Guatemala News Update: June 16-20

Lawsuit filed against Tahoe Resources

A lawsuit is being filed against Tahoe Resources in relation to the violence that occurred during a 2013 peaceful protest at the Escobal silver mine in San Rafael Las Flores. The mine’s security guards are being accused by seven Guatemalans of attacking them and critically injuring Luis Fernando García Monroy after shooting him three times, once in the face. The lawsuit also accuses Tahoe’s Chief of Security in Guatemala, Alberto Rotondo, of various crimes, including ordering the attack on the peaceful protestors, fabricating a story that the demonstrators attacked mine employees, and arranging the tampering of evidence.

In related news, a recent article by the Council on Hemispheric Affairs regarding Canadian mining in Latin America has sparked debate over the adverse consequences of Canadian mining companies abroad.

World Bank loan approved

The World Bank approved a US$340 million development policy loan to Guatemala this week. Civil society groups had urged the bank to consider delaying the loan until the Guatemalan government formalizes reparations for communities impacted by the construction of the Chixoy dam in the 1980s.

After much back and forth, the Guatemalan government is currently analyzing a counterproposal presented by representatives of the communities impacted by the construction of the Chixoy dam. If community representatives are disappointed by the government’s response, they plan to travel to Washington to seek more conditions placed on aid to Guatemala.

Immigration to be discussed at multilateral meeting

US Vice President Joe Biden met with leaders from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras to discuss the spike in unaccompanied minors crossing the US-Mexico border. During the meeting Guatemala President Otto Pérez Molina said he would propose that Mexico send deportees to their respective countries instead of the Guatemalan border, which allegedly happens often. He also plans to discuss other related subjects like creating employment opportunities in border areas to decrease the current migration flow.

In related news, Yuvixa Morazán, President of the Guatemalan Committee of Arizona, has complained that Guatemalan consular services are failing detained minors and should be helping them with basic provisions and supplies. According to the Guatemalan government, 1,522 Guatemalan minors are currently being detained in the US after entering the country irregularly.

WOLA report on “Mexico’s other Border”

A recent Washington Office on Latin America report explores the issue of migration with a special focus on Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala. The report argues that the surge in migration is not a result of lax border security, but rather is driven by the “perfect storm” of violence, poverty, and weak states.

Community protests against cement plant

Thousands of resident Kaqchikeles from San Juan Sacatepéquez marched earlier this week in Guatemala City to protest against the construction of a cement plant, a new road, and the installation of a military brigade in their community. In response, the government promised to meet with community leaders and review their petitions. Protesters claim that government authorization of these projects violates their collective rights as an indigenous community and are concerned about the environmental impact the projects will have.

Advancement of cases of sexual violence against girls has been slow

1,435 cases of sexual violence committed against girls ages 14 and under have been reported in Guatemala this year. Of the 1,435 cases, only 273 are in the advanced stages of investigation and only 85 have resulted in arrest warrants. Vice President Roxana Baldetti expressed her concern at these statistics and Attorney General Thelma Aldana confirmed that the advancement of these cases has been slow.

In related news, the 2005 unsolved case of a 19-year-old law student who was raped and shot in the head in Guatemala City will be examined by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights early next year.

Two former soldiers charged for crimes committed during the internal armed conflict

Two men have been arrested and charged with crimes against humanity and forced disappearance during Guatemala’s internal armed conflict. One of the men is ex-commissioner Heriberto Valdez Asij, accused of the forced disappearance of 18 people during a military operation on August 25, 1982 in Izabal. The other is Francisco Reyes Girón, former commander of Sepur Zarco in El Estor, Izabal, who is accused of giving the order to capture and execute a mother and her three daughters between 1982 and 1983. According to investigations by the prosecution, at least 15 women were victims of sexual violence in the military detachment of Zarco Sepur during that time. The 15 women first reported the sexual abuse in September 2011 and a year later gave their testimony in a courtroom in anticipation of a case such as this.

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