Guatemala News Update: April 3-23

Justice

Update: Rios Montt Genocide Case

The Guatemalan court hearing the case against Rios Montt will be moved to Santa Maria Nebaj in western Guatemala for three days to hear 15 elderly witnesses who are too unwell to travel to the capital. They will testify on the murders, displacement, and the burning of their fields that occurred during the civil war.

Guatemalan Congressman tied to war crimes

BaudilioHichos, who was a member of the Guatemalan Congress for 25 years, has been linked to a “white van unit.” These units, also known as “white van” death squad, were tied to Guatemala’s Treasury Police during the Guatemalan civil war. These units were used to disappear citizens at all hours of the day, and became a form of psychological terror. Hichos spent approximately 12 years as a part of the Treasury Police.

Suspension of Molina Theissen Case

The intermediate-stage hearing scheduled for April 19 in the Molina Theissen case, an emblematic case GHRC and international partners have been closely monitoring. Yet it was suspended by the presiding judge before it began. As the trial was set to begin the judge stated she had processed an appeal filed by one of the accused, Letona Linares, challenging a prior ruling from March 1, 2016 denying application of the National Reconciliation Law (“amnesty law”). In sharing her decision, she said that although the law required the hearing to move forward, she considered it necessary to suspend the opening of the hearing to avoid later rulings that could force the repetition of previous stages of the trial. The judge’s decision allows for more delay tactics which violates the right to access to justice for the victims of serious human rights violations, and was immediately denounced by the Molina Theissen family.

Land & Water Rights

March for Water

The Popular and Social Assembly planned a march in defense of water, drawing hundreds of supporters, which began on April 11thin Tecún Umán, San Marcos and will conclude on Earth Day, April 22nd, in Guatemala City’s Constitutional Plaza. The objectives of the march, as stated by the Quetzaltenango Maya K’iche’ Council are to demand the return and protection of the rivers, lakes, lagoons, and coastal areas from economic purposes, fortify their fight in defense of water, denounce criminalization and political persecution of water rights defenders, and raise awareness among the Guatemalan public on these issues.

Lawsuit against Canadian mining company to move forward

Thousands of documents will be handed over to the lawyers of numerous Guatemalans whom have filed negligence Margarita Caal Caal who along with 10 other women from her village were reportedly raped in 2007 when being evicted from her land by men saying that the land belonged to a Canadian mining company. The lawsuit, filed in Canada against Hudbay Mineral, Inc, is the first of its kind since previously Canadian courts have claimed to not have jurisdiction over cases where the incident occurred in another country. In addition to the claims of rape, Hudbay is also facing claims over the death of local leader Adolfo IchChaman and the shooting and paralysis of a bystander German Chub in 2009.

Dam threatens to displace communities in Mexico and Guatemala

60 communities from both sides of the Mexico-Guatemala border are opposing a hydroelectric project that would potentially displace those communities. The Boca del Cerro dam is just one of five hydroelectric projects planned for the Usumacinta River which runs between the two countries.

Guatemala called on to suspend the granting of mining licenses

On April 7, environmental analysts from the US, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Guatemala reported on Guatemala’s extractive industries and called on Guatemala to stop awarding mining licenses as well as begin consultation processes to determine how best to regulate the industry. The study shows that due to legal and institutional weaknesses, the Guatemalan government “runs the risk that the holders of mining titles will not assume their responsibilities” and public money and resources will have to be used to finance the expenses of mine rehabilitation and closure.

14 accused of forcing farmers to sell their land

In early April, 14 people were arrested on suspicion of forcing poor farmers to sell their land at cut-rate prices. Approximately 28 farms were bought in this way and then resold at market prices. This land had originally been given to the farmers as part of the 1996 Peace Accords.

1 killed in tunnel collapse at Marlin mine

On April 14, a tunnel collapsed inside Goldcorp’s Marlin mine. Originally reported as missing and likely trapped underground, 26 year old Jaime Lopez has since been reported dead. The National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction, David de Leon, has assured that the accident occurred to seismic activity and the rescue teams had followed all rescue procedures. A family member of one of the miners said the managers of the mining company took away their cell phones so they wouldn’t publicize the incident.

Indigenous Rights

UN Meets with Jimmy Morales over Indigenous Issues

Indigenous leaders are meeting with the United Nations this week to plan a meeting on global indigenous issues.

