Weekly News Round-Up, March 18-25

Day 1 of Genocide Trial
On March 19, 2013, the historic trial opened against Rios Montt and Rodríguez Sánchez. After almost two hours of delays by the Defense, the trial began. The public prosecutor stated that the objective of military operational plans under Ríos Montt was the destruction of the Mayan Ixil population as part of a counter-insurgency campaign that characterized civilians of this ethnic and linguistic minority as an “internal enemy”. Attorney Edgar Pérez rejected assertions that the act of seeking justice is itself an act of terrorism or an effort to destabilize Guatemalan society. Political pressure on the actors involved has been intense, and just before the trial begain, President Otto Perez Molina’s denied that genocide took place. Perez told reporters: “It is important to state it because I lived it: there was no genocide in Guatemala.” Marcie Mersky, Program Director at the International Center for Transitional Justice, says such comments may influence legal proceedings and are inappropriate.

Lolita Chávez participates in month-long speaking tour in Canada and US
In events in Montreal, Ottowa, Vancouver, BC and Washington, DC, Lolita Chavez spoke about the work of the K’iche’ People’s Council and community resistance to harmful transnational development projects. In an interview with Montreal Gazette, Lolita stated that: “Canadian companies are the main protagonists in this invasion that brings only death and destruction.” A short video interview is available here.

Kidnapping and murder of Indigenous leader causes outcry
On March 17, 2013, community leaders from Santa María Xalapán were kidnapped on March 17, 2013 when returning from a community consultation regarding mining activity in the area. Rigoberto Aguilar and Roberto López were found beaten up with signs of torture, while Roberto González, president of the Xinca Parliament and Administrator of the indigenous community of Santa María Xalapán, who was disappeared, was found on March 19, 2013 unharmed. Exaltación Marcos Ucelo, was found dead inside a vehicle. The international community, including GHRC and CIEL, denounced the tragic killing and has urged a full investigation. Daniel Pascual, leader of the United Peasant Committee (CUC), has denounced the kidnappings and murder in Jalapa as a consequence of unresolved “agrarian conflictivity” with landowners in the region.

Another community in San Rafael Las Flores rejects mining project
The fourth in a series of 26 community consultations, on March 23, 2013 revealed that the majority of community members oppose any activity related to chemical mining. 46 of 48 who cast ballots voted “no” to the “development, installation, construction, and operation of any type of chemical mining in the area.”

Vamos al Grano and Ser Ixim groups seek support for displaced Polochic families
The two organizations made a traditional sawdust carpet in the capital to show their solidarity with the Polochic Valley families that have been displaced and are currently living in precarious conditions. They also asked that the government comply with its promise to find lands and relocate the 769 Q’eqchi’ families that were forcibly evicted in March 2011. At the petition of GHRC and other organizations, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights granted precautionary measures to protect the affected families in 2011, yet the Guatemalan government has not complied with the measures.

The situation of indigenous women should be an international priority
In a roundtable discussion in Madrid’s Casa de América, Guatemalan activist Otilia Lux de Cotí highlighted the importance of focusing international attention on issues relating to indigenous women.

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