Weekly News Roundup

July 6 – July 12

  • FLACSO receives Peace Archives documents. The Center for Documentation at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences received a variety of studies and documents from the Peace Archives Directorate, according to Ruth Del Valle. Del Valle, the coordinator of the Memory, History, and Justice program at FLACSO, explained that the intent is that the research carried out by the Peace Archives will be useful and well-known.
  • Social groups in Santa Rosa reject mining activity. Various representatives from Santa Rosa de Lima, Nueva Santa Rosa y Casillas, Santa Rosa, presented their views against mining in a press conference on July  The communities are in opposition to the San Rafael mine in the northern part of the department; Enrique Arredondo, mayor of Santa Rosa, said that 98 percent of the community had rejected the mine in a consultation last year.

Indigenous Activist attacked in El Quiché, Guatemala / Activista indígena atacada en El Quiché, Guatemala

GHRC Denounces Attack on Lolita Chavez


On July 4, Lolita Chavez, indigenous activist and human rights defender, narrowly escaped being lynched as four others were beaten by a violent group of people allied with Estuardo Castro, the mayor of Santa Cruz del Quiché and member of the ruling Patriot Party.

Although she avoided harm this time, GHRC is gravely concerned for Lolita’s ongoing safety and well-being. Likewise we are distressed by the harassment and attacks against other members of the K’iche’ People’s Council.


Lolita Chavez is a indigenous woman known for her warm smile, energetic personality, and her selfless commitment to the rural communities of Guatemala’s Quiché department. As a leader within the K’iche’ People’s Council (Consejo de Pueblos K’iche’s – CPK) Lolita has accompanied 87 communities in their struggles for self-determination and resistance to harmful development projects which could threaten the health of families and cause irreversible damage to the environment.

This opposition to “development at any cost” has placed these communities, and in particular the members of the CPK, at great risk. Powerful local, departmental, and national political figures — closely aligned with transnational corporations — have made it perfectly clear that they are not interested in consulting with indigenous communities or entering into real dialogue with local organization and leaders. Guatemalan authorities have instead responded with threats, defamation, intimidation, and violence.

On June 12th of this year José Tavico Tzunun, a member of the CPK who hosted meetings at his home, was assassinated by armed gunmen who broke into his house after midnight. A few days previous to the attack he had received a phone message that threatened: “If you continue to bring people together for meetings, you will pay the consequences…”

On June 26th Lolita, in representation of the CPK, presented a formal accusation against the mayor of Quiché, Estuardo Castro, for “abuse of power, racial discrimination, arrogance and authoritarianism, exclusion and marginalization” in his dealings with the indigenous communities. She also denounced a death threat against another community leader, Gaspar Tipaz Gómez, for his participation in the protests. Lolita added: “We hold the mayor and the municipal government responsible for anything that happens to us or our families.”

The Attack against Lolita

Around 4:15pm on July, 4, Lolita and other women were returning home from a peaceful gathering in Santa Cruz del Quiché to protest Mayor Castro’s blatant disregard for the opinions and proposals of the indigenous communities. When they arrived at the community of Xatinap Quinto La Laguna their bus was intercepted by eight people armed with knives, rocks, machetes, and other sharp objects. The assailants shouted “Mayor Castro is in charge here and we’re here to do the mayor’s justice.” They demanded that Lolita be handed over to them. When the community members refused, the mob threw rocks at the bus and forced three women and a child off the bus.

One woman, age 20, had her arms held behind her back while being beaten with a piece of wood. She also received a knife cut to her right wrist. Another woman, age 40, had her left eye scratched and her blouse torn. The third woman, 52, had her lip split open and her front teeth shattered when struck in the face by a rock. The 11 year-old girl had her left ankle fractured by another thrown rock.

Lolita avoided falling into the hands of the attackers because the bus driver decided to make a break for it and escape. Lolita immediately contacted the police, who took nearly half an hour to arrive on the scene. Once there, the officers instantly sided with the attackers saying that Lolita and the other members of the K’iche’ People’s Council were “delinquents and agitators” and that the authorities were “tired of having to listen to all of their demands.”

The tense situation was only diffused by the arrival of ambulances to attend to the injured women. None of the assailants was detained or arrested. In fact, in a perverse distortion of justice, the attackers claim that they were the victims and have filed charges against Lolita and the others. While absurd, these bogus charges could likely result in arrest warrants for Lolita and others.

