Guatemala News Update: January 25-29

Emblematic cases of wartime atrocities move forward in Guatemala Courts

Sepur Zarco: The Case of sexual and domestic slavery against 15 Q’eqchi’ women at the Sepur Zarco military outpost goes to trial on Feb. 1, more than 30 years after the crimes were committed. GHRC’s recent post shares background and resources to stay up-to-date as the trial moves forward.

CREOMPAZ: A recent article from NACLA looks at the recent arrests of 18 former military, most of whom were arrested for their connections with crimes committed at the CREOMPAZ base in Coban. 12 of accused had been students at the US School of the Americas. Another suspect, Congressman Edgar Justino Ovalle of the President’s FCN Nation political party, enjoys immunity from prosecution, a protection recently upheld by the Guatemala Supreme Court.

Evicted Families ask the President to comply with the IACHR measures

Representatives of families of the Polochic Valley who were violently evicted in 2011 have asked President Jimmy Morales to comply with the precautionary measures granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The measures have been in place since 2011 when close to 800 families from 12 communities were violently and forcibly evicted. Only 140 families have been formally resettled, while most continue to live in precarious conditions, some returning to squat on land owned by the sugar cane refinery Chabil Utzaj, who has threatened a new wave of evictions. Families have asked for suspension of all evictions until the adoption of legislation that prevents forced evictions and that in his role as head of state, President Morales fulfills the state’s commitment to grant land and provide decent resettlement conditions for the 578 remaining families waiting for land. 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.

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In Ferguson and in Guatemala

Over the last week, we have listened with growing horror as news reached us from Monte Olivo, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. Since 2010, residents of the region who oppose the construction of the Santa Rita hydroelectric dam have been victim to various attacks, including one in August 2013 that left two young boys dead.http://org.salsalabs.com/dia/track.jsp?key=-1&url_num=2&url=http%3A%2F%2Forg.salsalabs.com%2Fo%2F2690%2Fp%2Fdia%2Faction3%2Fcommon%2Fpublic%2F%3Faction_KEY%3D16152

Then, last week, according to the Prensa Comunitaria, the government deployed over 1,000 police to Monte Olivo to evict 160 families of the community 9 de Febrero. As helicopters flew overhead, police and day laborers destroyed homes and assaulted residents, leaving several people injured. Five people were also arrested in Monte Olivo, as well as two others in nearby Raxruhá. In response, hundreds of people blocked the highway to prevent the passage of the police. In an ensuing conflict between protesters and police, three men were killed in the community of Semacoch, allegedly by police gunfire, and several people were injured, including six police. Eight police were also detained by protesters, but have since been released.

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Congress Poised to Vote on Unaccompanied Minors

Right now in Congress, our elected officials are considering lifting important protections for migrant children currently provided under the Trafficking Victims Protection and Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA) — a law which requires children to have a hearing before a judge and to have an attorney present.

We must demand that our elected officials ensure the safety of children arriving at the US border.
You can take action now by signing our petition calling for Congress to protect Central American children.
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GHRC and Partners Rally to Protect Central American Children

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This gallery contains 11 photos.

On July 25 in front of the White House, GHRC in conjunction with CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador), School of the Americas Watch, the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, and CARECEN (Central American Resource Center) hosted a … Continue reading

Rally to Protect Central American Children

Rally to Protect Central American Children
Friday, July 25, 3:00 pm | White House (16th and Pennsylvania Ave, NW)

On Friday afternoon, the Presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras will be meeting with President Obama and Vice-President Biden to discuss the dire situation facing refugee children.

Let’s join together to call on President Obama to uphold and defend the legal rights of children, ensure that families can be reunited and protected here in the U.S., and to take responsibility for U.S. economic and military policies in Mexico and Central America that helped create this crisis in the first place. Continue reading

Recommendations for US Government Action: Smart Responses to Increased Migration from Central America

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Reducing impunity and violence; strengthening the rule of law

  • Provide resources and technical assistance for shelters for girls and women victims of violence and strengthen and expand States’ and localities’ capacity to respond to and sanction violence against women and girls. Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador struggle with endemic levels of intra-familial violence and have grappled with a sharp and disproportionate increase in the murder rate of women and girls. Additional programming is needed to improve investigation and prosecution of femicide and sexual violence. In Honduras, only one shelter is currently functioning; the two other shelters in the country have compromised security mechanisms. For women and girls fleeing forced sexual encounters with gangs, a swiftly expanding phenomenon in Honduras, none of the shelters in- country are sufficiently secure to offer protection. In Guatemala, approximately 61% of victims of sex crimes reported between 2007 and 2011 were 17 or younger. Gender discrimination, lack of resources, and lack of training – for law enforcement, hospitals, and courts – result in neglect of cases, improper collection of evidence, lack of investigation, and extremely high rates of impunity for perpetrators.
  • Provide support and assistance to crime victim and witness protection systems. Mechanisms for offering protection, safety, and shelter for crime victims, including providing for the personal security of witnesses to crimes committed by organized criminal enterprises and police, must be enhanced throughout the region. Investing in such mechanisms will allow witnesses and crime victims to participate in justice processes while staying in their countries of origin.
  • Invest in community-based comprehensive youth violence prevention strategies. Programs like the Paso y Paso social education program in San Pedro Sula, Honduras and the Puente Belice Program in Guatemala are being pioneered in cities struggling with some of the highest levels of violence in the world. In Los Angeles, California and Santa Tecla, El Salvador such programs have yielded verifiable reductions in youth violence and victimization. Evaluations show declines in homicides and gang crimes in Los Angeles over four years, and Santa Tecla, which started its program in 2003, has a 40% lower homicide rate than other surrounding communities.

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Rally at the White House: Fighting for Central American Minors and Their Families

On Monday July 7th, GHRC was present at a rally in support of the Central American children detained at the US border as well as their families. Since last October, nearly 60,000 minors have been detained. Young migrants face a variety of push and pull factors that motivate them to make what is frequently a perilous journey to the US, and a significant number are fleeing violence in their home countries.

Once they are detained, children face being held in uncomfortable and overcrowded Border Patrol facilities. They must navigate their removal process without the right to an appointed counsel or child advocate and face being repatriated back to the potentially dangerous situation they initially fled from. Monday’s rally served as an opportunity to show solidarity with these young people and their families, as well as to appeal to the US government to prioritize the best interests and welfare of minors who have entered the country irregularly.

White House Rally Continue reading