Guatemala News Update: October 19-23

IACHR Holds 156 Period of Sessions

From October 17-23, human rights defenders and activists participated in hearings with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in Washington, DC. The Guatemala-focused hearings included the topics of transitional justice, criminalization of human rights defenders and justice operators, and the damaging impacts of monoculture African Palm plantations. Photos and videos from each hearing are available here.

First Disbursement of Funds as Part of Chixoy Dam Reparations Plan

The Guatemalan government made its first disbursement of Q22 million to family members in Baja Verapaz, as part of the reparations plan for the 33 communities affected by the construction of the hydroelectric Chixoy Dam. This marks the first action toward the implementation of the plan, which was finally signed by community representatives and former President Pérez Molina in November 2014.

Deputy Secretary of State Higginbottom Visits Guatemala

On October 13, Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Heather Higginbottom began her tour of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala to discuss the strengthening of government institutions and strategies to combat institutional corruption. Higginbottom also met with members of civil society to emphasize the importance of government transparency.

During her visit to Guatemala, Higginbottom announced that the US will donate $5 million to CICIG; since 2008, the US has contributed around $36 million to CICIG.

Workers Protest Temporary Suspension of Palm Oil Company REPSA

Earlier this week, in order to demand the reopening of Palm oil company REPSA and the lifting of the company’s temporary suspension, company workers protested by blockading three different roads. The Repsa case, which has caused a mass die-off of fish and contamination of the Passion River in Sayaxché, has been called an “ecocide” by community members and experts.

General Elections Update

Election observers began arriving in Guatemala early this week to prepare for the country’s second round of general elections, to take place on October 25. The first round of elections in September narrowed the presidential race to two candidates; citizens will now decided between political outsider Jimmy Morales and former First Lady Sandra Torres. In preparation for the elections, Guatemala plans to deploy more than 59,000 police and military officials as well as several international observers to oversee Sunday’s voting.

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