Also troubling are reports from El Quiché that Lolita’s name is being disparaged during “official” news broadcasts on the local radio station accusing her of provoking disturbances in the area, an obvious attempt to criminalize her activism.

GHRC’s Concerns

GHRC laments that this incident is just the latest in a series of violent attacks against human rights defenders, particularly those defending the collective rights of indigenous communities to self-determination and the protection of their natural resources and the environment.

GHRC calls on the Guatemalan government to fully guarantee the safety and security of Lolita Chavez and the other members of the Consejo de Pueblos K’iche’.

GHRC calls on the Public Ministry to transfer the case of the murder of José Tavico Tzunun to the Office of the Human Rights Prosecutor, to guarantee that the investigation take into account the relevant human rights elements surrounding his assassination.

GHRC calls on the Interior Ministry to investigate the conduct of the police officers in the aftermath of the attack, in particular their refusal to arrest those responsible for this crime.

GHRC calls on the Mayor of Santa Cruz del Quiché and his municipal government to engage in honest dialogue with the participation of independent observers, to attend to the just demands of the communities and to immediately cease any and all actions designed to provoke division, discord and violence amongst the communities.

GHRC fully supports the rights of the indigenous communities of El Quiché to determine the type of development that best respects their rights and embodies their beliefs and world view. We reject the imposition of any external model that is based on exclusion and exploitation.

Send a postcard to Lolita and the members of the CPK!

GHRC will be delivering postcards with messages of support to these brave activists as they continue with the difficult and often dangerous work of defending indigenous rights and natural resources.

You can send a postcard to the GHRC office before July 27th, and GHRC staff will deliver it to Lolita and the K’iche’ People’s Council in Guatemala.

3321 12th St. NE
Washington, DC 20017

Don’t write in Spanish? Don’t worry! You can start the postcard with “Estimados miembros del Consejo de Pueblos K’iche’s”. Below are some sample messages that you could send. Feel free to mix and match.

  • _Estoy_____ en solidaridad con Los Pueblos K’iche’s. (Or you can fill in the name of your group to say “_____stands in solidarity with the K’iche’ people”)
  • Respaldamos su lucha por sus derechos y la madre tierra. (We support your struggle for your rights and Mother Earth)
  • Que sigan adelante con la lucha para la dignidad de los pueblos K’iche’s. (Keep up the fight for the dignity of the K’iche’ people)
  • El pueblo de _____ presente en la lucha. (The people of ______ present in the struggle)
  • El pueblo unido jamás será vencido. (The people united will never be defeated)
  • Lamentamos la violencia contra de los miembros del Consejo de Pueblos K’iche’s. (We lament the violence against the members of the K’iche’ People’s Council.)
  • Apoyamos los derechos colectivos de los pueblos indígenas de Guatemala. (We support the collective rights of the indigenous people of Guatemala)

You can also write a letter to the Guatemalan Prosecutors Office and the Presidential Commission for Human Rights urging them to provide protection to the K’iche’ People’s Council and investigate the recent acts of violence.


GHRC Denuncia el ataque a Lolita Chavez               


El 4 de julio, Lolita Chávez, activista indígena y defensora de derechos humanos, logró evitar ser linchada, mientras que cuatro personas fueron golpeadas por un grupo violento de personas aliadas con el alcalde de Santa Cruz del Quiché, Estuardo Castro, miembro del Partido Patriota que actualmente ostenta el poder en Guatemala.

Aunque salió ilesa, la Comisión de Derechos Humanos de Guatemala (GHRC por sus siglas en ingles) está bastante preocupada por la seguridad y el bienestar de Lolita. Adicionalmente la Comisión se encuentra muy consternada con el hostigamiento y los constantes ataques en contra de otros miembros del Consejo de Pueblos K’iche’s.


