News Update: October 12-18

Communities celebrate Day of Resistance and Dignity of Indigenous Peoples

As an alternative to Columbus day, throughout Guatemala, various indigenous groups and organizations marched to demand that the government respect their rights in relation to mining, hydroelectric dams, and agricultural reform, once again expressing opposition to resource extraction development projects that only benefit a small sector of society. An article from La Hora highlights the inequalities indigenous peoples still suffer in Guatemala.

Two EXMINGUA employees convicted for threatening journalists

Juan José Reyes Carrera and retired military lieutenant Pablo Silas Orozco Cifuentes were sentenced to two years in prison for threatening five reporters in 2012. Both men are former employees of the Tambor mine owned by EXMINGUA, the Guatemalan subsidiary of U.S. company Kappes, Cassiday & Associates. The jail time will be suspended on the condition that both men pay a fine of about $2,000.

Ten women killed on October 12

10 women died in three separate violent attacks last Saturday, making it arguably the most violent day against women this year. So far nearly 600 women have been killed this year, a 16% increase since this time last year. Of these murders, 68.75% have been with a firearm. Since January 2012 the Public Prosecutor’s office has heard 493 cases of femicide and issued 109 sentences.

Alleged narco-trafficker heads selection commission

In 2004 the current president Otto Pérez Molina accused Gustavo Herrera, “el Gato”, of being a drug trafficker. Despite this, Herrera was appointed to head the Nominations Commissions (Commissions de Postulación), which nominate new members of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, Court of Appeals, and Supreme Court. Herrera is known for his role in fraud and money laundering and was once a wanted fugitive, but his influence and power with political parties allowed him to remain free. He has escaped justice for ten years and now has built a powerful network of impunity and corruption to control judges, justices and attorneys and assure his immunity to prosecution.

Coverage of Sosa Orantes case leaves room for criticism

In an opinion piece for Al Jazeera, Mike Allison highlights shortcomings in the US media’s coverage of Jorge Vinicio Sosa Orantes’ citizenship case, including failing to link the trial to the larger context of justice in Guatemala and the Rios Montt trial and not adequately reporting the background of the genocide. Particularly, he emphasizes the complete lack of discussion on the US involvement in the Internal Armed Conflict.

DNA tests highlight Chixoy Dam’s connection to human rights abuses

Martina Rojas was one of hundreds killed by Guatemalan security forces during the Rio Negro massacres of the early 1980s. The massacres were the government’s response to community opposition to the construction of the Chixoy Dam. Martina and many others were buried in tomb 15 on the military base known as Creompaz. The discovery of her remains confirmed the testimony of survivors that during one of the massacres, army members captured some community residents and flew them on helicopters to the military base where they were executed. The head of the base at the time, Ricardo Méndez Ruiz Rohrmoser, said in a recent book that the massacre’s source was only a conflict between towns.

Victims of the armed conflict keep fighting impunity

Indigenous people from the Ixil communities, survivors of the internal armed conflict, will receive the Solidar Silver Rose award for their contribution to social justice in a ceremony taking place in Brussels. The indigenous communities will be represented by the Center for Human Rights Legal Action (CALDH), one of the most active organizations in the search of legal solutions to human rights violations committed during the internal armed conflict. The director of CALDH, Juan Francisco Soto, stated that even though the judicial system in Guatemala has improved in some areas, there is still a lot of work needed to fight impunity in the country.

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