Guatemala News Update: March 31 – April 4

Say “No!” to U.S. funds for the Guatemalan Army

Upside Down World publicized the call from us at GHRC and our partners at NISGUA for the US government to maintain restrictions on funding to the Guatemalan Army, as Guatemala has not complied with conditions laid out in the 2014 US Appropriations Law.

Click here to sign our petition!

Activist Makrina Gudiel calls on students for solidarity during GHRC Speaker’s Tour 

During the GHRC Spring 2014 Speaker’s Tour, Guatemalan Activist Makrina Gudiel and GHRC Assistant Director Kathryn Johnson are speaking to students and community members at various locations along the East Coast. This article details Makrina’s presentations in Dartmouth and New Bedford, MA, where she outlined her struggle during the armed conflict in Guatemala and her fight to bring her brother’s and father’s deaths to justice. For the full Speaker’s Tour schedule, click here.

CICIG to investigate corruption in the judicial system

CICIG Spokesman Diego Alvarez confirmed that an investigation into the existence of links between criminal organizations and the judicial system is key. He noted that the investigation may be difficult, since certain individuals favor impunity.

Motives of suicide of Judge Barrientos questioned

Guatemalan Supreme Court Justice and human rights defender César Ricardo Crisóstomo Barrientos Pellecer committed suicide one month ago. An investigation suggest that the details surrounding his death relate to the pressure he was facing regarding his work in the judicial system. CICIG chief Iván Velásquez, who worked closely with Barrientos not long before his death, noted that Barrientos was primarily  concerned with judicial corruption and the need for action with respect to those facing a high risk of danger. Barrientos reported several incidents — including threatening phone calls, petitions to have him resign, damages to his mother’s grave and bullet holes in his car — that went unanswered.

New case regarding violence against women brought to Inter-American Court

Claudina Isabel Velásquez Paiz disappeared and was murdered in 2005. Ten years later, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights will hear the case regarding the Guatemalan government’s failure to investigate the crime. This hearing will question Guatemala’s policies of discrimination and violence against women.

Guatemalan government creates Cabinet of Indigenous Peoples and Cultural Diversity

In response to claims that Guatemala has failed to comply with the Agreement on Indigenous Rights, Guatemala has created the Cabinet of Indigenous Peoples and Cultural Diversity, which will last for a period of 10 years. President Pérez Molina will preside over the cabinet, which was created to comply with the state’s promise to contribute to the construction of equality and unity among various ethnic groups in the country, which make up 42 percent of the population.

GHRC Kicks Off November Speaking Tour with Lorena Cabnal

This week, GHRC kicked off our November Speaking Tour with Lorena Cabnal — an indigenous Xinka woman and community feminist — in Houston, Texas. After earning her degree in Community Social Psychology, Lorena co-founded the Association of Indigenous Women of Santa María Xalapán (AMISMAXAJ) in 2003.

GHRC-speaking-tour

Lorena Cabnal and GHRC Executive Director Kelsey Alford-Jones with Father Gerry, of Maryknoll house, and members of the RPDG and ADOGUAH — co-sponsors of a great event on Monday evening!

At out first event, Lorena discussed the status of Xinka women in Guatemala, as well as her experiences as a community activist. She described seeing a great amount of violence against women, young girls getting pregnant at the ages of 12 or 13, and women with up to 15 children. There were also issues with human trafficking, with young girls being sold into prostitution or into illegal international adoptions.

As Lorena and other members of AMISMAXAJ began to denounce these attacks against women, they also organized against oil extraction on their ancestral lands. The group discovered that there were 31 licenses for exploration for extraction projects in the Jalapa region, and warned the indigenous government that oil and mining projects “will become a serious problem.”

Lorena also explained what she called a “statistical ethnocide” against the Xinka people — the fact that the Xinka were not recognized as an ethnic group until the peace accords were signed in 1996, and that the Guatemalan government estimate of the Xinka population was much lower than a self-organized census found. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: November 2-8

Rios Montt trial pushed to January 2015

The trial of Efrain Rios Montt for genocide has been pushed back to January 2015; a court official said that judges were too busy with other cases to resume the trial during 2014. Families of victims of the armed conflict expressed regret at the decision to push the resumption of the trial back this far. Hector Reyes, a lawyer with the Center for Human Rights Legal Action (CALDH), criticized the new date and said that the court decision is a violation of victims’ rights.

