News Update: September 28 – October 4

Friday marks the one year anniversary of massacre in Totonicapán

A plaque in honor of the victims was unveiled today in commemoration of the killing of six protesters in Cumbre de Alaska one year ago. Family members have suffered greatly due to this tragedy, and one widow told Siglo 21 “sometimes I don’t have anything to eat.” Surviving family members express discontent for not receiving more attention from officials, and for the stalled status of the legal process.

High tensions arise around Santa Cruz Barillas

On September 28 , thousands of residents in the municipality of Santa Eulalia were brutally repressed by riot police, who came to arrest anti-dam activist Maynor Manuel López Barrios. This spurred an escalation of protests in the area, resulting in at least three injuries. One account reports police shooting, firing tear gas and throwing stones at civilians. 150 soldiers and 80 police officers were deployed to maintain control of the situation.

One soldier, Víctor Miguelito Soria Pacheco, was killed during a clash between security officials and community members and the police station was damaged. Military sources claim the soldier was unarmed, but other reports suggest that he died because of complications when he tried to fire his own weapon.

Government officials and members of the community agreed to have round table discussions about the hydroelectric plant on October 8th. The authorities agreed to reduce the number of police officers in the area by 50% and the community agreed to stop protesting and blocking the streets.

Authorities announced that foreigners on a tourist visa will be expelled from the country if they participated in the protests disturbing the peace. Community leaders responded by saying that the hydroelectric plants and mining industries are the ones that have to be expelled first since they belong to foreigners.

The Ministry of Interior, Mauricio López Bonilla, stated that 40 people have been issued arrest warrants for threats, destruction of property and possession of illegal weapons in the region. López Bonilla stated that the list of wanted people will be public so the community can understand that community leaders and local mayors are not the targets, but criminals involved in illegal activities are.

Iván Velásquez Assumes Leadership of CICIG

Iván Velásquez became the head of the Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala on October 1. He met with President Otto Pérez Molina who reaffirmed that the Commission will not be renewed and that Velásquez’s primary task would be to transfer capacities to the Attorney General’s Office. Velásquez also met with Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz on Thursday.

No New Supreme Court President Picked Yet

The Supreme Court of Justice did not choose a new leader for 2013-2014 when the internal election began on October 2. Justice Rogelio Zarceño Gaitán was the only candidate to receive an up-or-down vote. Seven justices voted in his favor, but he did not receive the nine votes necessary to gain the position. New rounds of voting will continue until the Supreme Court of Justice is able to choose a new leader. This election is notable because it highlights two voting blocks on a panel that normally votes unanimously and whoever wins will play a major role in the 2014 Attorney General election.

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