President Jimmy Morales has a poor record on indigenous rights issues, having mocked them in his past occupation as a comedian and his failure to halt large scale extraction projects and agriculture that lead to indigenous displacement.

Nevertheless, sixteen representatives from indigenous communities around the world met with leaders like President Morales and to discuss issues important to indigenous groups, such as cultural, social, and economic rights, as well as education, health and the environment.

Protests continue in Guatemala over lack of changes

President Jimmy Morales took office almost 100 days ago on a platform calling for change in corrupt practices, however Guatemalans claim that they have seen little changes in administrative practices. This comes in addition to the Observatory of Guatemala’s Indigenous Communities claimed that the new government under Jimmy Morales was “racist,” “discriminatory,” and “aimless.” They stated that they had seen “100 days of political backsliding and 100 days of growing corruption and poverty.”

Corruption

President Jimmy Morales requests extension of CICIG

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales requested an extension of the anti-corruption body, the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, this week on his first visit to the United Nations in New York. While the mandate had already been extended by former President Otto Perez Molina (ousted due to corruption charges last year) to last until 2017, President Morales’s new request stretches the Commission’s mandate until 2019.

Ex-President Otto Perez Molina accepted bribes from Spanish Company

The Spanish company, Group TCB, paid the former president and vice president of Guatemala approximately $25 million in bribes in exchange for securing a 25 year contract for building and managing a new port terminal. While the president stated that Group TCB offered the best deal for the country, there were no competing bids. These charges will be added to those that the former president and vice president are facing for their involvement in the customs corruption scandal known as La Linea, or the Line. Other government officials who were in office during Perez Molina’s presidency have also been linked to the corruption scandals.

 

US Company Continues Illegal Mining Operations at El Tambor Mine

US Company Kappes Cassiday & Associates and Guatemalan subsidiary, Exmingua, continue to mine gold illegally in San Pedro Ayampuc, Guatemala.

On February 22, 2016, the Guatemalan Supreme Court granted an injunction that suspends the granting of KCA’s license for extraction of gold and silver at the El Tambor mine. The Guatemalan Ministry of Energy and Mines, the body responsible for carrying out the administrative procedures to suspend the license, have refused to do so.

In response, families have camped out in front of the ministry, demanding they enforce the ruling.

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Peaceful protesters in front of the Ministry of Energy and Mining.

The Guatemalan congress has called on the Minister to justify his lack of action.

As the pressure mounts, the US-owned mine continues to operate. The waste-water tailing pond continues to fill as material is extracted and treated with a chemical bath – procedures not fully addressed in the Environmental Impact Assessment, and without any oversight regarding the structural integrity of the holding tank or mandatory testing of possible contamination of the local water supply.

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Holding tank at the El Tambor mine

With communities again blocking the entrance to the mine, Exmingua employees have taken to illegally transporting petroleum for mining machinery by foot. They were stopped by the police on at least one occasion, but a recent video captured them exiting with empty canisters.

In the last couple of days, the company has begun to use helicopters to carry large containers in and out of the mine.

 

Despite intense US pressure on the Guatemalan government to address corruption and improve rule of law, the Embassy has been silent on a US Company’s alleged evasion of legal procedures and it’s ongoing operations despite multiple court injunctions.

Background: 

Communities in the area have been in non-violent resistance since 2011, and have maintained a presence outside the mine for over 4 years. Continue reading

La Puya Protest at the Ministry of Energy and Mines

Gallery

This gallery contains 7 photos.

La Puya activists staged a protest in front of the Guatemalan Ministry of Energy and Defense (MEM) in Guatemala City today to demand that the government body act on the Supreme Court’s ruling to suspend the license of Kappes, Cassiday … Continue reading

Victory for La Puya: Guatemalan Court Orders Suspension of Construction Operations at the El Tambor Mine

GHRC applauds the July 15 resolution by a Guatemalan appeals court which ruled in favor of the right of residents to be consulted about projects that affect them and ordered the suspension of construction activities at the mine.

The ruling is a positive sign for community members from San Pedro Ayampuc and San Jose del Golfo who have joined together in non-violent resistance to oppose what they see as a deeply harmful mining project.

