Guatemala News Update: April 13-17

Families Displaced from Polochic Valley Denounce Poor Living Conditions

At a press conference on Friday, April 17, representatives of 14 communities comprising approximately 629 families evicted in 2011 from the Polochic Valley denounced their current living conditions, which have led to issues such as malnutrition and starvation. The Committee for Campesino Unity (CUC) also stated that it will deliver a preliminary Red Cross report to President Pérez Molina on the critical health situation of the families.

Community members are calling on the Guatemalan government to 1) promptly attend to the malnourished children; 2) hold a high-level meeting with community members to discuss the situation, and; 3) fulfill its obligation to grant land to all evicted families.

Top Guatemalan Officials Arrested in Crime Ring Takedown

In a joint effort by the Guatemalan Public Prosecutor’s office and the UN International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), 20 officials were arrested on Thursday, April 16, including the current and former heads of Guatemala’s tax collection agency. The officials are being accused of being part of a tax fraud and contraband ring.

A warrant was also issued for Juan Carlos Monzón, the secretary for Guatemalan Vice President Roxana Baldetti, who is accused of being one of the operation’s ringleaders and is currently out of the country.

The arrests come amidst an important debate about whether or not the CICIG’s mandate, which is set to expire in September 2015, will be renewed. Although a diverse group of Guatemalan and international organizations have advocated for its continuation, President Pérez Molina has suggested that he will not extend the Commission’s mandate.

Searching for Peace and Justice in Guatemala

The photojournalism blog of the New York Times features work by photographer James Rodríguez, a Mexican-American living in Guatemala, about the continuing search for justice in Guatemala.

Mine Manager Arrested Over Alleged Contamination in Guatemala

Carlos Roberto Morales Monzón, the general manager of a silver mine in San Rafael owned by Canada’s Tahoe Resources, was sent to pretrial detention this week by a court in Santa Rosa for the crime of industrial pollution. Prosecutors will have three months to investigate a complaint filed in 2012 by the Guatemala-based Legal, Environmental, and Social Action Center (CALAS) on behalf of residents in the area.

Guatemalan Human Rights Defender Aura Elena Farfán Amongst TIME 100 Most Influential People

Aura Elena Farfán, founder of the NGO FAMDEGUA, has been named one of TIME’s 100 most influential people. FAMDEGUA is an organization that assists relatives of those who were disappeared in Guatemala during the country’s internal armed conflict in their search for truth and justice. Watch a short video interview about FAMDEGUA here.

How the World Bank Broke its Promise to Protect the Poor

This Fusion article highlights how World Bank-funded projects have led to displacement, social conflict, deaths, and criminalization in Santa Cruz Barillas, Guatemala.

A new investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has revealed that 3.4 million people have been displaced by projects funded by the World Bank, and a recent report by Oxfam linked World Bank investments to human rights abuses all over the world.

On Friday, April 17, protesters gathered outside of the World Bank as part of the #‎bankonrights‬ campaign to call for the strengthening of Bank safeguards and the protection of human rights.

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