Victoria para La Puya: Corte guatemalteca ordena suspensión de trabajos de construcción en la mina El Tambor

La GHRC aplaude el fallo de un tribunal de amparo de Guatemala que el 15 julio ordenó que se realice una consulta de vecinos sobre proyectos que los afecten y ordenó la suspensión de trabajos de construcción en la mina El Tambor.

El fallo es un indicio positivo para los miembros de las municipalidades de San Pedro Ayampuc y San José del Golfo quienes se han unido en resistencia pacífica para oponerse a un proyecto que consideran altamente dañino.

El movimiento conocido como ‘La Puya’ ha mantenido una presencia los 24 horas al día, 365 díal al año en la entrada del sitio por más de tres años. Durante ese tiempo La Puya ha denunciado actos intimidatorios e ilegales de parte de la empresa guatemalteca que posee la licencia de minería, EXMINGUA, junto con su casa matriz Kappes, Cassidy & Associates, empresa estadounidense con sede en Reno, Nevada.

La querella legal presentada en octubre de 2014 por las autoridades de dos comunidades afectadas, El Carrizal y El Guapinol, acusa al gobierno municipal de no cumplir con su deber de actuar por el bien de los ciudadanos.

La denuncia acusa al Consejo Municipal de San Pedro Ayampuc -donde se ubica la mina – de fallar en su deber de detener los trabajos de construcción en la mina y de no defender los intereses de las comunidades afectadas. Argumentan que el Consejo tenía la responsabilidad de actuar dado su conocimiento que la empresa había violado la ley operando sin licencia de construcción, teniendo documentación de preocupaciones sobre la contaminación y la cualidad del agua y por no haber llevado al cabo una válida consulta previa.
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Guatemala News Update: July 13-24

Rios Montt Sent for Psychiatric Observation, Delaying the Genocide Trial

Tele Sur TV

Yesterday, ex-Dictator Efrain Rios Montt was placed in a psychiatric hospital for observation by the Guatemalan Court overseeing his retrial for genocide. The court said its ruling was to protect Rios Montt’s health, and was also requested by the Public Ministry, after the defense found him incompetent to stand trial. It has been reported that Rios Montt will be in observation for nine days, delaying his retrial once again.

Senate Published Draft Budget

On Thursday, July 9, the Senate passed a foreign assistance budget allocating $675 million for Central America, with $142 million designated specifically for Guatemala. The bill contains important restrictions, conditions and reporting requirements for Guatemala – including restrictions on funds to the Guatemalan Army. Conditioning US funds based on compliance with human rights investigations and accountability is one thing GHRC and our partners advocate for every year as a tool to leverage positive change in Guatemala, and we were pleased to see many of our recommendations including in the Senate Bill.

Victory for La Puya: Guatemalan Court Orders Suspension of Construction Operations at the El Tambor Mine

GHRC applauds the July 15 resolution by a Guatemalan appeals court which ruled in favor of the right of residents to be consulted about projects that affect them and ordered the suspension of construction activities at the mine.

Puya_13

The court found the company was operating illegally, “without permit, authorization or approval from the Municipality of San Pedro Ayampuc…to carry out its mining project” and that the responsibility falls to the Municipal Council to enforce the law. GHRC has called on the US Embassy to encourage the company to comply with the verdict, and suspend all construction activities at its mine site until a community consultation is held.

Further recognition of the work of land rights activists continues with the comprehensive account published by Jeff Abbott of Vice News of the country’s unified effort to end corruption within the current political crisis of Guatemala, and describes the role of indigenous communities in current social movements, including resistance efforts against mining and hydroelectric projects.

Judge Confirms Soldiers will be charged not with extrajudicial execution, but with murder in self-defense, for 2012 killing of indigenous protesters

On October 4, 2012, approximately 15,000 members of the indigenous communities in Totonicapán, Guatemala gathered to block five key transit points on the Pan-American Highway to protest the excessive electricity prices, changes to the professional teacher training requirements, and proposed constitutional reforms. A military contingent of 89 soldiers confronted the protestors. As a result, six protesters were killed, 40 were wounded by the military, and one of the protesters was disappeared during the confrontation. The Totonicapán massacre was the first by the military since the war.

After years of delays, a judge, Carol Patricia Flores has confirmed that the nine soldiers involved will be charged of murder in self-defense (“en estado de emocion violenta), rather than for extrajudicial execution. Flores herself faces allegations put forward by the CICIG and Public Ministry of illicit enrichment and money laundering. The Supreme Court will soon decide if Flores should face criminal investigation.

