Human Rights Convergence: Eradicate Anti-Social Movement Efforts in Guatemala

On June 25, The Human Rights Convergence — a coalition of human rights organizations — published a statement regarding the protection of civilian responses to the recent corruption scandals in Guatemala.

The Convergence put forward this information to demonstrate the acts of retaliation and repression against those participating in social movements calling for an end to government corruption. The Convergence sites specific incidents of attacks and threats, which include:

  •  A fire set to a local business of a social movement leader in Quetzaltenango.
  • Death threats against Congressman Amílcar Pop, after he initiated the judicial demand to investigate President Pérez Molina.
  • The seizure of a local bus from San Juan Sacatepéquez on its return from a march that occurred in Guatemala City on June 13.
  • The murder of two community leaders, Pablo Pajarito Rompich in Quiché and Santiago Ramírez in Petén.

The Human Rights Convergence therefore requests that actions be taken by all involved actors: that the CICIG, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, and the Human Rights Attorney Office open investigations into these allegations; that the National Security System limit the executive branch’s powers to exploit public resources for illicit activities; and that Guatemalan society as a whole maintain its commitment to fighting impunity and corruption.

Below you can find the full statement from the Human Rights Convergence in Spanish.

The Human Rights Convergence is a coalition of organizations that was formed to support the agenda of human rights in Guatemala, in general, and in particular, to develop actions oriented towards the fight against impunity.


PDF Version: Pronunciamiento de la Convergencia de los Derechos Humanos

DESARTICULAR CIACS QUE ATENTAN CONTRA MOVIMIENTO SOCIAL 

ANTE LA OLEADA DE AGRESIONES Y AMENAZAS CONTRA EL MOVIMIENTO QUE RECLAMA LA DEPURACIÓN DEL ESTADO, LA CONVERGENCIA POR LOS DERECHOS HUMANOS, EXPONE: Continue reading

Reintegration and Repatriation for Guatemala’s Young Migrants

By Katherine Comly, GHRC Summer 2015 Intern

Photo: Reuters

On June 16, two graduate students from George Washington University hosted a panel discussion on their recent research involving youth repatriation in Guatemala. The event, hosted by the Wilson Center and moderated by Latin American Program Associate Director Eric Olson, discussed the students’ findings on resources and programs available to young children and teens returning to Guatemala after attempting to migrate north to Mexico or the United States. The issue of youth repatriation has become increasingly relevant after the rise in migration of unaccompanied minors last summer.

At the event, graduate student researchers Nathan Hesse and Warren Newton shared preliminary findings from their study on government and civil society engagement in the processes of repatriation, or the return to one’s place of origin or citizenship, and re-integration. They also presented their initial analysis of regional coordination of the Northern Triangle countries with Mexico and the US. Their research revealed that civil society groups, such as Colectivo Vivo Digna and Guatemala Child Return and Reintegration Project (GCRRP), are the chief organizers for repatriation programs, whereas the state provides minimal programs and services for returning youth.

The panel concluded with a series of recommendations for the advancement of repatriation programs for Guatemalan youth, which include:

• Cooperation between the Guatemalan government and civil society
• Community-led development
• Inclusion of funds for reintegration programs in development aid
• Political continuity and will
• Culturally and linguistically sensitive reintegration programs.

Continue reading

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

Excerpt from Nómada interview with Ambassador Todd Robinson

The below excerpt is part of an interview with Todd Robinson, the US Ambassador to Guatemala, published in Nómada (in Spanish). With increasing calls for President Pérez Molina’s resignation, Ambassador Robinson has come under fire recently by Guatemalans who accuse him of helping to “prop up” a corrupt administration. The interview contemplates the role of Robinson and the US in Guatemala.

Selected questions and answers from the interview, translated to English:

Question 1: Right now, no one wants to be seen with President Otto Pérez, and you do. What message would you like to send with your appearance at the Presidential House? Aside from the issue of polygraphs.

Photo: Carlos Sebastián

A: None. The government has asked us to help with the SAT [Guatemala’s tax collection agency] and we had polygraph equipment [and technicians]. There was a team of Guatemalan businessmen who were in Washington to discuss the Alliance for Prosperity and they asked for help with several institutions from the State Department. It was a happy coincidence that we had that equipment. I don’t believe that it’s a secret that we work very closely with the government. We don’t have the luxury of choosing the Guatemalan government—it’s the decision of the Guatemalan people. And of course, because we are good partners, or want to become good partners with the Guatemalan society and the government, when they ask us for help and we can help, we’re going to do it. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: May 25-29

One Year After Violent Eviction, La Puya Under Threat Again

On May 26, almost exactly one year after police violently broke up the peaceful anti-mining blockade at La Puya, approximately 300 police officials arrived again at the site. Police officials claimed that they were responding to an allegation that members of La Puya had illegally detained several mine works — an accusation that community members say is “totally false,” and that a justice of the peace could find no evidence to substantiate.

Police threatened to evict protesters, but lacked the required eviction order to forcefully remove them. While community members have let workers in to the mine and no longer block the road, a contingent of police remain, and a new police camp has been set up on company land right across from La Puya. Read more about recent events at La Puya on our blog.

Vice President Baldetti’s Properties Raided

On May 28, Guatemalan authorities and CICIG officials raided 14 properties associated with former Vice President Roxana Baldetti, whose press secretary has been linked to the tax fraud scandal that resulted in the resignation of several top Guatemalan officials earlier this month. Baldetti resigned on May 8 due to increasing public pressure, although she denies any involvement in the scandal. Continue reading

One Year After Violent Eviction, La Puya Under Threat Again

Members of La Puya commemorate the May 23, 2014 eviction

Members of La Puya commemorate the May 23, 2014 eviction

On May 23, members of La Puya – a peaceful resistance movement to the El Tambor gold mine owned by US company Kappes, Cassiday & Associates (KCA) – joined together to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the day that police violently broke up the blockade that the movement had maintained for over two years. Last year’s violent removal of protesters resulted in at least 27 injuries and the entry of mining equipment into the site; however, community members have maintained a presence at the mine and continue to stand in opposition to the project.

As part of the commemoration event, community members highlighted four important points:

  1. Members of La Puya call for an investigation into the serious human rights violations committed by police on the 23 of May 2014, and demand that criminal charges be filed against those deemed responsible for these abuses.
  2. Community members want to raise awareness about the fact that the mining company EXMINGUA (KCA’s subsidiary in Guatemala) operates in San Pedro Ayampuc without the required municipal construction license.
  3. Community members have again requested the renewal of dialogue with the government at the highest level, in order to jointly find an intelligent solution to the environmental issues facing residents.
  4. Members of La Puya ask that the media does not spread false rumors or misinform the public.

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