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.

Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: June 23-27

US government responds to surge in child migrants

Coinciding with Vice President Biden’s visit to Guatemala last Friday, the US government announced its response to the surge in unaccompanied child migrants will be to increase the number of judges, asylum officers, immigration attorneys, and detention facilities that process irregular migrants in order to speed up processing and deportations. The US also promised $40 million to Guatemala to improve security conditions in an effort to address the push factors of child migration.

In addition, discussion in the US surrounding child migration continues as two congressional committees heard testimony this week about the thousands of children crossing the border. However, while there has been a flood of articles written about child migrants, Laura Carlson provides a critique of the media coverage of the issue, saying the real story about why children migrate isn’t being told.

In related news, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson sent a message to the parents of unaccompanied minors crossing the border, discouraging them from sending their children to “travel illegally into the United States.” Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: June 16-20

Lawsuit filed against Tahoe Resources

A lawsuit is being filed against Tahoe Resources in relation to the violence that occurred during a 2013 peaceful protest at the Escobal silver mine in San Rafael Las Flores. The mine’s security guards are being accused by seven Guatemalans of attacking them and critically injuring Luis Fernando García Monroy after shooting him three times, once in the face. The lawsuit also accuses Tahoe’s Chief of Security in Guatemala, Alberto Rotondo, of various crimes, including ordering the attack on the peaceful protestors, fabricating a story that the demonstrators attacked mine employees, and arranging the tampering 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

A 15 años de la presentación del Informe de la CEH: Un mensaje de solidaridad

Dia de VictimasA 15 años de la presentación del informe y de que se constituyera ese día como el Día Nacional de la Dignidad de las Víctimas, enviamos un mensaje de solidaridad y de respeto hacia todas las víctimas y sobrevivientes del conflicto. Así también, un reconocimiento a las organizaciones e instituciones que les han acompañado y que de una u otra manera han contribuido en los procesos de búsqueda de la verdad, memoria histórica, justicia y reparación digna.

El 25 de febrero de 1999, la Comisión para el Esclarecimiento Histórico (CEH) presentó su informe, “Guatemala Memoria del Silencio,” en la ciudad de Guatemala. Asistieron el entonces presidente Álvaro Arzú, el alto mando del ejército, la URNG y una presencia masiva de la sociedad civil.

En 12 tomos, la CEH recopiló los resultados de la investigación realizada sobre los saldos de horror sufridos por la población durante los 36 años del conflicto armado interno. De los datos registrados, fue posible estimar el impacto de la violencia: 200 mil personas muertas, la desaparición de 45 mil y el desplazamiento de un millón de habitantes. El informe registró que las víctimas eran el 83% de origen maya y que al menos el 93% de las atrocidades cometidas durante ese periodo, fueron responsabilidad de las fuerzas armadas del Estado y grupos paramilitares afines. Continue reading

Organizations Protest Constitutional Court Decision to Remove Attorney General Paz y Paz

Protesters gather in support of Claudia Paz y Paz

Protest outside of the Guatemalan Congress in Support of Paz y Paz

Yesterday, hundreds of representatives from civil society, human rights organizations, campesino and indigenous movements, pro-justice groups, and others gathered in front of the Guatemalan Congress to protest a recent Constitutional Court (CC) decision to limit the term of Guatemala’s respected Attorney General, Claudia Paz y Paz.

The decision, made on February 6, 2014, called for Paz y Paz to step down in May 2014 — seven months before her four-year term was scheduled to end. The ruling was based on an argument that the Attorney General’s term technically began in May 2010, when the official she replaced was appointed, instead of December 2010, when she first took office.

Paz y Paz appealed the ruling, which was dismissed by the CC last week. This week, Congress formed a commission to begin the search for a replacement.

Protesters gathered to demand that Congress “not comply with the illegal resolution of the Constitutional Court.” They further stated that the decision constitutes the crime of malfeasance, typified in the Penal Code:

“Article 462. Malfeasance. The judge, knowingly dictating resolutions contrary to the law or based on false facts, will be sentenced to prison for two to six years.”

