Guatemala News Update: December 1-5

Families Evicted from the Polochic Valley Call for Housing and Relocation

In March of 2011, 769 families were violently evicted from their homes in the Polochic Valley to make way for the sugar cane company Chabil Utzaj. This week, representatives from The Committee for Campesino Unity (CUC) presented a letter to President Otto Pérez Molina asking that the government honor its promise to relocate all the families. In addition, several international organizations have also been pressuring the government to fulfill its prior agreement to compensate the evicted families.

So far, only 140 families have been given land. The other 629 are still waiting without access to basic public services, food, and other necessities.

One day after receiving the letter, the government announced that it will buy two more plots of land to distribute to 250 more families in March of 2015. The remaining 379 families are slated to receive land sometime later in 2015.

Rodríguez Under House Arrest

Guatemala’s High Risk Court has accepted the petition of José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez — one of the co-defendants in the genocide trial — to be placed under house arrest instead of in pretrial detention, due to health concerns. He was also granted bail of Q 500,000.

A separate motion to send Ríos Montt to prison as he awaits trial was rejected; he will remain under house arrest. The trial is set to resume in early January, 2015.

Unit to Monitor Journalists’ Safety Set Up in Guatemala

It was announced this week that a unit will be created specifically for the protection of journalists in Guatemala. Guatemala is one of the world’s most violent countries, and threats and abuses against journalists are common. So far this year, 71 assault  have been reported by journalists, which is already more than the previous year’s total.

Inside the ‘World’s Most Dangerous’ Hospital

A BBC news piece looks at the Guatemalan hospital Federico Mora, which was dubbed by the US advocacy group Disability Rights International as the “most dangerous hospital in the Americas.” Isolation, the withholding of treatment, and sexual abuse are only some of the cruelties and abuses that patients face. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, upon being presented with the case, ordered the government to address the situation. Two years later, the government still has not acted, and Disability Rights International is launching a new case in order to force the government to shut down the hospital.

Mining Royalties Raised

The Guatemalan Congress has decided to raise mining royalties from 1 to 10 percent. As a result of this decision, the Canadian company Goldcorp, which operates Guatemala’s largest mine, is reconsidering its future investments in the country.

Campaign Launched to Support Rural Development Law

A coalition of organizations and universities has launched a campaign in support of a rural development law. Initiative 4048, first introduced ten years ago, has still not been enacted, due to information campaigns against it and congressional opposition. The coalition aims to distribute information supporting the law through social media and advertisements on a dozen buses.

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