Guatemala News Update: September 14-18

Violence in the Aftermath of REPSA Case Decision

Yesterday a judge in Guatemala ordered the temporary, six-month suspension of the activities of African Palm company REPSA while an investigation takes place into the company’s alleged role in the contamination of the La Pasión river.

Then, today, reports circulated that REPSA employees had kidnapped three human rights defenders in an alleged effort to pressure community members to withdraw their legal complaint against the company. In addition, Professor Rigoberto Lima Choc has reportedly been murdered; he was a key point person in the legal case against REPSA and one of the first people to publicly denounce the company’s contamination of the Pasión river.

Human rights group UDEFEGUA and others are denouncing that municipal authorities, police, and the Human Rights Ombudsman’s office have failed to send representatives to the scene. GHRC will provide updates as more information becomes available.

Indigenous Leader Assassinated in Guatemala

GHRC mourns the death of Guatemalan Ixil spiritual guide and indigenous leader, Sebastián Sajic Córdova, who was violently attacked on September 11, 2015. There is some speculation that the killing may be linked to the fact that Córdova was a survivor and witness in the genocide trial against Efraín Ríos Montt, though details around the attack remain unknown.

Election Update: Jimmy Morales to Face Sandra Torres in Runoff Vote

Guatemala’s election authority has finally confirmed election results for the presidential race.

As of September 15, third-place presidential candidate Manuel Baldizón (Lider) has dropped out of the presidential race. He says that “he disagrees with the results of the September 6 presidential vote that put him in third place after he was the front-runner in the polls.” Baldizón’s vice-presidential running mate, Edgar Barquín — who is being investigated for his possible role in a money laundering scheme — also declared his willingness to appear in court.

A runoff vote will take place on October 25 in which Jimmy Morales (presidential candidate) and Jafeth Cabrera (vice-presidential candidate), representing the Frente de Convergencia Nacional (FCN-Nación) party, will face Sandra Torres (presidential candidate) and Mario Leal (vice-presidential candidate), representing the Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza (UNE) party.

Hudbay Minerals Evades Justice for Crimes in Guatemala

Hudbay Minerals continues to drag out civil lawsuits in Canada and a criminal trial in Guatemala for crimes that occurred years ago. The criminal trial in Guatemala against Hudbay’s former head of security for the killing and injuring of peaceful protesters has proceeded slowly. Meanwhile, in Canada, civil lawsuits for the negligence that resulted in the gang rapes of 11 indigenous women as well as the murder and shooting of two indigenous men still have not gone to trial.

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