GHRC announces the 2016 recipients of Voiceless Speak Fund grant

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Giovanni Batz, Concepcion Santay, and Zully Juarez at a speaking even in Los Angeles on Mayan resistance to development projects.

Since 1987, the Voiceless Speak Fund has provided direct assistance to Guatemalans raising awareness about the human rights situation in Guatemala or organizing in their communities in the US to defend the rights of Guatemalans living here.

GHRC is excited to announce the 2016 Recipients of our Voiceless Speak Fund grant program: Continue reading

Arrests of War Criminals Loom Over Inauguration of New President

President-elect Jimmy Morales will be inaugurated today as Guatemala’s next leader, amid new protests and ongoing uncertainty about how he plans to run the country. Riding a wave of anti-establishment sentiment, Morales—a comedian with no political experience and backed by military hard-liners—achieved an unexpected first-round win in September before defeating former first lady Sandra Torres in the October 25 runoff election.

Although Morales has not yet officially announced who will make up his Cabinet, information has begun to circulate via “leaks” on social media sites. Morales has already suffered a political setback related to his Cabinet when one of his top advisers, Edgar Ovalle Maldonado, was among a group of ex-military leaders accused of crimes against humanity on Jan. 6. For now, Ovalle cannot face prosecution due to his status as an incoming lawmaker, though Attorney General Thelma Aldana has said that her office has asked the Supreme Court to consider lifting his immunity. Continue reading

IACHR hearings and public events: October 19-23

Next week, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will hold its 156 period of sessions, including three hearings on October 22 focused on Guatemala: Human Rights and Transitional Justice in Guatemala; Reports of Criminalization of Human Rights Defenders and Justice Operators in Guatemala; and Human Rights Situation of Indigenous Peoples in the Context of the Activities of the Palm Oil Industry of Guatemala. Click here for a full schedule as well as times and locations for each hearing.

There will also be numerous opportunities to attend public events and hear from human rights defenders from Central America:

*GHRC-Sponsored Events*

Panelists from Guatemala and El Salvador will discuss the recent struggles of communities in both countries in defense of their land, water and livelihoods that are threatened by mining.

Time and Date: Tuesday, October 20 | 1-2 PM EST
Location: Oxfam America, DC, 1101 17th St NW 1300 Washington, DC 20036

Representatives from civil society organizations from Honduras and Guatemala will discuss the situation of corruption and human rights in both countries. The event will be in Spanish, and a live stream will be available here:


Time and Date: Tuesday, October 20 | 7 PM EST
Location: CEJIL, 1630 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 401, Washington, DC 2009

-Monday, October 19-

FILM: “Resistencia: The Fight for The Aguan Valley”
DC Premiere of a groundbreaking documentary with the filmmaker in attendance about the 2009 coup d’état in Honduras sparking a landless farmers’ movement that took control of the plantations. Cost: $10. More information.

Time and Date: Monday, October 19 | 7-9 PM EST
Location: West End Cinema, 2301 M Street NW, Washington, DC

-Tuesday, October 20-

As corruption scandals continue to erupt in Honduras—including confirmed evidence that millions were siphoned off from the national health service to fund the ruling party’s and the president’s election fund—Hondurans across the political spectrum are demanding an independent, UN-sponsored Commission on Impunity, like the successful CICIG in Guatemala.

Time and Date: Tuesday, October 20 | 2-3 PM EST
Location: 122 Cannon HOB

-Wednesday, October 21-


RSVP here.

Time and Date: Wednesday, October 21 | 12:30 – 2 PM EST
Location: Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), 1666 Connecticut Ave NW, Suite 400, Washington, D.C. 20009

An opportunity to meet and honor human rights defenders from Latin America.
More information and RSVP here.

Time and Date: Wednesday, October 21 | 5:30 – 7 PM EST
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), 1666 Connecticut Ave NW, Suite 400, Washington, D.C. 20009

-Thursday, October 22-

More information here. RSVP with Perri Ravon at

Time and Date: Thursday, October 22 | 12:15-2 PM EST
Location: CEJIL, 1630 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 401, Washington, DC 2009

More information here

Time and Date: Thursday, October 22 | 4-7:15 PM EST (various sessions)
Organization of American States, 1889 F Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20006 (Padilha Vidal room)

This movie, made by Guatemalan director Jayro Bustamante, tells the story of a young indigenous woman who does not want to live in the modern world, until it saves her life during a pregnancy complication. Free and open to the public.

