WEEK OF JUNE 6TH-JUNE 11TH
A raid on June 6, 2016 by the Public Prosecutor’s office at the “Progreso Derivada VII” mining site revealed that the company Exmingua had continued to extract minerals despite numerous court ruling. In three raids conducted at San Pedro Ayampuc, San Jose El Golfo, and San Antonio la Paz in Agua Caliente, investigators uncovered 74 bags of minerals, each weighing 1,025 kilograms, in addition to numerous archeological artifacts.
Representatives from Guatemala’s Indigenous communities have said they agree to support the broad anti-corruption reforms but insist that the Guatemalan government guarantee and respect the Indigenous population’s right to political participation, without limitations.
Eight former members of the Guatemalan military are on trial for their participation in crimes against humanity, in particular enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions during the country’s internal armed conflict (1960-1996).
On June 6th, Víctor Hugo Valdez Cardone, a television journalist, was killed in the city of Chiquimula. The motive is not immediately known. Valdez was walking with his grandson when two motorcyclists shot him before escaping. Guatemala continues to be dangerous for journalists, as at least 13 members of the press have been killed in the past 10 years.
Twenty-six US senators signed a letter to President Obama, asking him to bestow Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Guatemalans and to renew TPS for El Salvador and Honduras. The main concerns surrounding the signing of the letter is the deportation of mothers and unaccompanied children. Guatemala is not currently designated for TPS, while El Salvador and Honduras are due to expire this year.
After the Constitutional Court’s (CC) ruling forced the Guatemalan Mining Explorations (Exmingua) to suspend operations last week, industry experts say Exmingua could file a lawsuit against Guatemala under CAFTA regulations. According to Exmingua’s lawyer, the company lost $360 million due to the suspension of the license in La Puya.
Guatemala’s Attorney General Thelma Aldana is calling for the removal of the “antejuicio” in Guatemalan court proceedings. The “antejuicio,” a type of preliminary hearing, protects government officials as it slows down the attorney general’s investigations. This comes at a time when the country works to fight against the impunity of corrupt officials. Reforming the law to remove the antejuicio will be challenging, as it will require Guatemalan lawmakers to remove a law that benefits themselves.
Last week, REPSA, a Guatemalan palm oil company responsible for a massive toxic spill in 2015, was required to publically take steps to prevent future accidents and violence. In response, REPSA published a “Policy on Non-Violence and Intimidation.” It has taken over a year for the companies to acknowledge the negative effects on the local indigenous communities.
WEEK OF JUNE 13-18
Five former ministers in ex-President Otto Pérez Molina’s government were charged with money laundering and bribery. The men laundered up to $4.5 million through former Vice President Roxana Baldetti’s aide.
The first declarations in the cases “Cooptación del Estado” and “La Coperacha” began today after being rescheduled last week due to insufficient space in the courtroom. The two cases, while they have different names, are connected through the involvement of ex-President Otto Pérez Molina and ex-Vice President Roxana Baldetti, whom are in jail awaiting the verdict on a corruption scheme called “La Línea.”
A lack of arable land is threatening food security in Guatemala. Local governments blame the agriculture industry, as they use the land for profitable crops, including rubber, sugarcane, and palm oil. By using the land for their own needs, the agriculture industry takes away land that the farmers themselves need for crops to feed their families, such as corn, rice and beans. This competition has forced many farmers to migrate to other areas to support their families.
A 2016 report by CICIG has found that Guatemala serves not only as a passage for sex traffickers, but is also the origin and destination of a sex trafficking network. Contributing factors to the persistence of sex trafficking include poverty, impunity, and existing patriarchal social structures in Guatemala. CICIG notes that approximately 57% of exploited people fall between the ages of 12 and 17.
The Cahabón River, in Alta Verapáz, has historically provided Quekchí communities with clean drinking water, but with the introduction of a Corporación Multi-Inversiones (CMI) hydroelectric plant, sections of the river have been dammed and can no longer support communities in the region. Several groups have peacefully protested the project, including Guatemalan environmental organization Madre Selva.
The Kappes, Cassiday, and Associates (KCA) El Tambor mine in Guatemala has continued to operate, despite numerous Guatemalan court rulings’ ordering it to discontinue its extraction operations.
WEEK OF JUNE 20-24
Mynor Padilla, a former security guard of a Canadian mine, HudBay Minerals Inc., is charged with the murder of Adolfo Ich, a Mayan Q’eqchi leader. Ich was shot in 2009 and the case against Padilla is advancing slowly, as it seems HudBay is paying for Padilla’s high-profile lawyers. His lawyers, one of whom is charged with corruption, argued that Padilla would not get a fair trial in Guatemala due to judicial corruption.
In a post on her Facebook page this Monday, Guatemalan Attorney General Thelma Aldana wrote that for the first time in office, she was concerned for her safety. The cases, pushed forward by the Guatemalan Public Prosecutor’s office, and the CICIG, could affect Guatemala’s most powerful political and economic elites.
The USC Shoah Foundation, which does research on mass atrocities and genocide, will host an international conference in Los Angeles from September 11-14, 2016 focusing on the genocide of Maya ethnic groups during the Guatemala’s internal armed conflict.
At 5:30 pm on June 21st, masked armed men broke into Impunity Watch offices and detained one person while searching the organization’s documents and records. U.S. ambassador Todd Robinson tweeted that “those who broke into the Impunity Watch offices demonstrated their weakness and fear. We support everyone working toward justice in Guatemala.” Alberto Brunori of the UN Human Rights office suggested that the act of intimidation was related to the Molina Theissen case in which a fourteen-year-old boy was disappeared in 1981.
Victor Milián, Miami-Dade Police Department spokesman, explained that 400 Guatemalan National Civilian Police (PNC) officers received tactics training in the United States. Milian said that the training “served also to ensure that they [PNC members] would be able to train other agents.” During the training, select groups of agents learned techniques for interacting with communities. Adela Camacho de Torrebiarte, of the Police Reform Committee, says that the goal of the training is to “bring PNC agents closer to communities.”