Rios Montt case petitioned at IACHR

Prosecutors of the Rios Montt genocide case presented a complaint to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on Wednesday, November 6, to reinforce the 80-year prison sentence that was handed down to Rios Montt earlier this year. Petitioners stated that Guatemala failed to guarantee justice because of irregularities throughout the trial and a lack of access to military archives. Previously, the IACHR has requested that Guatemalan authorities investigate human rights abuses committed during the civil war and affirmed that Guatemala’s amnesty law does not impede that process.

Continue reading

News Update: October 12-18

Communities celebrate Day of Resistance and Dignity of Indigenous Peoples

As an alternative to Columbus day, throughout Guatemala, various indigenous groups and organizations marched to demand that the government respect their rights in relation to mining, hydroelectric dams, and agricultural reform, once again expressing opposition to resource extraction development projects that only benefit a small sector of society. An article from La Hora highlights the inequalities indigenous peoples still suffer in Guatemala.

Two EXMINGUA employees convicted for threatening journalists

Juan José Reyes Carrera and retired military lieutenant Pablo Silas Orozco Cifuentes were sentenced to two years in prison for threatening five reporters in 2012. Both men are former employees of the Tambor mine owned by EXMINGUA, the Guatemalan subsidiary of U.S. company Kappes, Cassiday & Associates. The jail time will be suspended on the condition that both men pay a fine of about $2,000.

Ten women killed on October 12

10 women died in three separate violent attacks last Saturday, making it arguably the most violent day against women this year. So far nearly 600 women have been killed this year, a 16% increase since this time last year. Of these murders, 68.75% have been with a firearm. Since January 2012 the Public Prosecutor’s office has heard 493 cases of femicide and issued 109 sentences.

Continue reading

News Update: August 31- September 6

Indigenous group brings complaint against Mining Law to IACHR

The Western People’s Council of Mayan Organizations (CPO) has filed a complaint before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IAHCR) against Guatemala’s Mining Law, based on the law’s lack of a mechanism to consult with indigenous communities, which the CPO claims violates international law. Previously, the CPO challenged the law before Guatemala’s Constitutional Court but the Constitutional Court upheld the Mining Law, leaving the CPO no recourse but the IACHR.

CICIG has new leader

Iván Velásquez Gómez is the new head of the International Comission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). President Otto Pérez Molina announced that this was the last period of CICIG in the country and the investigation of ongoing and new cases will continue until 2015, when they will have to transfer the work to the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the National Civil Police.

Polochic families demand integral support

While the government is set next week to give 140 land titles to families evicted from the Polochic Valley two years ago, these residents point out that land is not sufficient to return to a sustainable lifestyle. The area where they will be relocated is more than 80 km from their original community of Agua Caliente and lacks water, roads, and basic services. They also expressed frustration over the cumbersome and bureaucratic process of obtaining the titles.

Continue reading

GHRC Condemns Attempted Assassination of Yolanda Oquelí / GHRC denuncia atentado contra Yolanda Oquelí

[en español abajo]

The Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA denounces the attempted assassination of community leader and anti-mining activist, Yolanda “Yoli” Oquelí.

On June 13th, at approximately 6:30pm, Yoli was ambushed by two men on a motorcycle while driving to her home in San José del Golfo. She was shot at repeatedly; one bullet entered above her right kidney.

Yoli was immediately rushed to a public hospital by community members where she underwent emergency surgery. She is currently in stable condition.

Yoli has been a vocal and passionate opponent of the installation of extractive mining operations in the communities of San Jose del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc. Her inspiring leadership is just one example of the coordinated efforts of men, women and children in these communities to say “NO” to mining and its potentially devastating effects on local drinking water, farming land and the environment in general.

However, two international corporations refuse to respect the will of these communities: the Canadian mining corporation Radius Gold and the U.S. engineering firm Kappes, Cassiday & Associates. Through their Guatemalan subsidiary Exploraciones Mineras de Guatemala (Exmingua) they continue to push their open-pit and underground gold mining operation known as the Tambor Mine.