Lolita Chávez es una mujer indígena conocida por su sonrisa cálida, personalidad energética y su entrega a las comunidades rurales del departamento de El Quiché en Guatemala. Como lideresa dentro del Consejo de Pueblos K’iche’s -CPK- Lolita acompaña a 87 comunidades en su lucha por la autodeterminación y en la resistencia a los megaproyectos dañinos que ponen en riesgo la salud de las familias y causan daños irreversibles al medio ambiente

La oposición al “desarrollo a cualquier costo” ha puesto a estas comunidades, y en particular a los miembros del CPK, en gran riesgo. Autoridades locales, departamentales y nacionales – con fuertes vínculos a empresas transnacionales – han demostrado su falta de interés en consultar con las comunidades indígenas o entrar en un diálogo real con sus organizaciones y líderes. Todo lo contrario: las autoridades guatemaltecas han respondido con amenazas, difamación, intimidación y violencia.

El 12 de junio del presente año, José Tavico Tzunun, un miembro del CPK quien organizaba reuniones en su casa, fue asesinado por hombres armados que entraron a su domicilio pasada la media noche. Días antes del ataque José había recibido un mensaje telefónico en donde lo amenazaban que: “Si seguís reuniendo a la gente, te atenés a las consecuencias…”

El 26 de junio Lolita, en representación del CPK, presentó una acusación formal en contra del alcalde de El Quiché, Estuardo Castro, por “abuso de poder, discriminación racial, prepotencia y autoritarismo, exclusión y marginalización” en su trato con las comunidades indígenas. También denunció una amenaza de muerte hecha a otro líder de la comunidad, Gaspar Tipaz Gómez, por su participación en las protestas. Lolita dijo: “Hacemos responsable al Alcalde y al gobierno municipal de cualquier cosa que nos pase a nosotros o a nuestras familias”.

El ataque a Lolita

Alrededor de las 4:15 de la tarde el 4, Lolita, en compañía de otras mujeres, regresaba a su casa luego de una reunión pacifica en Santa Cruz del Quiché para protestar el flagrante desprecio del Alcalde Castro en relación a las opiniones y propuestas de las comunidades indígenas. Cuando llegaron a la comunidad de Xartinap Quinto La Laguna su bus fue interceptado por un grupo de ocho personas armadas con cuchillos, piedras, machetes y otro tipo de objetos corto punzantes. Los atacantes comenzaron a gritar: “El Alcalde Castro es el que está encargado aquí y vamos a hacer justicia por el Alcalde”. Los atacantes exigieron que las demás personas le entregaran a Lolita. Cuando los comunitarios se rehusaron, el grupo de atacantes comenzó a tirar piedras y obligaron a tres mujeres y a una menor a bajarse del bus.

A una de las mujeres, una joven de 20 años, la tomaron de los brazos por detrás mientras le golpearon continuamente con un palo. También recibió una cortada con un cuchillo en su muñeca derecha. Otra de las mujeres, una señora de 40 años, fue aruñada en su ojo izquierdo a la vez que le rompió la blusa que llevaba puesta. A la tercera mujer, una señora de 52 años, le rompieron el labio y le fracturaron los dientes cuando le lanzaron una piedra a su cara. La pequeña de 11 años quedó con un tobillo fracturado luego de ser atacada con otra roca.

Lolita logró evitar el ataque gracias a que el conductor del bus decidió escapar de la zona y huyó con el bus. Inmediatamente Lolita contactó a la policía, la cual se demoró casi media hora en llegar a la escena del crimen. Una vez ahí, los uniformados inmediatamente se aliaron con los atacantes en las acusaciones que establecían que Lolita y los otros miembros del Consejo de Pueblos K’iche’s eran “delincuentes provocadores”. Los oficiales afirmaron además: “les hemos aguantado tanto a ustedes por que tienen mucha demandas”.

La tensa situación solo se calmó con la llegada de las ambulancias solicitadas para atender a las mujeres que habían sido heridas. Ninguno de los asaltantes fue detenido o arrestado por la policía. De hecho, en una distorsión perversa de la justicia, los atacantes argumentaron que ellos fueron las víctimas y que iban a presentar cargos contra Lolita y los otros miembros del Consejo. Aun cuando los cargos son absurdos, estos podrían terminar en órdenes de captura contra Lolita y sus acompañantes.
Igual de preocupante son informes desde El Quiché que establecen que Lolita está siendo difamada durante programas “oficiales” de radio, en donde es acusada de provocar disturbios en el área. Lo anterior es un obvio intento de criminalizar su activismo.