The movement, known as ‘La Puya,’ has maintained a 24-hour presence at the entrance to the site for over three years. During that time, La Puya has denounced intimidating or illegal actions on the part of the Guatemalan company that holds the mining license, EXMINGUA, as well as by its parent company, Reno-based Kappes, Cassiday & Associates.

This legal complaint, however, filed in October 2014 by authorities from two of the affected communities, El Carrizal and El Guapinol, targets the government for its failure to act on behalf of its citizens.

The complaint accuses the Municipal Advisory Council of San Pedro Ayampuc – where the mine site is located – of failing to act to stop construction activity at the mine site and for its failure to defend the interests of the affected communities. They argue the Council had the responsibility to act given their knowledge that the company had broken the law by operating without a construction permit, having documentation regarding concerns about water quality and contamination, and not carrying out valid prior community consultation.
Continue reading

Martial Law Declared Again in Conflict Over Natural Resources

GHRC expresses concern about the declaration of a “State of Prevention” in the municipality of San Juan Sacatepéquez, allegedly in response to acts of violence committed in the community of Los Pajoques on the 19th and 20th of September. Despite the localized nature of the conflict, the administration of President Otto Pérez Molina made the controversial decision to suspend basic constitutional rights, such as freedom of speech and assembly, throughout the entire municipality for the next 15 days.

sjs-collage-eblastLos Pajoques is one of twelve communities in San Juan Sacatepéquez that have been involved in an ongoing resistance movement to the construction of a cement quarry and processing plant, and recently have opposed the construction of a highway that would cut through the community on its way to the quarry. Their opposition is grounded in concerns about the profound impact that the operations of the cement factory could have on the environment, in an area renown for the cultivation of vegetables and flowers.

The violence, which reportedly left 11 dead, was a tragic manifestation of the division, tension and desperation that has existed in San Juan Sacatepéquez since the arrival of the powerful cement company, Cementos Progreso, in 2006. Continue reading

Update on La Puya: Resistance Faces New Threats

Photo courtesy of La Puya en Resistencia

Photo courtesy of La Puya en Resistencia

This morning, at 2:00 am, three large trucks and a machine that would serve to wash gold arrived at the El Tambor gold mine. Members of La Puya have once again moved to peacefully protest the entry of heavy machinery into the mine.

Those present at La Puya, working in shifts, managed to prevent entry of the machinery for at least an hour. However, unable to resist against the large number of police officers present, protesters eventually made way for the trucks to come through. As they entered, the four trucks destroyed the canvas tarp that served as a makeshift roof for members of La Puya.

Continue reading

More Families Violently Evicted Over Nickel Mine in Guatemala

(En español abajo)

On the morning of July 10, 2014, 400 members of the Guatemalan National Police, accompanied by private security guards from the Guatemalan Nickel Company (CGN) — a subsidiary of Canadian mining company HudBay Minerals — violently evicted at least 80 families from the community of Nabalija. CGN claims to be the owner of the land, although families have occupied the area for over a year. The eviction left several people injured.

At a press conference on July 16 in Guatemala City, Angelica Choc spoke out about past abuses committed by CGN — including the murder of her husband, Adolfo Ich, by the the company’s former head of security, as well as the rape of nine women by CGN security officers. An Ontario Court has made a ruling that will allow a case to be brought against HudBay, marking the first time a Canadian company is tried in Canada over actions committed by one of its international subsidiaries.

Angelica Choc speaks at a press conference in Guatemala City.

Angelica Choc speaks at a press conference in Guatemala City.


Las Comunidades Q’eqchi : 30 DE JUNIO SE’CHAJ, ASOCIACIÓN CAMPESINA MAYA Q’EQCHI’, SE’TAL, AGUA CALIENTE LOTE 9, COMUNIDAD 13 DE ABRIL, LOTE 8, LAS NUBES, LA CEIBA y EL ZAPOTILLO, todas del municipio de El Estor, Izaoat

Ante la opinión pública nacional e internacional, exponemos y denunciamos que el territorio del pueblo Q’eqchi’ ubicado en el municipio de El Estor, se viene librando una lucha sin descanso desde el año 1960 hasta hoy día para hacer valer nuestro derecho de acceso a la tierra, a un lugar digno donde vivir, trabajar, alimentar a la familia y fortalecer nuestra cultura e identidad. Continue reading