Holiday News Round-Up

Happy New Year everyone! We hope you all had a wonderful holiday and are looking forward to an exciting new year. The GHRC news briefs are starting up again with the following summary covering some of the more significant and important stories from the previous week, bringing us all up to speed on current events in Guatemala.

National News

  • Rubén Herrera, a Guatemalan notary and lawyer, has been appointed by Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz as the new Special Attorney against Impunity (FECI), which is responsible for expediting cases of high impact and advancing the fight against impunity in Guatemala.
  • According to statistics released by the National Institute of Forensic Science (Inacif), Guatemala suffered an average of 17 violent deaths per day in 2011, with a total of 6,187 assassinations.  Even though these numbers represent a 7.4% reduction in violent deaths from 2010, those that occurred in 2011 were performed with more brutality and cruelty.  The Minister of the Interior has indicated that over 60% of assassinations in Guatemala are related to drug cartels, gangs and organized crime groups.  The PNC reports different statistics, with 5,618 homicides in 2011 and an average of 15.5 per day.  Central American Politics also covers the release of the homicide rates.  

International News

  • HablaGuate blog has published an interview with Jean-Marie Simon, author of the book, Guatemala: Eternal Spring, Eternal Tyranny, recently republished in Spanish. Listen here.

Weekly News Round-Up

Weekly Round-Up: 12/11 – 12/16

National News

  • President-elect Pérez Molina met with Mexican President Felipe Calderón yesterday to discuss their collaboration on a variety of issues.  In a press conference following the meeting, Pérez Molina reported that they had discussed several issues, including the creation of a civil intelligence platform to share information regarding the organized crime and narco-trafficking and a possible ‘consular pass’ that would allow Guatemalan immigrants to travel through Mexico without a visa.
  • Fifty more names have been added to the list of those accused of violent actsduring their supposed involvement with the leftist guerilla movement of Guatemala’s armed conflict.  Theodore Michael Plocharski, a Guatemalan citizen responsible for the accusations, is claiming that the accused were involved in the kidnapping, torture and assassination of eight diplomats.  The list includes human rights defenders and social activists Sandra Torres Casanova, Orlando Blanco and Marielos Monzón.
  • In an interview with ElPeriodico, Theodore Plocharski comments on his motives for accusing over 50 people with links to the assassination of diplomatsand association with the leftist guerilla movements during the armed conflict.  Plocharski said he wants the truth to be heard and justice to be served and argued that it is time the Attorney General investigates crimes committed by the guerrillas as well as the military.  He also commented that he is not necessarily proposing legal action against the individuals on the list, but rather against the guerilla entities—ORPA, EGP, PGT and FAR.

    Michael Plocharski, denunciante. (Foto Prensa Libre: Erick Avila)

International News

Weekly News Round-Up

National News

International News

Weekly News Round-Up

National News

  • Presidential candidates Manuel Baldizón (Lider) and Otto Perez Molina (PP) will officially close their political campaigns today in preparation for Sunday’s final election.  The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) also held its final meeting yesterday and will finish distributing voting materials by the end of the day.  According to a public poll, OPM is the clear leader, 17 points ahead of Baldizón.
  • While the PP and Líder parties both agree that security will be a top priority if elected, they disagree on how to go about tackling the issue and neither has proposed clear explanations of their plans or where they will get the funding to implement their vague goals.  Proposals in the form of sweeping generalizations seem to be the trend, with Siglo21 also reporting on a lack of substance in both candidates’ social programs initiatives.
  • According to elPeriodico, the incoming president must be prepared to face a nation in dire economic conditions, with the lowest tax revenue on the continent, high rates of unemployment, poorly maintained highways, and a floating debt.  Tax revenue in Guatemala represents only 10.8 percent of Gross National Product (GDP) and an increasing majority of the economically active population is part of the informal labor sector, avoiding tax payments to the state.
  • On Tuesday, two men identified as the president and vice president of the illegal paramilitary force in Panajachel, Sololá were detained by the Civil National Police and the Public Prosecutor’s Office.  The paramilitary group of “hooded men” in Panajanchel on the shores of Lake Atitlan is responsible for dozens of beatings, illegal detentions, torture, three lynchings and forced disappearances over the past several months.  One of the men detained, Juan Manuel Ralón Solórzano, recently participated in the September elections for mayor as a candidate for the National Advance Party (PAN) and has been accused of using money from narco-trafficking to fund his campaign, as confirmed by a U.S. Embassy Wikileaks cable– 09GUATEMALA1025.  In connection with the case, Guatemalan journalist Lucia Escobar of elPeriodico was threatened after publishing a story linking the members of the local paramilitary force to the disappearance of a resident.  She has since fled the western city of Panajachel.

International News

  • According to Bloomberg, Perez Molina is leading the polls by 10 percentage points and will very likely win the election on Sunday, with more than 80% of the population supporting a hard-line stance on organized crime and drug-related violence.  The article analyzes the potential threat of bringing the military back into the forefront of Guatemalan politics, citing the armed conflict and OPM’s sketchy background as powerful warning signs.
  • According to data from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the U.S. has seen a record 400,000 deportations this year, partly due to a 42% increase in felony persecutions for immigration crimes, with Hispanics now the majority group being sent to federal prison.  The Obama administration has been cracking down on ‘criminal aliens,’ further contributing to a climate of fear among the immigrant population in the U.S. and raising concerns about increased poverty among Hispanics, high unemployment, and poor academic performance.  The crackdown could also be contributing to the increasingly negative discourse used to talk about immigrants and Latinos living in the U.S.
  • After almost a week of medical tests Guatemalan medical experts declared that former dictator Oscar Mejia Victores is too sick to stand trial for genocide and war crimes.  Mejia was captured and accused on October 10th for war crimes and genocide for the massacres of indigenous communities recorded during the armed conflict between 1982 and 1984.  His defense attorney now pleads Mejia is unable to face a criminal trial and the case must be discontinued and closed.