Las preocupaciones de La Comisión de Derechos Humanos de Guatemala (GHRC)

GHRC lamenta que este incidente sea tan solo el último en una serie de ataques contra defensores de derechos humanos, en particular en contra de aquellos que defienden los derechos colectivos de las comunidades indígenas a la autodeterminación y la protección de sus recursos naturales y el medio ambiente

GHRC hace un llamado al gobierno de Guatemala para que garantice la seguridad de Lolita Chávez y los demás miembros del Consejo de Pueblos K’iche’.

GHRC hace un llamado al Ministerio Público para que transfiera el caso del asesinato de José Tabico Tunan a la oficina de la Fiscalía de Derechos Humanos, con el fin de garantizar que en la investigación sean tomados en cuenta los elementos relevantes de derechos humanos que rodean el asesinato.

GHRC hace un llamado al Ministerio de Gobernación para que investigue la conducta de los oficiales de la policía involucrados en la respuesta al ataque, en particular a aquellos que se rehusaron a arrestar a los responsables del crimen.

GHRC hace un llamado al Alcalde de Santa Cruz del Quiché y a su gobierno municipal a que entren en un diálogo honesto, con la participación de observadores independientes, para atender a las demandas justas de las comunidades indígenas, y que cese de manera inmediata cualquier acción encaminada a provocar división, discordia y violencia entre las comunidades.

GHRC apoya plenamente los derechos de las comunidades indígenas de El Quiché para determinar el tipo de desarrollo que mejor les respete sus derechos y que represente sus creencias y su cosmovisión. Rechazamos la imposición de cualquier modelo ajeno basado en la exclusión y la explotación.

Envíe un mensaje de apoyo a Lolita y las otras victimas

GHRC entregará postales con mensajes de apoyo a estas activistas valientes mientras que ellas continuen su trabajo dificil y muchas veces peligroso de defender los derechos de los pueblos indígenas y los recursos naturales

Se puede enviar un postal a la oficina de GHRC en EEUU antes del 27 de July y la personal de GHRC lo entrgará a Lolita y el Consejo de Pueblos K’iche’s en Guatemala.

3321 12th St. NE
Washington, DC 20017

Tambien se puede escribir una carta al Ministerio Publico y la Comisión Presidencial para los Derechos Humanos instando que provean protección al Consejo de Pueblos K’iche’s y investiguen los actos recientes de violencia.

Apply now for GHRC’s Voiceless Speak Fund.

Deadline to apply has been extended to July 15th!
 Are you Guatemalan? Are you either working to educate people in the US about human rights in Guatemala, or working in your community in the US to support the rights of Guatemalans here? If so, consider applying for GHRC’s Voiceless Speak Fund! Through this program, every year, GHRC gives out small grants to Guatemalans working for human rights to help cover their living expenses or other expenses related to their work.

The recipients of the Voiceless Speak Fund in 2011 include:

  • Maria Luisa Rosal, whose father was forcibly disappeared in Guatemala, and is pushing for justice in his case;
  • Ana Valdez, survivor of domestic violence, who, with GHRC’s help, started her own organization in Maryland to support other survivors of domestic violence and educate the community about this issue;
  • Marvyn Peréz, survivor of torture at the hands of the Guatemalan government, who works in Los Angeles, CA to educate others about human rights abuses in Guatemala and support human rights organizations putting on events in his area;
  • Adrian Ventura, survivor of Guatemala’s internal armed conflict, who is currently working in New Bedford, MA educating and organizing immigrant workers to stand up for their labor rights
  • Lucia Muñoz, who educates students and police in Guatemala City about gender equality to reduce violence against women.

Applications and more information are available here.

 Please pass this information along to anyone you know who might be eligible and interested.

Feel free to contact us at ghrc-usa@ghrc-usa.org with any questions.


Solicite ahora el Fondo “Voiceless Speak” de la GHRC

Fecha límite para hacer la solicitud se ha extendido al 15 de julio!

¿Es Usted de Guatemala? ¿Está trabajando para educar a la gente en los EE.UU. sobre los derechos humanos en Guatemala, o trabajando en su comunidad en los EE.UU. para apoyar los derechos de los guatemaltecos aquí?

Si es así, ¡considere la posibilidad de solicitaruna beca del Fondo “Voiceless Speak” de la GHRC! Cada año la GHRC otorga pequeñas subvenciones a los y las guatemaltecos que trabajan para los derechos humanos, con el fin de ayudarlos a cubrir sus gastos básicos y otros relacionados con su trabajo.