Criminal Charges Filed against former Minister of Energy and Mines

On July 12, 2015, the Guatemalan Center for Environmental and Social Legal Action (CALAS) filed criminal charges against former Minister of Energy and Mines (MEM), Erick Archila, and former Mines Director at MEM, Fernando Castellanos. Archila and Castellanos are accused of violating the Constitution and for breach of duty, as they granted Tahoe Resources an exploitation license without adequate consideration of more than 250 community complaints against the project. CALAS called on the CICIG to fully investigate the Escobal licensing process, citing Archila’s possible involvement in influence trafficking and illicit enrichment.

UN Report Concludes that Criminal Organizations Fund 25% of the Country’s Politics

A recent report conducted by the UN’s CICIG demonstrated that a quarter of the money supplied for the cost of Guatemalan politics comes from criminal organizations, primarily drug traffickers. The report released on Thursday also stated that dishonest money and corruption financially fuel the political system of the country. “Corruption is the unifying element of the Guatemalan political system based on an amalgam of interests that include politicians, officials, public entities, businessmen, non-governmental organizations and criminal groups,” said CICIG Commissioner Ivan Velasquez.

In fact, on July 15, the Vice Presidential candidate for the Lider Party, currently leading polls, was accused of corruption, specifically of illicit association and influence trafficking. Authorities allege that Edgar Barquin was a part of a criminal network led by businessman Francisco Morales to create ghost companies in order to channel over $120 million to China, the US, Colombia, and others countries. 

Meanwhile, Guatemala’s electoral court ruled that Zury Rios Sosa, the daughter of former dictator Efrain Rios Montt, could not run for president, a decision quickly overruled by the Supreme Court. Former president Portillo, 2000-2004, was also denied his candidacy for congress. Portillo recently returned to Guatemala after serving a 70-month sentence in US prison for laundering money from the Taiwanese government during his administration.

Public attention is more focused on the multitude of corruption scandals than on the upcoming elections; the OAS, however, has announced it will send a mission to monitor the process.

“Supreme Court on the Side of the Guatemalan People”

The Guatemalan Supreme Court has ruled to allow a congressional probe into corruption allegations against President Perez Molina to continue. If his immunity is withdrawn, he could face charges before his term ends in January 2014.

Acción Urgente: Demanda que Empresa Minera Estadounidense Suspenda sus Operaciones Ilegales en la Mina El Tambor

Firma la petición para demandar que la empresa minera KCA suspenda sus operaciones ilegales en Guatemala:

(Texto para la petición Change.org):

La empresa minera estadounidense Kappes, Cassidy & Associates (KCA) y su subsidiaria guatemalteca han insistido en ir adelante con el proyecto minero El Tambor pese a la oposición fuerte y sin consultar con los vecinos sobre el proyecto como requiere la ley guatemalteca e internacional.

Ahora, el 15 de julio, falló una corte guatemalteca a favor de los residentes ordenando la suspensión de construcción de parte de KCA en la mina de oro El Tambor hasta que se realice una consulta de vecinos y el proyecto sea aprobado por los residentes. La corte ordenó que el municipio donde se ubica la mina asegure que EXMINGUA, la filial de KCA, cumpla con la orden dentro de 15 días.

Esta es una oportunidad importante para apoyar los derechos de la comunidad por encima de los intereses de corporaciones. Es bien probable que EXMINGUA apele la sentencia. Por favor firme nuestra petición ahora para instar que KCA simple y sencillamente cumpla con este fallo. Continue reading

Victory for La Puya: Guatemalan Court Orders Suspension of Construction Operations at the El Tambor Mine

GHRC applauds the July 15 resolution by a Guatemalan appeals court which ruled in favor of the right of residents to be consulted about projects that affect them and ordered the suspension of construction activities at the mine.

The ruling is a positive sign for community members from San Pedro Ayampuc and San Jose del Golfo who have joined together in non-violent resistance to oppose what they see as a deeply harmful mining project.

The movement, known as ‘La Puya,’ has maintained a 24-hour presence at the entrance to the site for over three years. During that time, La Puya has denounced intimidating or illegal actions on the part of the Guatemalan company that holds the mining license, EXMINGUA, as well as by its parent company, Reno-based Kappes, Cassiday & Associates.

This legal complaint, however, filed in October 2014 by authorities from two of the affected communities, El Carrizal and El Guapinol, targets the government for its failure to act on behalf of its citizens.

The complaint accuses the Municipal Advisory Council of San Pedro Ayampuc – where the mine site is located – of failing to act to stop construction activity at the mine site and for its failure to defend the interests of the affected communities. They argue the Council had the responsibility to act given their knowledge that the company had broken the law by operating without a construction permit, having documentation regarding concerns about water quality and contamination, and not carrying out valid prior community consultation.
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Guatemala News Update: July 6-10

Ríos Montt. Photo by James Rodríguez

Ríos Montt. Photo by James Rodríguez

Ex-ruler Ríos Montt found unfit for trial

Attorneys for Efraín Ríos Montt have requested that the genocide case against him be dismissed after an investigation by Guatemala’s National Forensic Science Institute (INACIF) deemed Montt unfit to stand trial. INACIF released a statement on July 7 declaring that the 89-year-old would not be able to respond accurately to questioning due to his mentally incapacitated state.

