Weekly News Roundup Oct 19-25

Judge includes Indigenous law in the Totonicapán case
In a landmark case, the Assembly of the 48 Cantones has been accepted as a plaintiff in the case for the death of 6 campesinos in TotonicapánJudge Miguel Ángel Gálvez accepted that a legitimate indigenous organization should have legal involvement even if they don’t have legal status. Defense attorneys for the 9 soldiers that have been arrested for the death of 9 protesters oppose the ruling, because Indigenous law is not recognized by the Guatemalan Constitution. Nonetheless, Vice President of the Assembly of the 48 cantones, Eusebio Hernández, points out that “Indigenous law is accepted by Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization, to which Guatemala is a signatory.”

Community leaders of Toto finally granted dialogue with the government
On October 24th, leaders of the 48 cantones de Totonicapán and members of the government met to set up future discussions on the protests of October 4th, that led to the death of 6 indigenous protesters and left many more wounded. According to the agreement, the Commission for Constitutional Reforms will visit the community on Oct 29th to explain to indigenous leaders the proposed changes to the Constitution. The President of the 48 cantones, Carmen Tacam, wants the Constitutional reforms to include indigenous authority. Also, on October 23rd members of the community participated in a march to reiterate their demands. Marches were also carried out in Cobán, Quetzaltenango, Quiché and Huehuetenango as demonstrations of support for the community.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights urges Guatemalan government to investigate the death of the 6 protesters
On October 23rd, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights demanded that the Government of Guatemala immediately investigate the death of the six indigenous men during a protest that left dozens injured. “It’s of fundamental importance that the investigations continue until all the facts are clarified and justice has been achieved,” says a communiqué relating to the human rights of indigenous peoples.

March for Revolution demands justice for killings in Toto
Guatemalan social and labor organizations conducted their traditional march on Oct. 20th, but also used the opportunity to demand that the government clarify the killings of indigenous protestors in Totonicapán. Also among the complaints were calls for an analysis regarding the Guatemala’s mining sector. Parts of the march, however, quickly degenerated into rioting and vandalism.

Inter-American Court on Human Rights condemns Guatemala for massacre of indigenous communities between 1980 and 1982
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has condemned the State of Guatemala for five massacres perpetuated against the communities of Rio Negro, Rabinal, Baja Verapaz, by members of the military and the Civil Self-Defense Patrols (PAC) between 1980 and 1982, as well as for the persecution and elimination of the communities’ members and the subsequent violation of human rights of the survivors, including a failure to investigate the acts. The Court has determined that the State is responsible for the forced disappearance of 17 members of the Rio Negro community, and the theft of 17 more, 16 of which were children, as well as the rape of an indigenous woman.

Neighbors continue to reject mining project
Nearly 300 members of the communities of San José del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc protested in front of the municipality of San Pedro Ayampuc to reinforce their rejection of the mining project, El Tambor. The communities have blocked the entrance of workers and mining equipment to the mine since March 2nd, in a roadblock they plan to maintain until the government suspends the mining license. Meanwhile, Monday Telma Yolanda Oqueli Veliz, who was nearly killed for her activism against mining in San Jose del Golfo, spoke out publicly for the first time since the attack against her in June. “I want to tell the world that here in Guatemala there is a peaceful resistance that exists, and we are prepared to stay here as long as possible,” said Oqueli. “I am back in action, and I know that they will not silence me.”

Military contingent of Operation Martillo returns to the United States
The U.S. Southern Command contingent that participated for two months in Operation Martillo, together with the Guatemalan Military, returned to the United States on Oct. 14. During the almost 60 day operation, the military forces of both countries participated in maneuvers of interdiction of illicit trafficking, while also employing military units in support of civil security forces. The spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense, Coronel Érick Escobedo, stated that the joint operation between Guatemala and the United States has had a positive impact. He claims the combined forces seized 10 shipments of drugs, and arrested 14 people.

Guatemala assessed by members of the UN on advances in human rights
On October 24th, the Guatemalan delegation presented their report on Guatemala’s advances in human rights in Switzerland.  The report emphasized Guatemala’s approval of the Rome Statute, which establishes the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, and allows it to prosecute “serious crimes of concern to the international community.” Of the 193 member states of the UN, 58 recommended that the Guatemalan government assist vulnerable populations in Guatemala. Other recommendations included: combating violence against women, the eradication of discrimination, and security for human rights defenders and journalists. This is the second time Guatemala has submitted to the evaluation, the next assessment will be sometime within the next four and a half years.

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