Los beneficiarios del Fondo “Voiceless Speak” en el 2011 incluyen:

  • María Luisa Rosal, cuyo padre fue desaparecido en Guatemala, y quien está ejerciendo presión para que se haga justicia en su caso;
  • Ana Valdez, sobreviviente de la violencia doméstica, quien con el apoyo de la GHRC fundó una organización en Maryland para apoyar a las sobrevivientes de violencia doméstica y educar a la comunidad sobre este tema;
  • Marvyn Pérez, sobreviviente de la tortura a manos del gobierno de Guatemala, quien trabaja en Los Angeles, CA para educar a su comunidad acerca de violaciones de los derechos humanos en Guatemala y para ayudar a organizaciones de derechos humanos a realizar eventos en su área;
  • Adrián Ventura, sobreviviente del conflicto armado interno de Guatemala, quien vive y trabaja en New Bedford, MA para educar, organizar y apoyar los trabajadores inmigrantes en su lucha por sus derechos laborales;
  • Lucía Muñoz, quien educa a estudiantes y a la policía en la Ciudad de Guatemala sobre desigualdad de género para reducir la violencia contra las mujeres.

La solicitud y más información están disponibles aquí.

Por favor, comparta esta información con cualquier persona de su conocimiento quien puede ser elegible e interesada.

Si tiene alguna pregunta, no dude en comunicarse con nosotros a: ghrc-usa@ghrc-usa.org.

GHRC/USA Supports Demands of Workers Fired from Kyler Seafood.

June 20, 2012

On May 4th of this year, Kyler Seafoods, located in New Bedford, MA, dismissed 52 employees as a result of an audit of the company carried out by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Many of those fired had worked for the company for over a decade. Despite their years of service, the employees were offered no severance pay and were not given the vacation pay that many of them had accumulated during their employment.

In addition, the employees were given only three days notice of their termination, despite requirements under Massachusetts Law that employers must provide 90 days notice to employees in cases of mass firings.


Photo: SouthCoastToday.com

The majority of the fired employees are indigenous K’iche Mayans from Guatemala. The United State’s current immigration policy, which led to their firing, criminalizes immigrant workers and obscures the important contribution that these workers make to economies such as that of New Bedford.

In addition, it ignores the many factors which propel forced migration of indigenous Guatemalans to the United States, such as discrimination, marginalization and human rights abuses in their home country. The UN Historical Clarification Commission in Guatemala documented acts of genocide committed against the K’iche people by successive Guatemalan military dictatorships, many of which were heavily supported by the U.S. The affected K’iche communities continue to live in dire conditions, while the vast majority of the perpetrators of these crimes enjoy total impunity.

The U.S. has also implemented economic and trade policies which reduce economic opportunities in Guatemala, such as the Central American Free Trade Agreement, thus forcing yet more Guatemalans to flee poverty and seek work in the U.S. in order to provide for their families.

GHRC/USA supports the demands of former Kyler Seafoods employees for severance and vacation pay, and applauds their efforts, supported by the Worker’s Community Center, to demand that the company treat all workers with respect.

GHRC Stands in Solidarity with the People of Santa Cruz Barillas/GHRC expresa nuestra solidaridad con la población de Santa Cruz Barillas

The Guatemalan Human Rights Commission in Washington, DC (GHRC/USA) wishes to express its deepest concern about the crisis in Santa Cruz Barillas, Huehuetenango and the excessive and arbitrary reaction of the Guatemalan government.

President Otto Pérez Molina in Santa Cruz Barillas from plazapublica.com.gt

We condemn the attack on May 1 in which Andrés Francisco Miguel was murdered and Pablo Antonio Pablo Pablo and Esteban Bernabé were seriously injured, an attack apparently carried out by individuals linked to hydroelectric company Hidro Santa Cruz SA. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to the victims and their families.

In a community meeting held in the town of Barillas on June 23, 2007, the community expressed their opposition to mining activities and other mega projects. From the outset of the proposed project, residents have expressed their rejection of the proposed Canbalam hydroelectric project and have denounced the lack of prior and informed consent.