Protest in support of Paz y Paz

Human Rights Office of the Archdiocese of Guatemala Recognizes Defenders

On December 11, the Human Rights Office of the Archdiocese of Guatemala presented its annual award, the Orden Juan José Gerardi, to three community activists: anti-mining activist Yolanda Oquelí; the indigenous mayor of Nebaj, Ana Laynez Herrera; and Rodolfo Cardenal Quezada Toruño (posthumously).


The award is given out each year as part of a commemoration of Human Rights Day. It honors Juan José Gerardi, a Guatemalan Roman Catholic Bishop and human rights defender, and since 2004, has recognized individuals or organizations who have made significant contributions to Guatemalan society through work in human rights, historic memory, or justice. Continue reading

GHRC Participates in Congressional Briefing on Drug War Policy

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Congressman O’Rourke comments on drug war policy at the briefing

This month, GHRC, as a part of the Mesoamerican Working Group (MAWG), helped organize a briefing titled: “Rethinking the Drug War in Central America and Mexico.”

The hearing was hosted by Congresswoman Michelle Lujan-Grisham (D-NM) and attended by Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), who called for an end to the current drug war model as well as fact-based evaluations to inform policy changes.

Representatives at the hearing focused on three Central American countries – Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras – experiencing similar and dramatic effects of increased militarization as a result of the ongoing war on drugs. Continue reading

Support GHRC on Dec. 3rd for #GivingTuesday!

GivingTuesdaylogo#GivingTuesday™ is a campaign to create a national day of giving at the start of the annual holiday season. Following Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, it celebrates and encourages charitable activities that support nonprofit organizations.

You can support GHRC this year by taking one of the following actions:

Share our Giving Library video on Facebook or Twitter

Each time you share our video on Facebook or Twitter, Giving Library — a new online video archive that connects donors with nonprofits — will donate $5.00 to GHRC through its “Share to Give” campaign!

How to Share:

1. Go to GHRC’s Giving Library page
2. Click the “Share Now” button.
3. Create an account if you don’t already have one.
4. Click “Share on Facebook” or “Share on Twitter.”
5. Share either the default message or a message of your choice.
6. The organization will receive $5 per share.
7. Individuals may share up to five organizations per month.

Volunteer at GHRC’s DC office on Tuesday evening

It’s time once again to send out our appeal, and GHRC needs assistance with stuffing envelopes and preparing our mailing this Tuesday, December 3rd, from 5-9pm. Whether for thirty minutes or three hours, please consider donating some of your time. Drinks (including wine) and snacks will be provided!

Please let us know if you can make it — RSVP to our Facebook event!

Our office is located at 3321 12th St., NE, Washington, DC. We are only a few blocks from the Brookland/CUA metro station on the Red line. You can find directions here.

Make a contribution to GHRC

When you make a donation this holiday season, it will be matched in full by a generous donor!

Plaintiffs in the Ríos Montt case discuss the fight against impunity in Guatemala

Photo credit: flickr user Surizar

Last week, plaintiffs in the case against Ríos Montt filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in Washington, DC against the Guatemalan government for failing to provide victims in the genocide case adequate access to justice, in violation of the American Convention on Human Rights.

At a separate event to discuss perspectives on the ongoing trial, Edgar Pérez – one of the lead Guatemalan prosecutors representing victims – sought to clarify why the case was annulled just 10 days after the guilty verdict was delivered. In his opinion, the defense’s legal strategy was to create technical glitches (such as changing lawyers at the last minute) which would disrupt and delay the trial. Simultaneously, supporters of Ríos Montt worked to shape public opinion of the case, both by disseminating the claim there was “no genocide in Guatemala” – an idea propagated by the country’s powerful business association and high level government officials – as well as through campaigns to criminalize those speaking out about historic memory.

The annulment sent the trial back to a midway point, a confusing and legally questionable scenario in which the same panel of judges cannot hear the same case, yet new judges cannot step in because they haven’t been party to the evidence already presented. The trial, therefore, would have to start again from the very beginning. “Because of one person, all of the advances we were making in the justice system in Guatemala were halted,” said Pérez. Continue reading