Guatemala News Update: October 5-9

Appeals court rejects amnesty for Ríos Montt

A Guatemalan appeals court has rejected former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt’s request for amnesty in a trial regarding Montt’s responsibility for war crimes and genocide. Though Montt was recently diagnosed with dementia, he will face a special, closed-door trial in early 2016. Due to his condition, Montt will be represented by his lawyers.

Ambassador Thomas Shannon Visits Guatemala

US Ambassador Thomas A. Shannon, Counselor of the Department of State, traveled to Guatemala City from October 7-9.

In a meeting with President Alejandro Maldonado Aguirre, Shannon reiterated US political and financial support for Guatemala and for the Alliance for Prosperity — a development plan created by the presidents of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, with support from the US. The plan was initially a response to the influx of child migrants in the US from Central America, and Shannon lauded “advancements” in border security as well as in reducing trafficking and child migration. GHRC and partners presented concerns about migration and the Alliance for Prosperity at a congressional briefing on Sept. 16.

Shannon also reiterated the importance of CICIG, stating that the renovation of its mandate was “very important” for the US Congress.

Guatemala to Investigate Who Is to Blame in Mudslide

Guatemala’s public prosecutor’s office is conducting an investigation into who was responsible for a mudslide just outside of Guatemala City that left at least 250 people dead and several hundred missing. There had been warnings of a mudslide for weeks, and throughout the past fifteen years many have occurred.

Guatemalan activist murdered after court suspends palm oil company operations

This Mongabay piece by Sandra Cuffe provides an in-depth analysis of the REPSA “ecocide” case and the violence toward environmental activists in Sayaxché.

“Sayaxché residents continue to demand justice for the murder of Lima Choc, which remains under investigation,” states Cuffe. “They also continue to demand answers and justice for the ecological disaster on the La Pasión River.”

Please sign GHRC’s petition calling for the immediate investigation into the death of Lima Choc as well as protections for activists defending land and human rights.

Commemorating the Three-Year Anniversary of the Massacre at Km. 169

Guatemalans recently commemorated a massacre which occurred on October 4, 2012 in a location known as Km. 169, or the Cumbre de Alaska. Members of the military opened fire at more than six thousand demonstrators who had come from different districts in Totonicapán to peacefully protest an increase in electricity prices. Six people were killed and dozens more were injured, and the legal process against those involved in the planning and execution of the attack still continues.

The community media group Prensa Comunitaria, who willl receive this year’s GHRC Alice Zachmann Human Rights Defenders Award, uses Km. 169 as it’s logo, in tribute to those who were killed or injured in the 2012 attack.

Fathers rape with impunity, fueling Guatemala’s teen pregnancies

Anastasia Moloney attributes the fact that Guatemala has high levels of violence against women and one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in Latin America to the macho, patriarchal cultural and societal norms in the country. Many of these pregnancies, especially among girls under 14 years old, are the result of rape by a father or relative. The head of Guatemala’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Observatory (OSAR), Mirna Montengro, explained that “According to a 2009 law, sex with a child under 14 is defined as rape, but of the 2,000 reported cases of under-14s getting pregnant in 2012, only eight resulted in convictions.”

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