Guatemala News Update: August 18-22

House burning in 9 de Febrero. (Photo: Konga)

House burning in 9 de Febrero. (Photo: Konga)

Hundreds evicted and three killed in conflicts over hydroelectric dam

An agreement signed between the mining company Hidro Santa Rita and President Otto Pérez Molina on July 30 resulted in a violent eviction in Monte Olivo, Cobán, Alta Verapaz. 1,600 police were mobilized in response to the subsequent protests resulting in dozens of arrests and injuries, as well as the deaths of three campesinos in Semococh. Several indigenous organizations reported that police officers instigated the conflict that led to the extrajudicial killing of the three men. There was reportedly no consultation with the communities that would be affected by the project’s installation prior to the agreement’s signing.

Chixoy Dam protesters demand reparations or return of land

Around 350 people from the community La Campana in Chicamán, Quiché blocked the main entrance to the Chixoy Dam, demanding economic reparations or the return of their land from the dam’s operators, the National Electrification Institute (INDE). With the help of the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office and other mediators, the protesters agreed to dialogue with INDE and have left the site of the dam.

Joint police-military forces to be stationed in Alta and Baja Verapaz

In a press conference, Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez said both police and military forces will be stationed in Alta and Baja Verapaz to combat drug trafficking and organized crime. Lopez also referenced the protests in response to the eviction at Monte Olivo and the alleged kidnapping of eight police officers by residents of Raxruhá in Alta Verapaz as reasons for the increased presence.

Survey addresses issues of genocide and government authority

In a recent survey of Guatemalans, when asked whether or not genocide was committed in Guatemala, 47% said yes and 36% said no. In addition, 67% of those surveyed said they think the Guatemalan government has exceeded its authority in the way it handles issues of mining and hydroelectric projects, especially as it pertains to indigenous peoples. There have been assertions that social unrest in Guatemala is largely due to foreign influence, but this article argues that these results demonstrate that this is untrue.

Injunctions delay Supreme Court and Appeals Court nominations

The commission tasked with nominating the next Supreme Court justices as well as appeals court judges faced several delays as injunctions relating to how the postulants are graded on their ethics and honorability were granted by the courts. An El País article explains that members of the Commission often have ulterior political and economic interests which can lead to corruption in the selection process.

Guatemalan will buy new boats, but can’t keep up helicopters

The Guatemalan Navy is set to purchase two new patrol vessels with a loan from a Spanish bank for a total investment of $30 million. Meanwhile, Helicopters of Guatemala notified Guatemala’s Interior Ministry that it will cease air operations used for anti-drug surveillance and interdiction due to chronic non-payment of their contract with the government of Guatemala. The company operates and maintains 6 Huey II helicopters donated by the US to Guatemala just last year.

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