Weekly News Roundup

August 3-August 9
  •  Judge sentences former official to prison for falsification of environmental impacts from oil. On August 1st, a judge sentenced Sergio Veliz Rizzo, former secretary of the Protected Natural Areas Bureau, to three years in prison for ideological falsification and crimes against the constitution. The judge found that in 2007, Rizzo, who was in charge of the publication of a report on the Mayan Biosphere, eliminated paragraphs of the report that indicated the environmental damage caused by oil driling in the El Tigre lagoon by Perenco. While it is unlikely that Rizzo will actually serve any time in prison, the sentence is of extreme importance in investigating who the government is backing and working for.
  • Former members of the military deny that Coban remains are results of massacres. To date, the site in the former Military Zone 21, in Coban, Alta Verapaz, has yielded 316 skeletons, many of which are blindfolded or tied with ropes. The exhumations have been carried out by the Foundation for Forensic Anthropology (FAFG), and according to testimonies, the remains are those of people accused of being guerrillas during the internal armed conflict. El Periódico attempted to speak with various former members of the military who directed or led the military base in the 1980s, many of whom refused to speak about the remains or said that they were from two local cemeteries.
  • Court upholds appeal in Rios Montt case. On August 6th, the Constitutional Court affirmed an appeal by the Fourth Criminal Court in the Dos Erres case, which sought to stall the process and seek the application of the Reconciliation Law. By upholding the appeal, the Court has allowed the Fourth Criminal Court to decide if the law should apply to this case, which would grant amnesty to Rios Montt. Attorney Edgar Pérez, a representative of the organization Association of Families of the Detained and Disappeared of Guatemala (FAMDEGUA), called the decision absurd, noting that the Inter American Court on Human Rights had previously established that no reduction of responsibility or amnesty could be applied to those accused in the Dos Erres case.
  • Campesinos create roadblocks in protest. On August 8th, representatives from the National Coordination of Campesino Organizations created roadblocks at 16 points along major highways in the country, to protest the rise of electric energy, demand the approval of the Rural Development Law, and to protest mining, among other concerns. Leaders of the organization intended to protest outside the Presidential House but reported their intent to withdraw if a police presence was established in the area, saying that they did not want any conflicts.

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