News Update: June 22-July 1

March in memory of disappeared victims of the Civil War

On June 30, the same day as National Army Day, HIJOS (Sons and Daughters for Identity and Justice against Forgetting and Silence) held their fifth annual peaceful march in the Historic Center of Guatemala City. The roughly 500 protesters hold the army accountable for the 45,000 people that disappeared during the war.

Land rush for sugarcane leaves thousands without land

Due to the increasing demand of bio fuel throughout Europe and the US, sugarcane has become an increasingly popular crop. Because of this, many companies are buying up land in Guatemala that was once used by corn farmers. Since they cannot afford to match the rent offered by sugarcane companies, many small-scale farmers are being forced to move, which is what happened in the Polochic Valley in 2011. As of May, nearly 1 million people were involved in over 1,400 land disputes in Guatemala.

Increase in attacks against human rights defenders

According to the Human Rights Ombudsman Jorge de León Duque, there has been an increase in attacks, assassinations and threats against human rights defenders this year. Four have been assassinated and nearly 500 reports of aggression have been registered. Many believe that the increase has to do with the recent genocide trial of Ríos Montt because it raised the profile of human rights defenders on a national level.

Court Overrides Orders to Capture and Extradite Jorge Serrano Elías

On Jun 25, the Third Court of Appeals suspended orders to arrest and extradite former President Jorge Serrano Elías on the basis that his due rights to process and defense were violated. Serrano was President of Guatemala from 1991 to 1993 when he committed a “self coup d’état” in which he dissolved Congress, the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court to reinstate a new regime. He has spent the past 20 years in Panama. However, the suspension of the arrest order was overturned on June 27 by the Supreme Court.

The Army remains in Jalapa and Santa Rosa

Despite the State of Siege having come to an end May 9, the army remains in Jalapa and Santa Rosa. The Ministry of Defense says that the National Police has requested that they stay in the areas, and that by doing so, they are maintaining an environment of peace. Local officials, however, are against their extended stay.

Judge Flores denies that she has shown a bias toward former Head of State Rios Montt as alleged by the Public Prosecutor’s Office and joint prosecutors. As such, she has refused to recuse herself from the Dos Erres case. Examples of bias provided by the prosecution include charging Rios Montt with genocide instead of murder and thus allowing him to be placed under house arrest instead of in prison. However, Judge Flores claims that her interest lies strictly with the law.

Pérez Molina removes Director of National Police

President Pérez Molina announced on his television show that he was removing the director of the National Police, Gerzon Oliva. Members of the civil society say it was retaliation for recent statements in Congress regarding a lack of resources for police. However, government officials justify it as reorganization and readjustment. Oliva will step down on July 16 and will be succeeded by Telémaco Pérez García.

Ministry of Interior will spend Q87 million on weapons for National Police

After complaints from the director of the National Police regarding obsolete weapons and an overall lack of arms, Interior Minister López Bonilla has authorized spending Q87 million on new guns. He acknowledges that in past administrations the acquisition of arms has failed, but he promises transparency this time around.  The government will soon receive the first batch of 10,000 pistols and rifles.

New Minister of Defense announced

It was announced on National Army Day that General López Ambrosio would replace Noé Ulises Anzueto as Minister of National Defense. López Ambrosio has served in the army for over 30 years as a Kaibil, parachutist, and most recently, Chief of Staff of National Defense.

Presidential Commission against Femicide replaced with a task force

President Perez Molina will eliminate the Presidential Commission against Femicide, but will strengthen the Task Force against Femicide. He says the Commission itself does not accomplish what the situation needs, which he claims to be detaining people who commit femicide. He says a task force will achieve this.  Helen Mack argues that a task force will not be able to carry out all of the work done by the Commission such as providing attention to victims.


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