Survivors of the Armed Conflict Demand Compliance with Peace Accords

Survivors of the thirty-six-year internal armed conflict have asked the Guatemalan government to comply with the peace accords signed in 1996 and approve a budget for reparations. Presenting a report evaluating the impact of the accords, survivors of the armed conflict requested “profound reforms” to combat poverty, racism, and discrimination.
The conflict claimed 250,000 victims, including those dead and disappeared, and left more than a million people internally displaced.  The survivors asked Congress to create the National Commission on Forced Disappeareances aimed at searching for the victims, as well as to approve a budget of 50 million quetzals for reparations.

“We believe in peace and that the authorities must have the political will to solve the structural problems that led to the war,” Miguel Quiej, who represents survivors, told EFE.

Quiej was one of the paricipants in the presentation to the three branches of government of the report on the impact of the accords. The peace accords were signed by the government and the guerrilla forces twenty years ago.

Here are those of us who suffered bombings and machine gun strafings and the contempt of the state, to demand that the commitments acquired in the peace accords be taken up again and fulfilled.”

In the opinion of Feliciana Macaria, another representative of the survivors, the government “has not shown sufficient will to comply with the commitments and protect the rights of the victims.” The report, titled “The Impact of the Peace Accords on the Victims of the Internal Armed Conflict 1996-2016,” was presented on the Patio of Peace.

The analysis states that the government has not complied with guaranteeing the victims’ rights to truth, justice, and just reparations, nor has it searched for the more than 45,000 disappeared, among them 1,000 children.

“It is lamentable that the government continues not to recognize the veracity of the Historical Clarification Commission’s report, which determined that acts of genocide were committed against the indigenous peoples, indiscriminately killing children, women, and campesinos,” the report states. In the report, the three organizations representing victims find that on balance, compliance with the peace accords has been “negative.” The groups add that refusing to look for the disappeared and put into practice and exhumation and burial policy “only serves to protect those responsible for the violations and prolongs the anguish of the families.” Indigenous peoples and women have confronted numerous obstacles to justice and many communities do not even have Public Ministry and Judiciary offices, the report explains.

The groups emphasize that the recognize the valiant work of the prosecutors and judges who have issued nineteen sentences against those responsible for serious violations committed during the conflict, but add that these are “small efforts in light of the magnitude of the violations.”

The survivors also assert that they have not received reparations. In thirteen years, only 16,000 applications have been processed and the support received has been only a small economic compensation.

“The victims and survivors continue living in conditions of extreme poverty and marginalization” because the government has not implemented policies to reduce inequality,” they point out. They note that all the governments following the signing of the accords have relegated the peace agenda to the back burner and have prioritized their political plans.

The groups ask the executive branch to strengthen the capacities of the police and to limit the army’s work to guarding the borders, as well as to implement policies to eliminate racism and discrimination.

They urge the judicial branch to investigate, prosecute, and punish the intellectual and material authors of the grave human rights violations committed during the armed conflict.




Black Wednesday in the Defense of Human Rights

The Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders of Guatemala (UDEFEGUA) has issued a communique expressing deep concern about a spate of serious human rights violations. GHRC provides a rough translation below. See the original here.

The Unit for the Protection for Human Rights Defenders-Guatemala expresses deep concern about a series of violent acts committed yesterday, Wednesday, November 9, rarely seen and with little precedent. On that account, UDEFEGUA wishes to express:

  1. On yesterday [Wednesday] alone, union leader Eliseo Villatoro Cardona in Tiquisate was assassinated; illegal, forced entry was made into the Teachers House, where information valuable to STEG [the Union of Guatemalan Education Workers] was stolen; the threat was made to lynch two defenders of a Sololá social auditing organization and five members of COCODE [the Community Development Council] of the same department, whose location we maintain in reserve until the risk is diminished; and one act of sexual violence was committed against a community leader whose name and organization we keep in reserve. Also, reports came to light that a member of CODECA [Committee for Campesino Development] in Cobán was abducted, with the involvement of members of the National Civil Police.
  2. These events are part of a series of acts of violence that affect the capacity to carry out the defense of human rights, such as the assassination of journalist Hamilton Hernández and his wife in Coatepeque last week; threats to three journalists by the group identified as “the Zetas” to stop their coverage in the fight for human rights in Alta Verapaz, El Quiché, and Huehuetenango; violent evictions in El Estor; the illegal arrest of an elder of the Q’anjob’al Nation, as well as the  aggression against another community member in Yxquixix, San Mateo Ixtatán, and the attack on members of UVOC [the Verapaz Union of Campesino Organizations] in El Estor.
  3. These acts of exacerbated violence occur within the framework of permissiveness that the government of Jimmy Morales and the ruling political party (FCN-Nacion) extend to the perpetrators.

