Weekly News Roundup Oct 12th-18th

9 from Guatemalan military arrested in killings of protesters
Nine members of the military, including a Colonel, were arrested on October 11th. They are charged with extrajudicial execution in connection with the death of 6 protesters in Totonicapán on Oct 4th. Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz stated at a news conference that the Public Prosecutor’s Office holds “Colonel Chiroy Sal principally responsible for the acts because he had a position of command over the actions of his troops, but he abandoned them.” The Colonel is also accused of ignoring orders of the National Civil Police, who had been ordered to disperse the crowd, to stay away from the protesters. The Colonel’s lawyer refutes these claims, and has stated that Colonel Chiroy left to evacuate one of the wounded, and tried to return, but couldn’t.  According to the report from the National Institute of Forensic Science (INACIF), the victims of the massacre are thought to have been attacked directly, given the position of the bullets.

Supreme Court of Justice denies the petition for the removal of Immunity
Gabriel Medrano, the President of the Court has announced that the petition for the removal of immunity for President Pérez Molina and the Minister of Defense, Ulises Anzueto, has been rejected stating, “There is no relation between the instructions of both officials and the terrible events [in Totonicapán].” According to Guatemalan law, the Congress decides whether or not to remove the immunity of the President, Vice President, or other officials.

UK owner of Guatemalan energy firm urged to act after protest deaths
Energuate, a company majority owned by Actis, a UK firm, has been urged to take action after the deaths in the protests over rising energy costs, constitutional amendments and a revision of the teacher training program in Totonicapán. Energy rates in Totonicapán have more than doubled in the past year, and members of the community who do not live in the town center have to pay for street lights around their homes. Energuate supplies energy to 1.4 million people in Guatemala and states that they only charge what the National Electric Energy Commission stipulates. Maynor Amezquita, a communications officer for Energuate stated, “Fundamentally this situation produced a conflict that we didn’t cause.”

The Guatemalan Government has yet to define the compensation for victims of the conflict
Peréz Molina stated that they still have not made a decision regarding the type of compensation they will give to the families of the victims who died during the October 4th protests. They wish to resolve the matter as quickly as possible, and are also considering compensating wounded protesters. Meanwhile, the Association of the 48 Cantones continues to call for investigations. The president, Juana del Carmen Tacán says that although the government can compensate the families, it is also important not to forget the fundamental issues that caused the protest.

Amnesty rejected for Efrain Rios Montt, accused of genocide
A judge in Guatemala denied a petition for amnesty solicited by Guatemalan ex-dictator Efraín Rios Montt (1982-1983), who seeks to avoid penal prosecution for the massacre of 201 hundred campesinos in 1982. “The petition for amnesty put forward is frivolous and unnecessary,” says the resolution that rejected the amnesty appeal. The Prosecution holds Rios Montt responsible for the military operation that killed 201 campesinos in Dos Erres, Peten, during his regime in the middle of the internal armed conflict.

Mining industries to be included on council for awarding licenses
The minister of Energy and Mines, Erick Archila, presented on October 12th a proposal to reform the Mining Law that would create a mining council that would include a representative from the extractive industries, potentially giving those industries a hand in awarding mining licenses. Another criticized aspect of the initiative is that it does not include community consultations because, according to Archila, “it is not the role of the Ministry of Energy and Mines to clarify this aspect.”

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