The government’s decision to declare a state of siege and suspend fundamental rights is ironic given that this conflict arose because of the state’s failure to recognize and respect the collective rights of the community. Far from pacifying and providing a real solution to the conflict, the state of siege only serves to generate more fear, disharmony and insecurity.

We criticize the baseless and defamatory statements of government officials linking social movements to organized crime groups, such as Los Zetas. This attempt to defame and discredit community leaders is a poor pretext to justify the improper use of the armed forces.

We also reject the malicious accusations against international organizations working in Guatemala. We are troubled by this smear campaign because of the negative impact it can have on those who work on behalf of human rights, solidarity, and the development of the country. We ask the media to maintain impartiality in their coverage of the news in order to promote peace among the people.

The actions of military officials and security forces –roundups, home searches, threats, and arrests–repeat a pattern of criminalization of social movements and community leaders who seek respect for their historic rights as indigenous peoples to decide the best use of their land and natural resources.

We are alarmed that the government has given priority to the capture of community leaders over the arrest of those responsible for the murder of Andrés Francisco Miguel.

In addition, we wish to express our concern for the irregular and furtive manner in which 12 community leaders were secretly transferred from Huehuetenango to a high-security prison in Guatemala City. Authorities not only failed to notify family members beforehand, but also refused to answer questions about the detainees’ whereabouts. The community leaders, not convicted of any crime, have been placed in the prison’s general population along with gang members, extortionists, and murderers.

We urge authorities to:

  • Guarantee the safety, welfare, and fully respect the rights of those imprisoned, and to immediately review the charges against them;
  • Investigate the assassination of Andrés Francisco Miguel and prosecute the material and intellectual authors of this deplorable act;
  • Lift the state of siege and demilitarize the response to social conflict;
  • Suspend the Hidro Santa Cruz’s construction license, respecting the community referendum carried out in 2007.

The government has a supreme duty to guarantee the inalienable rights of its citizens. At all times, in peace or in conflict, this obligation must be the guiding force behind every action of the state. The appropriate solution to the conflict in Santa Cruz Barillas can only be found through a respect for the rights of its people, not through the suspension or the violation of those rights.

La Comisión de los Derechos Humanos de Guatemala en Washington (GHRC/USA, por sus siglas en inglés) quiere manifestar su profunda preocupación por la crisis desatada en Villa de Barillas, Huehuetenango y la reacción excesiva y arbitraria del Gobierno de la República de Guatemala.

Estado de sitio en Santa Cruz Barillas, Huehuetenango

Repudiamos el ataque del 1 de mayo en cual fue asesinado el campesino Andrés Francisco Miguel y quedaron gravemente heridos los señores Pablo Antonio Pablo Pablo y Esteban Bernabé, un ataque aparentemente perpetrado por personas ligadas a la empresa Hidro Santa Cruz. Nuestras sinceras condolencias están con las víctimas y sus familias.

En una consulta comunitaria celebrada en el municipio de Barillas el 23 de junio del 2007, la comunidad expresó su rechazo a la minería y otros megaproyectos. Desde el principio del proyecto propuesto, los vecinos han expresado su rechazo total al hidroeléctrico Canbalam y han denunciado la falta de consulta previa e informada.

La aprobación de un Estado de Sitio y la suspensión de los derechos fundamentales, es un acto que resulta hasta irónico dado que este conflicto nace por el no respeto a los derechos colectivos de esta comunidad. Lejos de apaciguar y buscar una solución verdadera a la situación conflictiva, solo ha servido para sembrar más discordia, miedo e inseguridad.

Criticamos las declaraciones sin fundamento de funcionarios del Gobierno vinculando al movimiento social con grupos de crimen organizado, como los Zetas. Este intento de difamar y desprestigiar a los líderes comunitarios es un mal pretexto para justificar el indebido uso de las fuerzas armadas.

De igual forma rechazamos las acusaciones tendenciosas lanzadas en contra de las organizaciones internacionales. Esta campaña negra nos preocupa por las repercusiones que pueda tener para las personas que trabajan en pro de los derechos humanos, la solidaridad y el desarrollo del país. Pedimos a los medios de comunicación la imparcialidad de sus notas con el fin de promover la paz en la población.

Las actuaciones de los funcionarios y las fuerzas armadas—redadas, allanamientos, amenazas y arrestos—replican un patrón de criminalización de movimientos sociales y líderes comunitarios quienes buscan cumplimiento con sus demandas históricas del derecho a la consulta y al territorio ancestral.

