Weekly News Roundup

May 24th – May 31st

  • Elections for Human Rights Ombudsman temporarily suspended. On May 24, the Guatemalan Constitutional Court (CC) temporarily suspended the election for Human Rights Ombudsman after formally recognizing attorney Gustavo Martínez’s appeal to halt the election. Martínez filed the appeal because candidate Jorge De León Duque’s license to practice law was supposedly not up-to-date when the election shortlist was created, violating the Nomination Committee’s licensing requirements for the position. However, on May 30, the CC verified De León Duque’s qualifications and voted unanimously to allow the election to resume. The Standing Committee of the Legislature has scheduled the election for May 31.
  • UN Women to open an office next month in Guatemala to promote gender equality. On May 24, UN Women, an international organization created in 2010 to combat discrimination against women, announced that they would open an office in Guatemala this June. UN Women representative Ana Guezmës believes that there is an imperative for the organization to be in Guatemala in light of the high rates of sexual assault, femicide, and other types of gender-based violence that affect three out of every seven Guatemalan women. The new office will also work to address the economic hardships facing women in Guatemala.
  • Authorities capture men allegedly responsible for May 1 attack in Santa Cruz Barillas. On May 25, authorities captured two men suspected of murdering Andrés Pedro Miguel and seriously injuring Pablo Antonio Pablo and Esteban Bernabé on May 1 in Santa Cruz Barillas. The two men captured have been identified as Ricardo García López and Armando Ortíz Solares, and the investigation into the attack has revealed that although López and Solares did not work for Hidro Santa Cruz SA directly, they were subcontracted to work for the company as security guards. However, Hidro Santa Cruz still denies that it is affiliated with the men in any way, and on May 26, the company warned that it would take legal action against anyone who spread false information about the company’s relationship to the two men in custody. The question still remains as to whether Hidro Santa Cruz consorted with the bodyguards to murder Miguel, or whether the men had their own motives.
  • Quiché opponents of Hidroxil, SA hydroelectric company come before Constitutional Court (CC). On May 28, representatives from Nebaj, Quiché urged the CC to annul Agreement 99-2011, created by the Ministry of Energy and Mines under former President Álvaro Colom. The agreement authorized the Spanish company Hidroxil, SA to build the La Vega 1 hydroelectric dam on the rivers of Suchum and Xajbal in Quiché. In the meeting with the CC, the representatives stated that they did not oppose the function or operation of the hydroelectric dam, but instead opposed the Spanish company’s disrespectful conduct towards the indigenous communities.
  • UDEFEGUA records a 72.24% decline in number of attacks against human rights activists in Guatemala. On May 29, UDEFEGUA released a report that found that in the first quarter of 2012, there were 68 reported attacks against human rights activists, a 72.24% decline from the 245 attacks registered in the first quarter of 2011. Udefegua also found that 40% of the 68 attacks were directed at female activists. Verbal threats, defamation, persecution, and illegal detentions are among the several types of attacks UDEFEGUA recorded.
  • Peace Archives slated to close. On May 31, Secretary of Peace Antonio Arenales Forno announced the closure of the Peace Archives, a resource created in 2008 to digitize and analyze evidence of human rights violations that occurred during the internal armed conflict. The facility’s two million documents include information on military personnel involved in the internal armed conflict as well as chains of command that specify the dates of specific massacres. Researchers from the archives have served as expert witnesses in several human rights cases, including the ongoing case against ex-Head of State Efraín Ríos Montt. Forno predicts that once the facility closes, the digitized files will go into the General Archives of Central America in Guatemala City.
  • Guatemalan government intervenes in election for Guatemalan director of FLACSO. On May 31, the Guatemalan government intervened in the election for director of the Guatemalan headquarters of the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO). The government vetoed FLACSO Guatemala’s unanimous decision to elect Dr. Óscar López Rivera, whom FLACSO Guatemala was preparing to present that day at the institution’s General Assembly meeting in Quito, Ecuador. Earlier this week, the Guatemalan government told the General Secretary of FLACSO to remove Dr. Rivera as the Guatemalan director and to expect to receive the name of a government-sanctioned replacement candidate soon thereafter. The government did not offer an explanation for its actions. Although governments are technically allowed to intervene in these elections, only in Mexico and in Chile has a governing body exercised that right in recent years. The academic institution has made a public statement denouncing the intervention.

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