Weekly News Roundup Oct 5th-11th

9 arrested for extrajudicial execution in Totonicapán
Coronel Juan Chiroy Sal and 8 soldiers were apprehended on Thursday October 11th, accused of extrajudicial execution. Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz stated to the press that following preliminary investigations, the Public Prosecutor’s Office has concluded the Coronel brought his troops to the blockade without informing the authorities of the National Civil Police, who were in charge of dissolving the protests, and then abandoned them without a planned escape route. She also noted that this is the first time since the signing of the Peace Accords in 1996 that soldiers have been arrested for participation in events such as those of October 4th.

Pérez Molina states the Army will not intervene in protests
The President stated the government will no longer use the army to break up public protests or mobilizations following the death of 8 indigenous protesters in Totonicapán last week. This weekend the Minister of Defense, the Minister of the Interior, the Secretary of the Security Council, and the Coordinator of National Dialogue came together to analyze Guatemala’s security protocols. Together they decided that moving forward, the army will only be used in cases of organized crime and drug trafficking. Pérez Molina also stated that future protests will be regulated by the anti-riot forces of the National Civil Police, and if necessary they will modify a government agreement that regulates the participation of troops in the security of citizens. Campesinos and indigenous community members still worry that this promise will only exchange one aggressive security force for another.

Details of the confrontation in Totonicapán begin to immerge
The indigenous community continues to mourn the eight victims of last week’s fatal clash between Guatemalan security forces and protesters. The protesters were blockading the Inter-American highway when two vehicles carrying soldiers arrived to help police, who had been ordered to evict the demonstrators; gunfire erupted after the troops came. . Many protesters have stated that despite their peaceful protest, the soldiers arrived with rifles, helmets and tear gas. There has been a call for all indigenous and campesino organizations to participate in a national march on Oct. 12 in response to the deadly incident.

Two groups from the UN to investigate what happened in the clash
Two groups of human rights experts from the UN began investigations on Friday. The office of the UN’s High Commission for Human Rights is sending one group to Sololá and one to Totonicapán after receiving “contradictory reports” regarding the incident. On Thursday President Pérez Molina stated that two army vehicles arrived with troops to support the police, and that the soldiers were unarmed and only carried anti-disturbance equipment. He also stated the clash was motivated by civilians who arrived in a truck and shot at the protesters. Later the President acknowledged that government forces opened fire during the protest Thursday. Bullets from the scene have been identified as 5.56 caliber, used in Galil rifles, a weapon used exclusively by the Army.

USAC students blockade Avenida Petapa in response to acts in Toto
Students from the University of San Carlos (USAC) decided on Monday to block roads and impede transportation on Avenida Petapa, zone 12, over the incident last week in Totonicapán. The Coordinator of Mayan Organizations for the Reform of the State has requested the resignation of the Minister of the Interior, Mauricio Lopez, and the Minister of Defense, Ulises Anzueto, as well as the dismissal of Human Rights Ombudsman Jorge de Leon,  who they charge has had a passive attitude towards “flagrant violations” of the human rights of the victims of the events last Thursday. In addition, the group has solicited the dismissal of Coordinator of National Dialogue, Migueal  Ángel Barlcárcel, for “his inefficiency” in the negotiation processes with community leaders in Totonicapán.

Menchu states that militarization would be a huge setback
Winner of the 1992 Nobel Peace Price, Guatemalan Rigoberta Menchu, stated in El Salvador that the “If the solution to problems of violence is a return to militarization and a return to repression, it would be a huge setback … for the achievements of the civil national police forces, or for the new doctrine of these countries’ militaries in armed conflict, or for a democratic society,” says Menchu. In the same interview, Menchu warns against the “criminalization” of the poor and of the social fight in these countries of Central America.

Guatemalan journalist receives death threats
The Center for Journalists Observatory Reports on Guatemala (CERIGUA) and Reporters without Borders have condemned the death threats against Carolina Vasquez Araya, columnist and editor of the Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre. Vasquez Araya, who had recently written a column exposing the criminal activities of a plantation owner, explained that threats now usually come from public officials, politicians, drug lords, big agribusiness, mining companies, and hydroelectric companies. When trying to make a legal complaint against the threats, Vasquez Araya was told by a Public Ministry official, “These cases never go anywhere and are not worth denouncing.”

Prosecutor accuses former police chief of assault on the Spanish Embassy in 1980
On October 4th, Guatemala’s Prosecution Office formally accused the former Chief of Command Six of the now defunct National Police, Pedro Garcia Arredondo, for the assault on the Embassy of Spain in Guatemala by security forces in 1980, which left 37 dead. Garcia Arredondo is also being accused of the deaths of two university students who attended the funeral of the victims, two days after the embassy attack.

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