On March 2, 2012, local residents started a roadblock in order to prevent tractors, excavators and other mining equipment from entering their communities. Those who take turns guarding the roadblock have sworn to embrace the practice of nonviolent, peaceful resistance in defense of their rights.

On May 8th, a caravan of mining machinery, accompanied by hundreds of Guatemalan riot police, arrived in the middle of the night in an attempt to break the roadblock. They were unsuccessful.

Days before the attempt on her life, Yoli and other pro-environment activists presented a series of formal complaints to the Public Ministry regarding acts of intimidation, threats, and criminalization that they have suffered as a result of their defense of their natural resources.

To the Guatemala Government and the International community, GHRC declares:

* We denounce and condemn this latest attack on the brave women and men who, through the use of peaceful protest and nonviolent demonstration, are defending their rights to clean water, a healthy environment, and self-determination.

* We call on the Guatemalan authorities to investigate, capture, and prosecute all those responsible for this heinous crime; the hired guns as well as those who planned the assassination.

* We insist that authorities guarantee the safety and well-being of the community members of San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc and to find a negotiated solution to this conflict which prioritizes the needs of the Guatemalan people over the profits of international corporations.

* GHRC stands in solidarity with Yolanda and wishes her a quick and complete recovery. We offer our heartfelt sympathy for her family, especially her two young children, for the fear and trauma that this attacked most assuredly had provoked.

— — —

You can take action to support Yoli and her community by signing GHRC’s petition


La Comisión de Derechos Humanos de Guatemala en Washington, EE.UU. (GHRC) denuncia el atentado contra la vida de Yolanda “Yoli” Oquelí, lideresa comunitaria y activista en el movimiento antiminero.

El 13 de junio, aproximadamente a las 6:30pm, Yoli se dirigía a su casa en San José del Golfo cuando fue atacada por dos hombres en una moto. Dispararon varias veces; una bala entró cerca a su hígado.

De inmediato, Yoli fue conducida a un hospital público por miembros de la comunidad, donde la atendieron de emergencia. Actualmente se encuentra en condición estable.

Yoli ha trabajado de forma muy visible y apasionada en oposición a las operaciones de la minería extractiva en las comunidades de San José del Golfo y San Pedro Ayampuc. Su liderazgo inspirador es solo uno de los múltiples ejemplos de los esfuerzos coordinados entre los hombres, mujeres y jóvenes de estas comunidades para decir ´NO´ a la minería y sus impactos negativos, dentro de los cuales se incluye la contaminación del agua potable del área, de las cosechas y del medio ambiente en general.

Sin embargo, dos empresas internacionales niegan respetar la voluntad de estas comunidades: la corporación minera canadiense Radius Gold y la firma de ingeniería estadounidense Kappes, Cassiday&Associates. A través de su subsidiario Exploraciones Mineras de Guatemala (Exmingua) siguen impulsando su proyecto de minería subterráneo y a cielo abierto conocido como la Mina Tambor.

El 2 de marzo de 2012, miembros de la comunidad iniciaron un bloqueo con el fin de prevenir la entrada de los tractores, excavadoras y otro equipo de minería. Los que se turnan para mantener el bloqueo se han comprometido en abrazar la práctica de resistencia pacífica y la no violencia en la defensa de sus derechos.

El 8 de mayo, una caravana de maquinaria de minería, resguardada por cientos de agentes antimotines de la Policía Nacional Civil, llegó a la medianoche intentando quebrantar el bloqueo. No tuvieron éxito.

Unos días antes del atentado contra su vida, Yoli y otros defensores del ambiente presentaron una serie de denuncias ante el Ministerio Público sobre actos de intimidación, amenazas y criminalización que han sufrido como resultado de su defensa de sus recursos naturales.

GHRC manifiesta ante el Gobierno de Guatemala y la comunidad internacional que:

• Denunciamos y condenamos este último ataque contra las mujeres y hombres valientes quienes, a través de la protesta pacífica y la manifestación no violenta, defienden sus derechos al agua limpia, a un medio ambiente sano y la auto-determinación.

• Hacemos un llamado a las autoridades guatemaltecas a investigar, capturar y sancionar a aquellos responsables por este crimen atroz; tanto los autores materiales como intelectuales.