Time and Date: Thursday, October 22 | 6:30 PM EST
Enrique V. Iglesias Auditorium, 1350 New York Avenue, NW., Washington, DC. Metro Center

Viewing party to live stream the NISGUA tour event in New York City.

Time and Date: Thursday, October 22 | 6-8 PM EST
CIEL Conference Room: 1350 Connecticut Ave NW, Suite 1100 (Above the Dupont Circle South Metro, DC)

-Friday, October 23-

BRIEFING: Defending Community and Indigenous Rights in Guatemala
Please join the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission for a briefing on defending community and indigenous rights in Guatemala, with panelists Daniel Pascual (CUC) and Rafael Maldonado (CALAS).

Time and Date: Friday, October 23 | 11 AM EST
2255 Rayburn House Office Building

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with GHRC

Thank you to everyone who participated in our Hispanic Heritage Month celebration with GHRC on October 7!

We are especially thankful to Haydee’s Restaurant for hosting and sponsoring our event, to our volunteer musicians Kino and Elena Lacayo, and to the GHRC Board for organizing our fall get together.

Left: Members of the band Kino; Right: Elena Lacayo

Left: Members of the band Kino; Right: Elena Lacayo

Your attendance at Haydee’s directly supported our work, as the restaurant has generously donated a portion of sales from the night to GHRC. We also sold tickets for the raffle of an ipad mini — the lucky winner was Rafael Merchan.

Thank you to everyone who supported us and bought tickets, and please keep an eye out for other upcoming events, including our 2015 Alice Zachmann Human Rights Defenders Award event.


Voiceless Speak Fund Recipient Promotes Human Rights on the West Coast

Concepcion at Contacto Ancestral

Concepcion at Contacto Ancestral

In April 2015, Concepción Santay Gomez was awarded funds from GHRC’s Voiceless Speak Program to support his project to educate university students and others about human rights issues related to the construction of mega-projects in Guatemala.

Santay Gomez is heavily involved in human rights work in his hometown of Cotzal, Guatemala, where he has advocated for the rights of the local indigenous Maya Ixil community. He is an active member of the Alcaldía Indígena (the group of ancestral indigenous authorities), which promotes Ixil culture and works to defend the region’s territories from mega-mining and hydroelectric projects. Santay Gomez is also a co-founder of Ixil University, a three-year educational program that teaches students about Ixil ways of knowing and indigenous rights.

Santay Gomez organized a speaking tour along the West Coast of the US to share information on his own community’s efforts to prevent mega-mining projects from being constructed in the El Quiche region of Guatemala. He discussed in depth the arrival of the Italian-owned hydroelectric dam Palo Viejo, which was authorized by the Guatemalan government in 2008, despite the fact that local residents were never consulted about the plan. When the dam was completed in 2012, thousands of acres of Ixil land had been seized and numerous neighborhood leaders had been persecuted for standing up against the project. Continue reading

US War Crimes Ambassador Speaks at Forum in Guatemala City

Following the two-year anniversary of the genocide sentence in Guatemala, experts on transitional justice and rule of law – including US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, Stephen Rapp – gathered on May 11 to share reflections and analysis about the genocide case.

In Ambassador Rapp’s comments, he highlighted the importance of the case and the ongoing commitment of the US government to support victims’ struggle for justice and an independent judiciary:

“My role With President Obama’s administration is to work with these international courts, including the International Criminal Court (ICC), so that they can be effective – but recognizing always that it’s better when justice happens near the scene of the crime, near where the victims live, near the affected communities.

Even in the principles now of international justice, we’ve established that certainly it’s important that we hold responsible — if the evidence is there — the most powerful people in societies. And if it we can do that at the national level, that’s where it should be done. At the ICC they call that complementarity – that the international system is only a complement; it only fills in the gaps where the national system fails.

