Guatemala News Update: April 13-17

Families Displaced from Polochic Valley Denounce Poor Living Conditions

At a press conference on Friday, April 17, representatives of 14 communities comprising approximately 629 families evicted in 2011 from the Polochic Valley denounced their current living conditions, which have led to issues such as malnutrition and starvation. The Committee for Campesino Unity (CUC) also stated that it will deliver a preliminary Red Cross report to President Pérez Molina on the critical health situation of the families.

Community members are calling on the Guatemalan government to 1) promptly attend to the malnourished children; 2) hold a high-level meeting with community members to discuss the situation, and; 3) fulfill its obligation to grant land to all evicted families.

Top Guatemalan Officials Arrested in Crime Ring Takedown

In a joint effort by the Guatemalan Public Prosecutor’s office and the UN International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), 20 officials were arrested on Thursday, April 16, including the current and former heads of Guatemala’s tax collection agency. The officials are being accused of being part of a tax fraud and contraband ring.

A warrant was also issued for Juan Carlos Monzón, the secretary for Guatemalan Vice President Roxana Baldetti, who is accused of being one of the operation’s ringleaders and is currently out of the country.

The arrests come amidst an important debate about whether or not the CICIG’s mandate, which is set to expire in September 2015, will be renewed. Although a diverse group of Guatemalan and international organizations have advocated for its continuation, President Pérez Molina has suggested that he will not extend the Commission’s mandate. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: March 30 – April 10

Hudbay Minerals/CGN Former Head of Security on Trial in Guatemala for Mining-related Violence

The criminal trial against the former security chief of mining company Hudbay Minerals/CGN, Mynor Padilla, began on April 8 in Puerto Barrios, Guatemala. Padilla is charged with the murder of Aldofo Ich Chamán and the wounding of at least ten others who opposed Hudbay/CGN’s nickel mining project in El Estor.

Unfortunately, this is only one example of the violent encounters provoked by extractive projects in Guatemala. Hubday Minerals is already facing lawsuits in Canadian courts for other crimes related to their activities in Guatemala.

Human Rights Defender Assassinated Near Tahoe Resources Mine

On Sunday, April 5, Telesforo Pivaral — a community member from San Rafael Las Flores — was murdered. Pivaral had been a member of the Committee in Defense of Life and Peace of San Rafael Las Flores, and was active in the resistance to the “El Escobal” mining project.

Oxfam’s office in Guatemala and 23 other organizations are joining together to call for the Guatemalan government to investigate the attack. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: March 16-27

Criminalization of Land Rights Leaders Persists in Huehuetenango

On March 24, two indigenous and land rights leaders from Santa Eulalia — Rigoberto Juárez Mateo and Domingo Baltazar — were detained in Guatemala City. The arrests were related to a community struggle to defend a local radio station which had reported on planned hydroelectric projects as well as corruption of local authorities, and was shut down by municipal authorities in January.

In a separate case, GHRC staff member Dania Rodríguez attended a hearing on March 26 for six leaders from Barillas who have been opposing another hydroelectric dam project in the area — the Hidro Santa Cruz dam. Although the company has retracted many of the original accusations, the leaders remain charged with the crime of kidnapping. The case is set to conclude on April 8.

These events are part of a larger pattern of repression and increasing criminalization of activists by the Pérez Molina administration in order to support large-scale development projects. In this context, two activists have been killed, and GHRC is calling on Guatemala’s Attorney General to initiate an investigation into the deaths. Sign the petition now.

Hearings on Guatemala During IACHR 154th Session

Last week, during the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) 154th session, a hearing was held on the impacts of extractive industries in Latin America. During the hearing, members of the Catholic Church presented emblematic cases of human rights violations resulting from extractive projects in the region. More information on the hearing is available here.

Petitioners from the Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF) and the Myrna Mack Foundation also addressed the IACHR regarding judicial independence in Guatemala. Continue reading

Guatemala Closes Spaces of Action for Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples

This press release by the Guatemalan Human Rights Convergence argues that the Pérez Molina administration has responded to human rights demands with violence, censorship and prohibition of freedom of speech. The Convergence highlights the wave of repression against both indigenous and mestizo communities in northern Huehuetenango — in particular, those living in Barillas, Santa Eulalia, and San Mateo Ixtatan and resisting large-scale development projects — and looks at cases of criminalization of community leaders.


EL ESTADO DE GUATEMALA CIERRA ESPACIOS A LA SOCIEDAD CIVIL Y A LOS PUEBLOS INDÍGENAS

La firma de los Acuerdos de Paz supuso un compromiso y una ruta para la construcción de una sociedad democrática. Sin embargo, ante el aumento importante de personas que exigen y defienden derechos; la respuesta del Gobierno es cada vez más violenta en contra de grupos sociales y pueblos indígenas que le piden a este  que cumpla con su obligación de garantizar el libre ejercicio de todos sus derechos. Esto se da, además, en temas de derecho de la niñez y la juventud, derechos de las mujeres, derecho de salud, educación y vivienda, derecho a un salario digno, inversión económica, auditoría social; así como en demanda de seguridad, justicia y equidad.

La violencia y el cierre de espacios es la respuesta del gobierno de Otto Pérez Molina, para proteger intereses personales y empresariales.  La censura, los asesinatos y atentados en contra de periodistas y comunicadores sociales son una muestra. Asimismo las comunidades indígenas que ejercen su derecho constitucional a la petición y a la consulta reciben como respuesta actitudes racistas y represoras por parte del funcionariado público y de quienes trabajan para las empresas que se quieren instalar en sus territorios. Continue reading

Growing Concerns Over Extractive Industries in Latin America

GHRC presented members of La Puya with a book of messages of solidarity at the movement's third anniversary

GHRC presented members of La Puya with a book of messages of solidarity at the movement’s third anniversary event.

“This is one of the most important human rights issues of our time,” stated Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) President Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, referring to the wide-ranging effects of extractive industries on communities in Latin America. Last week, the IACHR held a hearing on this topic as part of its 154th session.

During the hearing, members of the Catholic Church presented emblematic cases of human rights violations resulting from extractive projects in the region. They also detailed the criminalization of land rights defenders, and raised concerns about the serious damage being done to the environment as well as to indigenous communities.

“We can live without gold, but not without water,” said Álvaro Leonel Ramazzini, a bishop of the Catholic Church in Guatemala and a petitioner at the hearing. Bishop Ramazzini also noted the importance of prior consultation and called for other sustainable models of development that will not undercut the local economy. Continue reading

La Puya Celebrates Three Years of Resistance

March 2, 2015 marked the three-year anniversary of the Peaceful Resistance of La Puya. In the words of the men and women who have upheld the movement, the experience has brought a sense of satisfaction and strengthened their belief in peaceful resistance.

In the early morning, at the entrance of the municipality of San Jose del Golfo, people from all across the country began to gather to participate in this year’s celebration. The morning began with a march, headed by young people on stilts and a percussion group that filled the day with music and dance. Men and women, young and elderly, and children, held signs with phrases of celebration and support for the resistance. The march, to the cry of “Yes to Life, No to Mining,” proceeded through the municipality’s streets.

3-anniversary-collageWhen the march reached La Puya, a wooden stage had already been set up for a day-long cultural program, in which various national artists participated. Following each presentation, organizations and community leaders from other towns took the stage to transmit their message of solidarity and acknowledgement to members of the resistance. During one of these brief breaks, GHRC took the opportunity to share a book of over 200 messages of congratulations, solidarity and hope that came from our supporters. We also delivered a banner sent by a University of Oregon delegation that visited La Puya on August 2014.

(Click below to read the messages sent to La Puya from GHRC supporters):

Cover-puyamensajesAna Sandoval, on behalf of the members of La Puya, shared a message of gratitude for the words of encouragement and for international solidarity:

“Thank you for nourishing our conviction to continue the struggle, and for being part of the La Puya Peaceful Resistance. Every time someone stands up against the human rights violations that we endure, it is because he/she also feels that same indignation that keeps us fighting for water, land and life. And not only for human life, but also for all the beings that inhabit the Earth, because this fight is collective.”

After sharing lunch together, a mass was celebrated, honoring the religious devotion and strength which has characterized the resistance movement. The evening culminated with music, filling the atmosphere and participants with the strength and hope showed by all those who joined and participated in this important event.

Footage from the Asociacion Comunicarte of La Puya’s third anniversary can be seen here. In-depth background information on La Puya is available on the GHRC website.

Guatemala News Update: March 9-13

International Women’s Day Celebrated in Guatemala

International Women’s Day was celebrated worldwide on March 8; in Guatemala, the day was marked with festivities, conferences and articles dedicated to women’s rights. Women held a march, and members of the Alliance Against Criminalization held a press release to call for greater protections for women land and human rights defenders.

Guatemalan Vice-president Roxana Baldetti made use of the occasion to address women’s rights at the UN as part of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York. During his recent visit to Guatemala, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy also spoke about gender equality, stating that aid from Spain would prioritize combating gender violence.

Two Reporters Shot Dead, Third Injured in Guatemala

On March 10, 2015, in an attempt to assassinate three journalists in the southern city of Mazatenango, two were killed and one was seriously injured. One of the men killed, Danilo López, had received death threats after reporting on corruption in the region. According to Guatemalan police, one of the suspects has now been captured.

GHRC condemned the attack, and called on the Guatemalan government to thoroughly investigate the incident and bring those responsible to justice. Read a statement from GHRC and partner organization UDEFEGUA here.

Slow Advances in the Genocide Case

A sanction imposed on Judge Yassmin Barrios, for actions she took as judge in the trial of Efraín Ríos Montt in 2013, has been finally been revoked by the Constitutional Court. The initial sanction included temporary suspension from office for one year and a fine of 5,400 Quetzales.

As the genocide case remains indefinitely delayed, one of the witnesses — Pedro Chávez Brito — has died of an illness. Brito is the second witness to pass away while the case remains in legal limbo, calling attention to the need to restart the process as soon as possible.

Activists Protest the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) in Toronto

Activists partnering with the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN) protested on March 1 outside the world’s largest mining convention in Toronto, Canada. Among the conference’s sponsors is Goldcorp, a company well known for its human rights violations in Guatemala. Demonstrators also infiltrated the conference with fake programs for the “Corporate Social Responsibility” events.

Central American Alliance for Prosperity Has ‘Business’ Focus

The “Alliance for Prosperity” plan was initially launched in cooperation between the governments of the Northern Triangle countries (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) and the US to help unaccompanied minors fleeing from Central America to the US. However, Central American officials have prioritized meeting with business representatives over civil society actors — raising concerns that the funds might be diverted to the private business sector.