On November 8, Guatemala’s president, Otto Perez Molina, apologized on behalf of the Guatemalan government for the human rights violations that 33 indigenous Maya Achi communities suffered because of the construction of the Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam. Many were forced to relocate against their will, losing their land and livelihoods and 444 men, women and children from affected communities were massacred.
President Perez Molina signed into law Decree #378-2014, an agreement to provide $153.8 million in reparations to those affected by the Chixoy Dam. Starting in 2015, the money will be distributed among the 33 communities over the next fifteen years. In addition, some of the money will go toward community development projects in the Chixoy Dam affected area.
On Thursday, November 13, for the third day in a row, campesino organizations blocked highways and roads in the north, west, and east of the country to call on the Guatemalan Congress to repeal certain laws that affect them negatively and approve others that would support farmers.
A related article describes protests outside of the Congress by a group demanding to be heard about its request for a rural development law.
On November 14, Daniel Pascual, leader of the Committee for Campesino Unity (CUC), denounced the death of Vásquez Cruz, a resident who was involved in the protests. Cruz died from injuries received when security forces attempted to end the road blockade in Sanarate, El Progreso.
As part of GHRC’s Fall Speaker’s Tour, Miriam Pixtún visited the Midwest to discuss the roots and goals of the “La Puya” nonviolent resistance movement and to describe the Guatemalan government’s overwhelming lack of respect for indigenous rights. As an active member of the movement, Miriam shared her experiences at La Puya, and also spoke about government corruption, racism sexism in Guatemalan society. She also met with indigenous groups to compare experiences with environmental resistance movements in the US and Guatemala.
The tour concluded with a visit to Reno, Nevada, where two mining companies with projects in Guatemala have their headquarters. In Reno, environmental activists from Nevada and Guatemala delivered a letter to the Nevada Mining Association, calling for the organization to expel companies that violate human rights and hold all of its members to high human rights standards. You can support of this demand by participating in GHRC’s email campaign aimed at leaders of the Nevada Mining Association.
This article provides an in-depth look at the conflict and subsequent State of Prevention which occurred in the municipality of San Juan Sacatepéquez in mid-September. During the State of Prevention, the 12 communities of San Juan endured fear, intimidation, and severe economic hindrances. Over 1,300 accusations of human rights violations have come to light as a direct result of this use of martial law.
In response, the women of San Juan Sacatepéquez took to the streets of Guatemala City in protest on October 24 to call on President Otto Pérez Molina to end the suspension of constitutional rights. Days later, on October 31, the government lifted the state of prevention. Despite this, however, security forces have not left the communities; they continue to have a strong presence in San Juan Sacatepéquez.
Guatemalan activist, Benjamín Manuel Jerónimo received the 2014 Edelstam Prize from Sweden for his important contributions to the defense of human rights in Guatemala, especially his work in the case against Efraín Ríos Montt on charges of genocide against the Maya Ixil population. Although Ríos Montt’s first trial was annulled, in a questionable ruling by the Constitutional Court, he is set for a retrial in early 2015.
Jerónimo said, “We believe that our loved ones who were killed cannot rest in peace yet, we have to do something for them… to expose what they suffered and seek justice for them.”
Guatemalan President Pérez Molina and other presidents from the region presented their Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle at the Inter-American Development Bank on Friday, Nov. 14. The Plan seeks to stimulate economies, develop human capital, improve public safety and access to justice, and strengthen public institutions.
At an event day before with the foreign ministers from Guatemala and El Salvador, GHRC raised questions regarding concerns about the lack of consultation and the conflict generated by the large scale development projects proposed in the plan. In response, the Guatemalan foreign minister replied: We don’t want another Chioxy; I will be the first to demand consultation.”