Estamos alarmados por la prioridad dada a la captura de líderes comunitarios por encima del arresto de los asesinos responsables por la muerte de Andrés Francisco Miguel.

Además, expresamos nuestra profunda preocupación por la forma en que los 12 líderes fueron trasladados desde Huehuetenango a una cárcel de máxima seguridad en la capital, sin previo aviso y de forma encubierta. Las autoridades no solo no avisaron a los familiares, sino también negaron contestar preguntas acerca del paradero de los detenidos. Los lideres comunitarios, no condenado por ningún delito, fueron colocados en la población general de la cárcel, junto con mareros, extorsionistas y asesinos.

Instamos a las autoridades:

  • Garantizar la seguridad, bienestar y el pleno respeto a los derechos humanos de los detenidos, y inmediatamente revisar las cargos contra ellos;
  • Investigar el asesinato de Andrés Francisco Miguel y llevar a juicio a los responsables materiales e intelectuales de este deplorable hecho;
  • Levantar el estado de sitio y desmilitarizar la respuesta al conflicto social;
  • Suspender la licencia de construcción de la Hidro Santa Cruz respetando la consulta comunitaria que se llevó a cabo en 2007.

El Estado tiene el deber supremo de ser garante de los derechos inalienables de sus ciudadanos. En todo momento, de paz o conflicto, esta obligación debería ser la guía primordial para el actuar de las autoridades. La solución idónea al conflicto de Santa Cruz Barillas solo se encontrará por medio de respeto a los derechos de sus habitantes, y no por la suspensión o violación de ellos.

Books to Benefit GHRC!

What War? Testimonies of Maya Survivors

“I am a survivor of the Guatemala civil war.”

In 2004, Laurie Levinger left her home in Vermont for Guatemala where she planned to teach English to Maya university students. But on the first day of class, Levinger became the student instead of the teacher when a young man named Fernando introduced himself by saying “My father was killed when I was four months old. I am a survivor of the Guatemala civil war.”

Shocked, Levinger’s first thought was “What war?”

Beginning in 1960, fighting between the Guatemalan military and guerrilla fighters raged across the country. By 1980, this violence-which began with a CIA-backed coup and efforts by the United Fruit Company to protect its financial interests-turned into the massacre of Maya people throughout Guatemala. By the time peace accords were signed in 1996, over 200,000 people had been murdered or “disappeared” and hundreds of thousands more forced into exile by their own government.

Levinger’s students had been young children when these atrocities were committed. Many lost their parents. Many had relatives who “disappeared.” All had suffered the loss of their culture, their family ties, their sense of safety, their personal identities.

As a clinical social worker, Levinger believes in the importance of bearing witness, of speaking the unspeakable out loud. After her initial trip, she returned to Guatemala, this time with a tape recorder and a mission: to record the testimonies of her students, to document their enduring love for their Maya culture, and to honor their unflagging search for truth.

In What War? Testimonies of Maya Survivors, Levinger brings us stories, told in the spare and eloquent language of truth-tellers, reminding us all that the true cost of war is borne by the survivors. And so is the hope for peace.

GHRC is featuring Laurie Levinger’s What War? to kick off our new book of the month series. We offer several titles for sale focused on different aspects of human rights in Guatemala. What War? which has been published in English and Spanish, in Guatemala and in the US, is a crucial and timely look at the importance of historical memory for the healing of Guatemala’s victims of its internal armed conflict. Your purchase of this book benefits GHRC’s work to support victims and survivors of human rights abuses in Guatemala.

What War? is available from GHRC for $20 ($3 off the normal price). To order What War? or other items we have for sale, print out our order form and mail it to us along with your payment.

Other Announcements

Host a Speaker with GHRC this April

Do you live in Washington, Oregon or California? Are you looking for ways to support human rights in Guatemala?

Host Iduvina Hernandez, Guatemalan journalist and human rights activist to speak at your school, place of worship, or other venue, starting April 23. Iduvina will discuss Militarization and Threats to Justice in Guatemala.

Email ghrc-usa@ghrc-usa.org for more information.

GHRC is Celebrating its 30th Anniversary!