But we know, and you know, how challenging it can be to establish justice against powerful forces in society; power does not yield willingly, it doesn’t yield to orders, necessarily, on a piece of paper, and can use the kind of power and violence they’re accused of to intimidate and destroy the possibility of fair justice. Continue reading

Guatemala Faces Political Crisis in Wake of Tax Fraud Scandal

*This post will be updated regularly (updates at the bottom) as the crisis unfolds in Guatemala

Today, May 14, Alejandro Maldonado was named as Guatemala’s new vice president after Roxana Baldetti resigned on May 8 amid the revelation of a tax fraud scandal. Meanwhile, despite the vice president’s resignation, citizens have continued to call for the resignation of President Otto Pérez Molina and will move forward with a wave of national protests set for Saturday, May 16.

What’s going on in Guatemala?

The uncovering of a corruption scandal has set off massive protests in Guatemala. Photo by Prensa Comunitaria.

The uncovering of a corruption scandal has set off massive protests in Guatemala. Photo by Prensa Comunitaria.

The uncovering of a massive tax fraud ring in Guatemala has prompted widespread public outrage, steeping the country in what many are calling a “political crisis” as September’s general elections draw near.

On April 16, authorities arrested 22 people – including the current and former heads of Guatemala’s tax collection agency – in the culmination of an 8-month long investigation into a criminal network used to defraud the state.

The crime ring was dismantled by a joint investigation by Guatemala’s Public Prosecutor’s Office and the CICIG, and implicates officials in the highest levels of government. Although Vice President Roxana Baldetti was not directly linked to the fraud ring in the initial investigation, she was plunged into controversy when her private secretary, Juan Carlos Monzón Rojas, was identified as its leader. In the face of increasing public pressure, Baldetti submitted her resignation on May 8.

The criminal network has been called “La Linea,” (The Line), in reference to a certain cell phone number that businesses used to illegally negotiate the amount they were required to pay in customs taxes. Thanks to the network, businesses received a 25% “discount” on the fees when their property cleared customs; approximately 50% was paid to the state and the rest to the defrauders. Prosecutors estimate that Guatemala lost around Q940 million (US$120 million) in tax revenue to the scam, and the ongoing investigation has begun to reveal corruption that extends to the judicial branch. Continue reading

Presente! T-Shirt Campaign: Order your shirts now!

GHRC is partnering with the School of the Americas Watch to promote a t-shirt campaign in support of the movement for justice and self determination in the Americas. Our goal is to sell 300 t-Shirts by Thursday, May 21.

Click here to order your limited edition t-shirt now!

tshirtcampaignGHRC100% of profits will benefit campaigns against militarization, and for a more peaceful world. The sweatshop-free shirts are being hand printed with inks that are easy on the environment. The design by César Maxit shows Ingrid Carillo, holding a picture of her relative, who was forcibly disappeared by SOA-trained security forces. The image is based on a photo by Linda Panetta, taken at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia.

The word Presente! means “here” or “present” in Spanish. It is used at the gates of Ft. Benning, Georgia, when we remember those who were martyred by state security forces. We pronounce their names and bring their spirits before us as we respond: Presente! You are here with us, and you are not forgotten.

To take a look at the shirt and to place your order, visit SOA Watch’s website now.

“Guatemala at a Crossroads”: Panel Event with Prominent Human Rights Defenders

Please join us this Wednesday for a public event sponsored by GHRC, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL):


With a panel of prominent human rights defenders from Guatemala:

Iduvina Hernández (SEDEM), Claudia Samayoa and Jorge Santos (UDEFEGUA), Maya Alvarado (UNAMG) and Mario Avalos (ICCPG)

Date: Wednesday, May 6, 2015
Time: 4:00 p.m.
Location: Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL)
1630 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite 401, Washington, DC

Live Streaming of the Event is available:

*Please note: this event will be in Spanish with no translation

Invitan al Foro Público:


 Con la participación de destacados defensores y defensoras de derechos humanos de Guatemala:

Iduvina Hernández (SEDEM), Claudia Samayoa y Jorge Santos (UDEFEGUA), Maya Alvarado (UNAMG), y Mario Avalos (ICCPG)

Fecha: miercoles, 6 de mayo, 2015
Hora: 4:00 p.m.
Lugar: Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL)
1630 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite 401, Washington, DC

Siga el evento vía streaming: