Guatemala News Update: April 14-18

La Puya protesters continue fighting, despite police intimidation

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Community members at La Puya

Last week, members of the army and the police (PNC) visited San Jose de Golfo to try to break the La Puya resistance movement so that the mining company, KCA, could continue construction of the El Tambor mine that would severely contaminate the community’s water supply. The protesters believe President Otto Perez Molina is directly involved in the deployment of troops and police. A KCA spokesman denied contacting the PNC, but confirmed that he had been in communication with the Pérez Molina administration.

Support La Puya by asking KCA CEO Dan Kappes and the Ministry of the Interior in Guatemala to respect the rights of community members.

Students march against corruption and insecurity

Hundreds of San Carlos University (Usac) students gathered to march in protest of the rampant corruption and insecurity that plagues Guatemala on Friday. Various departments of the university participated, the majority centering their attention on the index of violence in the country, which stands at 16 homicides per day. In addition, in anticipation of Semana Santa, which in 2013 included 96 murders, the PNC is stepping up its forces again.

UN expresses concern for Judge Barrios suspension

The UN responded to the one-year suspension of Judge Barrios, voicing concern about Guatemala’s justice system. The International Commission of Jurists (CIJ) also spoke out against the “pact of impunity” in Guatemala that stands as an obstacle to judging gross human rights violations committed during the 30-year civil war.

GHRC and other international organizations also released a statement criticizing the suspension of Judge Barrios.

New president named to Constitutional Court

Judge Roberto Molina Barreto took on the role of president of the CC yesterday for the 2014-2015 period. Among his upcoming responsibilities will be choosing the next attorney general and the judges for the Supreme Court. Molina Barreto commented that there has been no interference in recent decisions such as the Rios Montt genocide case or the term of Claudia Paz y Paz. He also noted the necessity of reform in the judicial sector.

 Guatemalan President pleads for reelection

President Otto Pérez Molina expressed support for the possibility of reelection in Guatemala. He claimed that Guatemala has “the worst system,” and that four years are too few to effectively govern. Aristides Crespo, the head of congress, voiced his support for reelection as well, at least for the incumbents. However, there are no current plans to change the constitution in regard to the elections.

Task Force to combat crime announced 

The Guatemalan government announced its plan to “prevent, combat, dismantle and eradicate criminal actions,” specifically in areas near the Honduran border. Modeled after a similar task force in San Marcos along the Mexican border, the plan, called Fuerza de Tarea Interinstitucional Chortí (Chortí Interagency Task Force), will aim to strengthen security along the border. The “Northern Triangle” of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, according to a recent UNODC report, has the highest murder rate in the world.

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