Weekly News Round Up Feb. 12-18

Communities deny participation in new attack on Hidro Santa Cruz in Barillas
The Spanish-owned hydroelectric company is claiming that on the night of February 17, a group of 15-20 people closed off the entryway and entered the construction site where they damaged equipment. The community, which resumed peaceful protests against the hydroelectric project on the 15th, says that it had nothing to do with the attacks. Community leaders insist that, as of now, they do not know who is responsible for these events. Actions such as these have, in some cases, been carried out by people linked to a company in order justify a greater police or military presence to protect its economic interests.

Meanwhile, Otto Pérez Molina spoke to Spanish businesses about investing in Guatemala. In a speech before a group of Spanish businessmen and several government officials, President Pérez Molina emphasized the need for more foreign direct investment in his country. Highlighting the abundant hydroelectric and mining resources in Guatemala, and projects that like in Barillas, he claimed that conflicts around resource extraction projects are simply a product of misinformation put forth by environmental groups, which have been “fully identified and controlled.”

Eight soldiers and one colonel will go to trial for Totonicapán killings
Colonel Juan Chiroy and eight of his soldiers will not be tried for the crime of extrajudicial execution in the killing of six protesters in Totonicapán in October of last year. Instead, the colonel is charged with breach of duty while the soldiers are charged with breach of duty and “murder in a state of violent emotion.” Judge Carol Patricia Flores determined that the soldiers fired in self-defense. On February 19th, the Public Prosecutor’s Office presented a recusal against Judge Flores.

IACHR mediation to prevent contamination in El Salvador by Guatemalan mining
On January 10, the Salvadoran Human Rights Ombudsman Office (PDH) asked the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) to mediate in order to prevent potential contamination by the Cerro Blanco mine. The gold mine is property of the Canadian company Goldcorp Inc. and is located in Guatemala near the border with El Salvador, in a region that could affect 600,000 people. It sits near the source of the water basins for El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. On February 12, Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes announced the creation ofa commission to investigate the impact of the mine. Despite concerns from many Salvadoran institutions, including the Catholic Church of El Salvador, about the dangers of the Cerro Blanco mining project, President Pérez Molina has rejected the notion that the project poses a risk of contamination. He also announced plans to resolve the conflict surrounding the mine by holding a meeting with the Salvadoran government next week.

Search for missing persons from 1983 
The program ‘Todos por el Reencuentro’ made an appeal to the Supreme Court of Justice regarding the search for 9 disappeared persons in 1983. The case began with 24 children who, in 1983, were taken to a military base in Cobán. Fourteen were found adopted in Italy and one in the capital. The program will petition Congress to ratify the International Convention Against Forced Disappearances, which Guatemala signed in 2006.

Héctor Mario López Fuentes will not stand trial
82-year-old Former Minister of Defense, Héctor Mario López Fuentes, will not be tried for genocide and crimes against humanity after a new report by the National Institute of Forensic Sciences concluded that he does not have full use of his mental faculties. The report states that he does not have the capability to understand and express himself adequately in court. His poor health, including hearing, speech and vision problems, is being blamed on the fact that he has suffered from a stroke, and has multiple myeloma and bladder and prostate cancer. His attorney has also recused the judge in charge of his trial.

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