Guatemala News: August 6 – August 12

US Deports Former Guatemalan Soldier Wanted in 1982 Massacre

On Wednesday, August 10th, Santos Lopez Alonzo was deported by the United States to Guatemala. Alonzo, a Guatemalan military official who served during the internal armed conflict, is wanted for his participation in the Dos Erres massacre of 1982 in which over 200 residents of Dos Erres were brutally murdered.

Illegal Arrest of Guatemala Indigenous Authority Sparks Outrage

Oscar Sanchez, an Indigenous authority from the town of San Pablo in the San Marcos department, was reportedly arrested without a warrant on August 4th on the charges of kidnapping and illicit association. Sanchez’s arrest follows a pattern of Indigenous rights activists facing trumped-up legal charges against them because of their work on behalf of their community and because they have also been vocal opponents of hydroelectric projects in the region.

Guatemalans’ Fight Against Rogue Canadian Mining Giant Heats Up

This week, California-based NGO the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA), and the Guatemalan Diocesan Committee in Defense of Nature (CODIDENA), provided the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission with a report that provides evidence that the mining company Tahoe Resources had lied to investors. The report showed that the company had failed to acknowledge to investors that the company’s mining project in Guatemala had been continually opposed by Indigenous communities.

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GHRC Condemns the Assassination of Berta Cáceres – Human Rights Defender from Honduras

Berta Caceres Picture

The Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA condemns in the most strongest of terms the killing of world renowned environmental activists and human rights defender Berta Cáceres of Honduras. According to reports Berta Cáceres was killed by armed assailants early in the morning March 3rd. Berta led and founded the Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (COPINH), and was the winner of the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize. Gustavo Castro, a fellow activist from Otros Mundos, was also injured in the attack. GHRC calls for an immediate investigation into this heinous crime and that those responsible be prosecuted and held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. GHRC also calls for immediate action to be taken to ensure the protection of Gustavo Castro, a key witness in this murder.

CMI Reports Attacks After Coverage in Alta Verapaz

Information provided by the Independent Media Center in Guatemala (CMI-G).

Several attacks were made against the Independent Media Center in Guatemala in the wake of the center’s coverage of a recent violent eviction in the department of Alta Verapaz. In a joint operation carried out by the police, military forces, and some civilians, more than 100 families were displaced, at least five community leaders were arrested, and three people were killed. These events — which occurred in an area where there are strong interests in hydroelectric, extractive, and agricultural mega-projects — have still not been properly investigated or resolved.

Just after the eviction, CMI suffered attacks on its web page and server, which prohibited the immediate publication of information. Then, on August 23, a person who lives in the same house as one of the CMI reporters was kidnapped, harassed, and beaten. Direct threats were also made to the reporter who authored the columns about the eviction at Alta Verapaz.

GHRC echoes CMI’s concerns that this attack represents a growing trend of criminalization and repression of independent journalists and communications professionals. Others have been similarly targeted, such as Ricard Busquets from the Comite de Unidad Campesina (CUC), and Francisca Gómez Grijalva, a journalist who was threatened with trial for writing a column that critiqued industrial manufacturing company Cementos Progreso for abuse of power.

Read the original CMI article in Spanish:

Desde el inicio de la cobertura que realizó un equipo del Centro de Medios Independientes de Guatemala (CMI-G) acerca de los más recientes desalojos en el departamento de Alta Verapaz, realizados por agentes de la Policía Nacional Civil, ejército y algunos civiles que irregularmente los acompañaban, se inició una cadena de ataques, entre ellos informáticos, que impidieron publicar de forma inmediata la información recopilada durante los acontecimientos.1 En esa acción fueron desplazadas más de cien familias, se capturó a cinco líderes comunitarios y tres campesinos fueron asesinados, en hechos hasta ahora no esclarecidos. Continue reading

Another Land Rights Leader Is Criminalized in Guatemala

CUC Coordinator Daniel Pascual at a march in 2012. Photo by James Rodríguez.

CUC Coordinator Daniel Pascual at a march in 2012. Photo by James Rodríguez.

*Summary of an article from the Centro de Medios Independientes (Center for Independent Media) called “Libertad de Expresión en disputa” (Freedom of Expression in dispute)

On July 8, Daniel Pascual, coordinator for the Committee for Campesino Unity (CUC), spoke at a public hearing in Guatemala’s Constitutional Court about the importance of protecting both Freedom of Thought and Freedom of Expression. Around 300 community members, authorities and social leaders from all over Guatemala came to support Pascual and CUC. Continue reading