News Update: June 12-21

Human Rights and Land Conflicts:

El Salvador Accuses Guatemala of Pollution from Mine: President Otto Pérez Molina has denied claims put forth by El Salvador and its Archbishop that the Cerro Blanco mine is polluting rivers and lakes in El Salvador.

San Pedro Ayampuc and San José de Golfo continue to resist mine: In a recent meeting, President Otto Pérez Molina, the Minister of Energy and Mines, the Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources and 10 community leaders from San Pedro Ayampuc and San José de Golfo discussed the resistance to the proposed gold mine. Communities were firm in their rejection of the project. During the meeting, 150 inhabitants of San Pedro Ayampuc and San José de Golfo protested outside of the Presidential Palace.

Guatemalan Agricultural Engineers Association criticizes government´s approach to addressing conflict around land and natural resources. The Association accused the government of defending business interests, criminalizing community leaders and militarizing regions where development projects are planned.

Environmentalists at risk in Guatemala: The Center for Legal, Environmental, and Social Action (CALAS) has reported that the current administration has a policy of systemic persecution of environmental activists. CALAS research found that between 1989 and 2012 there have been 50 murders of environmental activists, as well as 400 cases of violations of rights of activists. 

Lawyer seeks files complaint against criminal prosecution of Xinca people. Sergio Belteton, the lawyer representing Xinca leader Roberto González Ucelo, stated that the government has criminalized this community for their opposition to mining projects.

Militarization:

Soldiers arrive in Escuintla, Huehuetenanto and Zacapa, charged with reinforcing citizen security in these departments. The squadrons will be armed with pistols and Galil rifles, though Interior Minister Lopez Bonilla stated that they will acquire sub-machine guns in the coming months. He also explained that, over the long term, these squadrons would be reduced as more police officers are dispatched. Approximately 1,500 soldiers are estimated to have been deployed.

Trial Updates:

Judge Removed from Dos Erres case: The Public Prosecutor’s Office has recused Judge Carol Patricia Flores from presiding over the case against Ríos Montt’s for the massacre in Dos Erres, arguing that she has favored Rios Montt in prior rulings.

35 members of the European Parliament express concern over the ruling in the genocide case, stating: “The idea…that amnesty laws of the past could apply to international crimes isn’t coherent with international law nor with the commitments undertaken by Guatemala” in the framework of the Peace Accords.

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