Following years of delays, Ríos Montt was convicted of genocide and war crimes in May 2013. The case was celebrated throughout Guatemala and Latin America as the first case in which a former dictator was convicted of genocide in a domestic court. The decision was rescinded 10 days later by the Constitutional Court due to a questionable legal technicality. The retrial was set for January of this year, but additional delay tactics further derailed the case. A hearing is scheduled for July 23, 2015 to determine whether the trial will move forward, although it seems unlikely that the case will proceed.

CICIG Captures Former Minister of Energy and Mines and Former Private Secretary for President Pérez Molina

On July 9, the CICIG announced the arrests of several more public officials on corruption charges including  another individual close to President Pérez Molina — Gustavo Martinez. Martinez is the president’s son-in-law and former private secretary, and has been arrested for alleged influence trafficking. According to the CICIG’s website, Martinez had inserted meetings with various companies into President Pérez Molina’s schedule in exchange for bribes. Former Vice Minister of Energy and Mines, Edwin Ramon Rodas Solares, was also arrested. Continue reading

Discovery of Judicial Corruption Network Brings Hope for Overdue Reforms

by Jason Mann, GHRC Summer 2015 Intern

Captured lawyer Jose Arturo Morales. Photo: Insight Crime.

Captured lawyer Jose Arturo Morales. Photo: Insight Crime.

After the investigation into a web of judicial corruption, nicknamed the “Law Firm of Impunity,” Guatemala’s failed judicial system may be headed for long-needed reforms.

Revelations began in April 2015 when the UN-sponsored International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) uncovered a massive tax fraud scheme involving numerous high-level government officials.

Among those directly incriminated in the corruption ring, dubbed “La Linea,” were the head of Guatemala’s customs enforcement and tax agency and the private secretary of Vice President Roxana Baldetti, Juan Carlos Monzón, who led the operation.

The scandal, one of the biggest in recent memory in Guatemala, barely had time to sink in, before a related scandal broke, prompted by judges who had suspiciously granted bail to the high level officials arrested. Corruption, it became clear, was being facilitated by those charged with upholding the law.

On May 8, the same day that Baldetti was forced to resign as vice president, the CICIG released phone recordings of wiretapped conversations between a ringleader of La Linea, Javier Ortiz, and businessman Luis Mendizábal. The conversation describes how Ortiz’s lawyers had bribed Judge Marta Josefina Sierra de Stalling to obtain reduced bail and a favorable house arrest sentence in exchange for a financial kickback. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: June 29-July 3

Guatemala High Court Revives Immunity-Stripping Process for President Pérez Molina

On July 1, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court lifted the injunction suspending the process to remove President Pérez Molina’s immunity, which means that the Congressional Committee may now move forward with its investigation of Pérez Molina over corruption allegations. The process could result in the president’s impeachment.

Protesters Call for the Resignation of Pérez Molina

Demonstrators took to the streets of Guatemala City again this weekend to demand that President Pérez Molina resign amid allegations of corruption. Although many expected a low turn-out due to the national holiday on Monday, 300 people participated in the protest and have expressed their frustration that they are not “seeing any results.”

The Human Rights Convergence — a coalition of Guatemalan human rights groups — released a statement calling for the protection of citizens involved in the protests and other social movements to root out government corruption.

“Tear Gas Used to Attack Guatemala Village: Official Corruption Ransacking Nation’s Treasury and Natural Resources”

Epoch Times published an article reporting on the illegal jade mining in the mountainside of El Arco, highlighting the role of Guatemala’s National Civil Police (PNC) in protecting the illegal operations. Residents have been organizing through a group called the Fundación Turcio Lima (FTL), created to “obtain clean water rights and to exercise civil rights by ordinary people by enabling them to gain official titles to their real property.”

Two Police Officers Arrested for the Murder of Journalists

Three individuals, two of whom are police officers, were arrested for the murder of two journalists on Friday. The officers, Jorge León Cabrera Solís and Artemio de Jesús Juárez Pichiyá, were believed to have murdered journalists Danilo López (a journalist for Prensa Libre) and Federico Salazar on March 10 as they were walking through a park in Mazatenango.

Damming Dissent: Community leaders behind bars in Guatemala after opposing hydro projects

This article by Sandra Cuffe looks at the pattern of criminalization of community leaders in Huehuetenango for their involvement in movements to oppose hydroelectric dams in the region.

“Are we witnessing a Central American Spring?”

This Foreign Policy article looks at the parallels in corruption scandals in Honduras and Guatemala as an indicator for a potential political spring in the region.