra la liberación de Milton y los otros tres hombres injustamente arrestados por la PNC.

Communities in Resistance in San Jose del Golfo under attack.

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Women at the roadblock pray and sing as the face off against anti-riot police. (photo: Marcha Indigena Campesina y Popular)

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Women lay down in the road continuing their resistance after suffering from tear gas exposure. (Photo: Marcha Indigena Campesian y Popular)

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The police lined up in three rows, with the largest in front, the tear gas lauchers behind them, and a group with batons and sticks behind them. (photo: Centro de Medios Independientes Guatemala)

todos somos la puya

In response to the threat of eviction, women’s organizations gathered in front of the Interior Ministry demanding a peaceful settlement to the problem.

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A “dialogue table” was called at the site of the roadblock including government representatives, community members, and human rights defenders, including GHRC’s Rob Mercatante. (photo: Radio Punto)

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Alberto Brunori of the UN Office of the High Commission for Human Rights was also present. (photo: Radio Punto)

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At the end of the day, the government agreed to remove the majority of the police, but leave 15 to “guard the mine.” (photo: Marcha Indigenia Campesina y Popular)

On December 7th,  the communities in resistance to mining in San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc held their ground at the roadblock they have maintained since March of this year as the police attempted to forcefully evict them.

At 6am, anti-riot police arrived at the roablock in San Jose del Golfo and began tearing down the banners and other installations. They also arrested at least 5 people for supposedly obstructing the road, though the protesters have only been blocking the entrance of mining equipment, not other traffic.

Police shot tear gas at the protesters, which include children and men and women of all ages. Several people, including two young girls, have been treated for tear gas exposure.

Despite this aggression, the peaceful protesters have held their ground. They  laid down on the street with makeshift masks covering their faces, and sang hymns to give themselves courage. Meanwhile, the police tore apart the makeshift kitchen that the protesters have been using to feed themselves, and stole food and water.

the office of the Human Rights Ombudsman, present on the scene, suggested opening a dialogue between the protesters and the government, but the government rejected the idea. Interior Minister Lopez Bonilla was quoted as saying that there could well be more arrests, and that the police would keep using force if need be to open access for the mining company.

Attorney Sergio Vives explained that the actions of the police are illegal, as there is no order for the eviction of the communities. 

Please contact the Guatemalan government to express your concern for these peaceful protesters and demand that those detained are accorded all their legal rights. 

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Three pieces of breaking news at the end of the day.

1) Those detained at the roadblock this morning have been freed. They were taken to the city, but the judge there rejected their case and sent it back to the Judge of the Peace in San Pedro Ayampuc.

2) The government has agreed to remove the majority of the police from the roadblock. 15 of them will stay over the weekend to “guard the mine” but the rest of them will leave for now.

3) In statements directly contradicting this, the Interior Minister announced in a press conference that the government will take the steps necessary to open the road to the mine. He also insultingly accused “international organizations” of inciting the community members and said that those guilty of incitation would be expelled.

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La Puya, San José del Golfo, 13 de noviembre de 2012

El 13 de noviembre de 2012,  trabajadores de la minera Progreso VII Derivada, de la empresa Kappes, Cassiday & Associates -“KCA”, llegaron frente a población de San José del Golfo, que desde marzo pasado se encuentran en resistencia pacífica al frente de la entrada de la mina, los trabajadores mineros llegaron con la decisión de ingresar, provocando a la población. Sin embargo se encontraron con hombres y mujeres firmes en su decisión de defender su tierra y territorio de la minería.

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De casco amarillo Pablo Orozco, coordinador del grupo de supuestos trabajadores de la minera. Junto a él, de camisa blanca Selvin Morales, ex ministro de Energía y Minas durante el gobierno de Álvaro Colom y ahora presidente de Servicios Mineros y de gorra verde el coronel Mario Ricardo Figueroa Archila, gerente de Exmingua, subsidiaria de KCA.

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Al final de la tarde los mineros se retiraron del lugar.Imagen

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Al término de la jornada líderes comunitarios toman la palabra.

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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.

Guatemalans ‘Presente’ during the May Day march

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“Without land, there is no life… Without farmers there is no food.”
CUC, member of Waqib’Kej and CLOC – Via Campesina

“The 12 communities of San Juan Sac[atepéquez] present in the struggle.”

Confederation of Union Unity of Guatemala: Work, Peace, Justice, Liberty.
Present in the struggle!

“We fight, we resist, and we will overcome.”
“Where there is little justice, being right is dangerous.”

Families from the marginalized neighborhoods of Guatemala City also participated in the march. “Yes to the legalization of our land, No more land evictions!”

“Youth of S.V.A. S. Present” [Union of Street Vendors of Coban]
“We demand the right to work and no more evictions!”

A positive sign from this year’s May Day march: the massive participation of youth demanding their rights in energetic, creative, and even musical ways!

Hope for the future… the next generation of Guatemalan activists!