• Instamos a las autoridades a que garanticen la seguridad y bienestar de los miembros de la comunidades San José del Golfo y San Pedro Ayampuc y que encuentren una solución a través del diálogo la cual da prioridad a las necesidades del pueblo de Guatemala y no a las ganancias de las multinacionales.

• Expresamos nuestra solidaridad con Yolanda y esperamos que se recupere rápidamente y completamente. Ofrecemos nuestro respaldo a su familia, en especial a sus dos hijos pequeños, por el miedo y el trauma que este ataque sin duda ha provocado.

Comisión de Derechos Humanos de Guatemala en Washington, EE.UU. Washington, DC
14 de junio de 2012

— — —

Se puede tomar acción para expresar su apoyo de Yoli y su comunidad a través de nuestra petición.

Weekly News Roundup

April 27th- May 3rd

  • Human rights organizations protest against Canadian mining company. On April 27th a group of thirty activists of human rights organizations protested Goldcorp’s mining operations in Toronto while the company was holding its Annual General Meeting in Timmins, Ontario. The protesters hoped to raise awareness of the company’s human rights abuses and environmental violations. The mine has been criticized locally and internationally for contaminating water sources; condoning intimidation, threats and attacks against community members; disregarding community referendums and international regulations, among other abuses.
  • Thousands of workers participate in International Workers’ Day marches on May 1st. Echoing the demands of previous campesino and union marches this month, the International Workers’ Day marchers demanded an end to militarization and exploitative mining projects and criticized the decision by Congress to freeze further dialogue concerning the rural development law. They also asked for higher salaries and an end to high levels of impunity. According to Carlos Contreras, Guatemala’s Employment Minister, seven out of ten companies violate labor rights. In the first months of 2012 more than 4,000 complaints of labor violations have been sent to the Department of Labor.
  • Guatemala declares state of siege in Huehuetenango on May 1st. Interior Secretary Mauricio Lopez Bonilla sent a contingent of 100 military and 160 police forces to Santa Cruz Barillas, Huehuetenango to “restore order” after a group of 200 men armed with machetes and guns took over a military base in the area. Security forces arrested nine men involved in the mob after the declaration of the siege. That same afternoon, one community member was assassinated, and two others injured, in attacks by armed men with apparent links to the companyThe village of Santa Cruz Barillas has outspokenly protested against the construction of the hydroelectric company and denounced the lack of consultation. The community is calling for a suspension of the company’s license.  According to Interior Secretary Mauricio Lopez Bonilla the riots were started by a group of intoxicated men who had been celebrating the La Cruz festival. President Perez Molina justified the state of siege on the grounds that the rioters were accomplices of drug traffickers. Human rights and peasant organizations repudiate the state of siege.
  • Former police officer to stand trial for his involvement in Spanish Embassy fire in 1980. On the day of the fire, January 31st 1980, the Embassy was stormed by indigenous protestors who wanted to inform the world about human rights abuses committed during the internal armed conflict. Former police officer Pedro Garcia Arredondo is accused of keeping firefighters from extinguishing the fire and ignoring the ambassador’s plead to withdraw his forces.
  • 5,708 remains of victims of the internal armed conflict unearthed. Juan de Dios Garcia, representative of Adivima, confirms that the exhumation of victims’ remains helps to push the Public Prosecutor’s Office to move forward with their investigations of the massacres, and to bring justice to the victims and their families. He also mentions that finding the remains of the disappeared gives family members the peace of mind to know where their loved ones are and enables them to carry out a proper burial in keeping with cultural traditions.
  • Candidates for the position of the Human Rights Ombudsman summoned to hearing. Candidates were asked to respond to questions and concerns from civil society groups. Most questions were directed towards the current Ombudsman Sergio Morales. The next step in the election process will be a forum discussion to be held May 11. Civil society organization released a public call to the Congressional Commission for Human Rights asking for an evaluation of the immediate necessities of the Office of the Ombudsman to strengthen the institution. With regards to the election of the Ombudsman, they recommend considering candidates whose defense of human rights, academic background, honesty and impartiality have sustained national and international acclaim.

Weekly News Round-Up

National News

International News

Weekly News Round-Up

National News

International News