2012 marks 30 years since Sister Alice Zachmann registered the Guatemala Human Rights Commission as a non-profit, and we’re celebrating all year. Watch for tidbits about GHRC’s history on Facebook and stay tuned for information about how you can get involved in celebrating this milestone. Mark your calendars for a special event in Washington, DC on September 27th.

Connect with GHRC

Here at GHRC, we’re always looking for new ways to educate and mobilize. There are all sorts of  ways to connect with us online: Like us on Facebook; follow us on Twitter; and check out our new blog. Join  our listserv to receive regular news and updates. Finally we’re excited to announce the imminent launch of our new website. Prefer not to use the internet? Don’t worry. GHRC will still be sending out El Quetzal and other updates by mail.

Apply For GHRC’s Voiceless Speak Fund

Since 1987, the Voiceless Speak Fund has empowered Guatemalans with personal knowledge of human rights violations in Guatemala to share their experiences and raise awareness among people in the United States. The Fund provides direct assistance to Guatemalans in the US who are in financial need and are engaged in Guatemala human rights work, or have demonstrated an ability and desire to do such work. For more information, visit our website. Applications are due June 30, 2012.

Urgent Call Campaign: Denounce the Guatemalan military’s assault on justice


US Lawyer and human rights activist Jennifer Harbury has been pushing for justice in war crimes cases in Guatemala for over 20 years. She writes from Guatemala, calling for action at this key moment to denounce the Guatemalan military’s attempts to impede the work of Attorney General Claudia Paz and the judicial proceedings underway in key cases.

I have spent the last many days consulting with the human rights groups and attorneys here in Guatemala. We think that within the next few weeks it is very likely that the army officers facing war crimes charges will push through a de facto amnesty, either by removing Claudia Paz, the amazing attorney general, an illegal congressional amnesty (“punto final”), or through a court ruling canceling international human rights law. (Guatemalan law alone does not even recognize the basic principles of Nuremberg.)

If any of these three things happen, then the war crimes cases will come to a very abrupt end. That, of course, is the goal.

I know we are entering the heart of the holiday season this week, but this is precisely why these dates are the most dangerous in Guatemala. This time of year is also prime time for assassinations and disappearances of human rights leaders, since most of the international community is away.

Given this, we are asking EVERYONE to make an emergency call to the White House comment line this week. (See below.) We need Obama to receive some basic information, and to communicate to the Guatemalan government that the US will not support an amnesty. With the collaboration of GHRC and Rights Action, I will continue advocacy with key US congresspersons after January 1, 2012. We will then also send you information about actions we will be taking with the UN, the OAS, and others.

After you make your call, please recruit a minimum of three additional persons to call the White House Comments line starting Monday Dec. 19. We need 30 or 40 calls a day to get the message sent to the President’s desk. This takes work, but the timing is crucial. If you have classrooms or clubs, this is a great way to get calls in. Family members and friends can also jump in with you.

Once you’ve made your call, please let us know by emailing ghrc-usa@ghrc-usa.org so that we can estimate how many calls are going in. We also welcome any comments or feedback from your call.

Thank you,

Jennifer Harbury


WHITE HOUSE COMMENTS LINE NUMBER: (202) 456-1111 OR (202) 456-1414

Message Points:

1. As President, Obama has announced he will stand strong in favor of fundamental human rights.

2. We want him to know that the incoming president of Guatemala, former General Otto Perez Molina, is deeply implicated in the past genocide against the Mayan population.

3. For years the people of Guatemala have sought to end the impunity by pressing for Nuremberg trials for the massacres. This year they came very close, thanks to the new attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz.

4. The army is responding by pushing hard for a de facto amnesty, either through the courts or congress, or by removing Claudia Paz from her position. The army has also been presenting bad faith criminal complaints against human rights leaders and journalists.

5. We ask that you take immediate steps to communicate with President Colom and President-elect Otto Perez Molina and make it clear that the United States government will not tolerate any illegal amnesty, direct or indirect, for crimes against humanity, or the bad faith criminalization of human rights leaders.

6. We thank you for attention to this very urgent matter.


A petition has also been set up on the White House website to denounce any illegal amnesty that the military tries to push through. You can add your name here.


International pressure at this key juncture can make the difference. Thank you for taking action.
In solidarity,

Kelsey Alford-Jones

GHRC Director