Weekly News Round-Up, April 1-5

Perez Molína sells Puerto Quetzal
Over Easter weekend, Perez Molína sold Puerto Quetzal to a Spanish company. Protesters hung banners around the city denouncing Molína’s decision, and insist that the sale was illegal. The company that purchased the port, Terminal de Contenedores de Barcelona (TCB), plans to construct a dock and terminal that deals directly to Spain.

Paz y Paz named in Newsweek’s 125 Women of Impact
Claudia Paz y Paz was named one of Newsweek’s 125 Women of Impact. This is one of several awards that she has received in recent years for her work as Attorney General of Guatemala

Guatemala signs agreement with ILO
Guatemala’s Minister of Labor Carlos Contreras announced on April 3rd the signing of a formal agreement with the International Labor Organization to strengthen labor relations and guarantee the security of union members. The agreement, which aims to prevent violence against organized labor, comes after 15 years of reports to the ILO of human rights violations committed against union members.

Xincas demand justice
Representatives of the Xinca demanded that the government investigate the murder of community leader Exaltación Marcos Ucelo and the kidnapping of the president of the local parliament Roberto González. The representatives solicited the accompaniment of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) to the Ministry of Governance and the Public Ministry. They also demanded that the authorities stop criminalizing Xinca leaders.

Indigenous Identity and Rights
On March 31, 2013, the Agreement over the Identity and Rights of the Indigenous People (Acuerdo sobre Identidad y Derechos de los Pueblos Indígenas) reached its 18 year anniversary. The agreement affirms that “transformation begins with a clear recognition by all Guatemalans of the reality of racial discrimination and the necessity to overcome this in order to peacefully coexist.” There is a pressing need for political reality to reflect recognition that Guatemala is a multicultural society. Land conflicts, racist rhetoric, the lack of dialogue regarding extractive industries, use of the military in Barillas and Totonicapán  and contradicting views about the demand for justice in the genocide trial suggest that exclusion is endemic and fulfillment of the agreement is still pending.

Rejection of Mining Projects
Social and environmental organizations announcedtheir intention to use legal measures to fight the two new mining projects in Santa Rosa and Izabal which were approved by the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) early last week. Claudia Samayoa of the Convergence for Human Rights expressed her concern over the recent episodes of violence against members of the community who spoke out against a mining project in the San Rafael and says she fears that these types of attacks may be repeated. The Guatemalan Center for Environmental and Social Legal Action (CALAS) is one of the organizations that says it will use legal actions against the approval of the mining licenses. The MEM gave an official response to the announcements of these organizations, claiming that the arguments being made against the mining projects are invalid.

Trial Update
On April 2, fifteen Ixil women from the Nebaj, Cotzal y Chajul, and Quiché communities testified about being raped by soldiers between 1982 and 1983. Most of the incidents took place by a military unit in the Xalbal community, where the victims were taken to soldiers to be used as sexual slaves for several weeks. Measures taken to protect the dignity of the victims included covering victims’ faces and asking journalists to not reveal their names. Before the trial began, activists and representatives of women’s organizations rallied outside the Supreme Court of Justice showing their solidarity with the victims.

A witness who worked as a mechanic for the Kaibiles testified that President Pérez Molina coordinated the burning, removal and execution of people in the Ixil Triangle. The government stated that it was irresponsible of the Prosecutor to have allowed the testimony. The district attorney, on the other hand, said that he trusts the witness’s testimony completely.

The Constitutional Court’s ruling to permit evidence presented by the defense has been cloaked in uncertainty and suspicion. The decision requires that Judge Miguel Ángel Gálvez take four days off from the trial to solicit, analyze, and then return the evidence. Meanwhile, the trial will continue as planned.

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