News Update: August 31- September 6

Indigenous group brings complaint against Mining Law to IACHR

The Western People’s Council of Mayan Organizations (CPO) has filed a complaint before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IAHCR) against Guatemala’s Mining Law, based on the law’s lack of a mechanism to consult with indigenous communities, which the CPO claims violates international law. Previously, the CPO challenged the law before Guatemala’s Constitutional Court but the Constitutional Court upheld the Mining Law, leaving the CPO no recourse but the IACHR.

CICIG has new leader

Iván Velásquez Gómez is the new head of the International Comission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). President Otto Pérez Molina announced that this was the last period of CICIG in the country and the investigation of ongoing and new cases will continue until 2015, when they will have to transfer the work to the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the National Civil Police.

Polochic families demand integral support

While the government is set next week to give 140 land titles to families evicted from the Polochic Valley two years ago, these residents point out that land is not sufficient to return to a sustainable lifestyle. The area where they will be relocated is more than 80 km from their original community of Agua Caliente and lacks water, roads, and basic services. They also expressed frustration over the cumbersome and bureaucratic process of obtaining the titles.

President Otto Pérez Molina visits Santa Cruz Barillas

The Guatemalan president was met with resistance in Barillas, Huehuetenango, by opponents of the construction of a hydroelectric plant. The president gave a speech, encouraging opponents to find peaceful solutions to end the conflict over the building of the plant. The meeting will resume on September 19th with parties from both sides present, including authorities and workers from the plant.

Majority of voters reject mining in Momostenango

In a community consultation in Momostenango, Totonicapán, 51,667 people voted against mining, whereas 62 people voted in favor. Indigenous communities, farmers and ecologists are opposed to mining and hydroelectric plants that have a harmful effect on community members and the environment. The projects are usually big and transnational which present a higher level of destruction and contamination, with a lack of respect and solidarity towards the people affected by these decisions.

Violence against indigenous women continues

Tania Palencia Prado led an investigation in collaboration with Action by Churches Together with 133 indigenous women from Quiché, Sololá, Totonicapán, Huehuetenango and Quetzaltenango, who reported that violence and discrimination against them continues through the lack of access to education, health services, and justice. The study found that many of the women Indigenous women are not allowed to leave the house, work, participate in community activities, visit relatives or go to the doctor without the approval of their husband. Most of the women are also illiterate and lack opportunities to join the workforce.

Latin American producers of African palm oil will meet in Guatemala

This first-time regional congress will convene in Guatemala on October 15-18, bringing together some 500 producers and agricultural experts. The goal is to come up with a strategy to improve and increase production of palm oil throughout the region. President Pérez Molina minimized the indigenous and farmer objection to the expansion of palm oil production, saying that only a very small minority is expressing concern and gaining attention. African palm is currently being produced on 3% of cultivable land.

Supreme Court of Justice has 4 possible candidates for the presidency

The 13 magistrates that are part of the Supreme Court of Justice are divided into two groups and will start deliberating on September 18th to choose the new leader. There are 4 magistrates that have voiced their interest in the presidency, but lawyers and legislators agree that Luis Pineda Roca is the main candidate. The new leader of the Supreme Court of Justice is expected to work closely with the CICIG to improve the justice system in the country.              

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