Guatemala News Update: March 3-7

Investigation to follow death of Supreme Court Justice César Barrientos Pellecer

Guatemalan Supreme Court Justice César Barrientos Pellecer died last Sunday in Mazatenango bullet wounds to the head. News sources first presented conflicting reports as to whether his death was a suicide or a homicide; however, the National Forensic Science Institute (Inacif) confirmed that Barrientos committed suicide. GHRC expressed profound sadness regarding Barrientos’ death and released a note, written by Barrientos shortly before his death, which exemplified his dedication to justice. Now, the court must choose someone to fill the vacancy left by Barrientos.

Two years of peaceful resistance in La Puya

The communities of San José de Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc (‘La Puya’) celebrated two years of peaceful resistance last Sunday against a mining project by U.S.-owned company Kappes, Cassiday and Associates that would cause severe harm to the environment. Around 1,000 people joined a march on Sunday to commemorate the anniversary. See highlights and photos from the event here.

Claudia Paz y Paz to run for reelection

Claudia Paz y Paz announced that she will turn in her application to run for reelection as Guatemala’s attorney general on March 7. Four other candidates have officially turned in their documentation to run. Attorneys Jorge Luis Donado Vivar, Julio Cesar Rivera Clavería, Silvia Janeth García, and Edgar Abel López Sosa are the other candidates thus far. Though the CC still has not resolved the issue of when Paz y Paz’s term will officially end (May or December), the nominating committee must choose six candidates total by May 2.

Guatemala to analyze State Department’s human rights report

After the U.S. State Department released its annual human rights report on Guatemala, noting increases in homicides, impunity and corruption, President Otto Pérez Molina responded by announcing that the country will investigate the human rights abuses before taking an official position on the report. Still, he lamented that the report failed to recognize any of the advances that the country has made, including police reform.

Judge Barrios receives Annual Women of Courage Award

Judge Yassmin Barrios, who issued the initial ruling against former military leader Efraín Rios Montt, is among ten women who received the “International Award for the Courage of Women” on Wednesday. Michelle Obama participated in the awards ceremony. Barrios is lauded for her work in the Rios Montt trial, despite the fact that the decision was later overturned, and is recognized for giving a voice to the indigenous Ixil people.

Two Monte Olivo community members arrested

Two members of the resistance movement against the Santa Rita hydroelectric dam in the Monte Olivo community were arrested on Monday. The media reported that those captured were drug traffickers, criminalizing the detainees. This event is one of many acts of aggression against communities in resistance.

ACODET denounces military and police intervention in Xalalá

Police forces intervened last month in Xalalá, citing suspicions of drug trafficking activity. Residents have been protesting the construction of a dam in the community and are rejecting the notion that there is any drug activity in region; they believe the intervention is an effort to force the resistance movement out so the construction of the dam can commence. The Association of Communities for the Development and Defense of Territory (ACODET) spoke out against the arrival of National Police and military forces.

Guatemala asks for extension of UN Human Rights Commission

Guatemala applied for a three-year extension of the UN Human Rights Commission, which has been in the country since 2005. Ambassador Fernando Carrera presented the request to UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, Navi Pillay, at the UN meeting in Geneva. Carerra noted that Pillay “recognized this gesture as proof of Guatemala’s commitment to the promotion of human rights.”

Femicide increases in Guatemala in 2013

According to Guatemala’s Mutual Support Group (GAM), cases of femicide grew by almost seven percent in 2013, and represent 12.5 percent of the total 6,032 registered homicides in Guatemala in 2013. Mercedes Hernandez, President of GAM, stated that although the Rios Montt trial last year gave voice to indigenous women who were silenced by violence, it has also led to a surge in violence against women.

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