November News Round Up

Communities Sustain Non-violent Resistance to Gold Mine
As the one-year mark of the mining license for the El Tambor gold mining project in San Jose del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc came and went, residents continued their non-violent resistance to the mine. Men, women and children have maintained a human roadblock since March 2012, prohibiting mining equipment from entering. They remain steadfast in their rejection of the mine, for the health and environmental implications – among others –  it will have for generations to come. In mid November 2012, EXMINGUA, the Guatemalan subsidiary of the US-based mining company, began paying people from surrounding communities to gather at the roadblock to provoke the protestors. The former Colonel who runs EXMINGUA and his deputy were at the scene almost every day, shouting profanities at the peaceful protestors and trying to incite violence. The communities resisted provocation and national and international organizations accompanied them day after day. They have asked the Guatemalan government to hear their demands and ensure their safety. In support of the right to protest and seeking a peaceful solution, GHRC organized a call campaign, letter writing campaign, brought community leader Yolanda Oquelí to speak at the School of the America’s Watch vigil in Georgia and did direct advocacy with the US government.

Public Prosecutor’s Office asks for phone records of Chiroy Sal
Prosecutors from the Public Prosecutor’s Office have asked the court for a record of the telephone calls made by Colonel Juan Chiroy Sal during the violent confrontation with protestors on Oct. 4 at the Cumbre de Alaska. The prosecution wants to verify if there was any communication with the Chief of Defense, Helmut Casados, and with the commanders of the Brigade of the Military Police and the Honor Guard, and with the sub-commission of Police Operations.

Time to monitor Guatemala’s mining sector?
An article from AlJazeera has again called into question the practices of Canadian mining company GoldCorp in and around its notorious Marlin mine. The gold mine, which opened in 2005 despite protests from local communities, has been a point of controversy in the international human rights community from day one. Not only have those who resisted the mine been targeted by the Guatemalan government and mining employees, but the mine has shown to be extremely detrimental to the health of local residents and the environment. Inside Story Americas presents an accompanying video.

The Guatemalan Mining Law itself has been challenged as unconstitutional
On November 27th the authorities of the Council of Western Peoples (CPO) have expressed their concern at the silence of the Constitutional Court after 8 months since an appeal was presented. “Why, when it comes to human rights and collective rights of the people, is there an attitude of discrimination and inequality in the application of justice that ought to be swift and effective?” the CPO asks in a communiqué released yesterday.

Guatemalan delegation travelling to Canada to challenge corporate impunity
A group from El Estor, Guatemala, will travel to Toronto to give their testimony against Canadian company HudBay Minerals, who they are claiming is responsible for the death of indigenous leader Adolfo Ich, the shooting of activist German Chub, and the gang-rape of 11 Q’eqchi’ women in 2007. It has yet to be determined by Canadian courts whether the lawsuit should be heard in Canada or Guatemala. “This is obviously a very important question with potentially very significant ramifications for the rest of the Canadian mining industry,” says a lawyer at Klippensteins, who is representing the Guatemalan plaintiffs.

Priest charged in assassination of Bishop released
A Guatemalan judge has ordered the release of Catholic priest Mario Orantes, sentenced to 20 years of prison for his connection to the assassination of Bishop Juan Gerardi. Gerardi, founder of the Office of Human Rights of the Archdiocese of Guatemala, was killed just three days after he released a report entitled “Recovery of Historical Memory, Guatemala Never Again,” which documented more than 50,000 human rights violations during Guatemala’s internal armed conflict. The Public Prosecutor’s Office has opposed the decision of the judge and will appeal the release of Orantes.

Guatemala’s ‘Little School of the Americas’
Since February anthropologists have been exhuming the remains of the disappeared at a military base in Cobán, Guatemala, where experts have found more than 400 skeletons buried in mass graves from the 36- year internal armed conflict. The base is still active, though it was renamed in 2006 to CREOMPAZ, or Regional Training Command for Peacekeeping Operations. The new title is misleading, says a Guatemalan anthropologist, “It is a school of assassins. The little School of the Americas.” In a recent report by Amnesty International, the Guatemalan military was criticized for impeding the search for justice in thousands of cases of murder and disappearances during the internal armed conflict.

Human Rights Defenders are being criminalized
On November 14th, at the annual meeting of Human Rights Defenders in Guatemala it was concluded that, “The human rights defenders are being criminalized as a tactic to discredit and defame the work they do.” According to Maripaz Gallardo of the Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (UDEFEGUA) the intent of the defamation and criminalization is to stop these advocates from doing their work. Participants agree that such complaints will continue as the authorities have not paid much attention to the problem.

Toto, 4/10/12: First massacre by the military since the Peace Accords
An eye opening essay from Plaza Publica that provides details about what happened on October 4th in Totonicapán, the reactions of the Guatemalan government, and of the Catholic Church. The author commends the Public Prosecutors Office for the in-depth investigation on the incident but notes that the investigation did not look into the involvement of high ranking military officials. The article also highlights that the recruitment of indigenous soldiers to carry out violence against indigenous communities is reminiscent of the armed conflict.

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