    Given the facts expressed above, UDEFEGUA demands:

  1. That the authorities in charge of criminal investigation carry out the pertinent procedures and that they permit the intellectual and material authors of these crimes and serious human rights violations to be identified and condemned.
  2. That the Public Ministry [recognize] the urgent need to carry out a general instruction to permit prosecutors to have greater and more capacity to guarantee an end to impunity.
  3. That COPREDEH take effective steps towards the creation of a Program for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in order to take other preventive measures.

Finally, we wish to send a message of solidarity, support, and accompaniment to the defenders who commit their lives to the defense and promotion of human rights.

Links that may be helpful: El Estor eviction (more here)
Recent communique by UDEFEGUA on other recent acts of violence

Union Member Killed

On November 9, around 3:00 PM, Eliseo Villatoro Cardona, a member of the executive committee of the Organized Municipal Workers Union of Tequisate (SEMOT), in Escuintla, was assassinated in Zone 2 of Tequisate.  He was riding his motorcycle, headed home, when two pursuers, also on motorcycles, shot and wounded him.  Seeing that he continued to try to flee, in spite of his wounds, they killed him.

According to Cerigua, SEMOT had received threats and had been pressured by the municipality of Tequisate.  These measures of pressure violate the right to organize guaranteed under Guatemalan law and by the International Labor Organization (Convention 87). The municipality had reportedly stopped paying the salaries of the unionized workers some months earlier. Eliseo Villatoro Cardona is the third union member killed in Guatemala this year, according to the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights.


UDEFEGUA Releases Year-To-Date Human Rights Report

The Unity for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (UDEFEGUA) has released its human rights report covering the first ten months of 2016. Between January 1 and October 31, eleven human rights defenders were assassinated. Union members, defenders of the environment, and journalists were the most heavily targeted groups. The most common forms of attack were defamation and intimidation. See the full report in Spanish here.  

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Journalist and his wife shot to death in Coatepeque

Journalist Hamilton Roelí Hernández Vásquez, 28, and his wife Ermelinda González Lucas, 35, were killed in a shooting on Saturday November 5th. The National Civil Police (PNC) reported that the bodies were found on the road leading from Coatepeque to Flores Costa Cuca, Quetzaltenango.

According to the Diario Digital, Hernández Vásquex worked in a local radio station as a news broadcaster. The motive for the attack is so far unknown; Public Ministry spokeswoman Julia Barreda has said at this time the proceedings have been made to begin an investigation.

“Calls came in alerting [us] that two people were found on the edge of a dirt road on the Coatepeque highway, upon arriving at the location we found that the victims had died some hours earlier, both had several bullet wounds in their heads,” said Cecilio Jackal, spokesman of the local fire department.

Information given to firefighters at the scene stated that Hernández Vásquez had covered an event on Saturday night, and left the area on his motorcycle, on his way to pick up his wife.

Neighbors were the first to notify police of the shooting. Official spokesperson for the PNC, Jorge Chinchilla, stated that the victims were found at 5:00 am.  

“Hernández Vásquez had at least three gunshot wounds in the back of his head, and Lucas González had two, according to witnesses.

“The guild once again suffers the death of another colleague. This raises warning signs, since last year three murders were recorded, while in 2016 with the death of Hernández Vásquez, the number has risen to nine. Each time, we move up on the scale of countries where it is a risk to practice journalism,” said Ileana Alamilla of the Association of Journalists of Guatemala (APG).

By October, 76 complaints had been registered in the Fiscal Unit for Crimes against Journalists, according to the latest report of Journalists Observatory, part of the Center for Informative Reports on Guatemala (Cerigua). Cerigua has reported 47 attacks on the guild to the Inter American Press Association (IAPA)

Within a month the number rose, according to Alamilla, and with this case, there are now 55 cases that include allegations of threats, assaults, intimidation and censorship on journalists. According to the Diario Digital, Alamilla stated, “There will be many cases that are not related to the practice as such, but records are still in process, which the Public Ministry should determine. It is necessary that investigations and cases of judicialization be sped up. This year, as in others, cases are repeated in the departments.”

Ivan Velasquez, head of the International Commission Against Impunity (CICIG), confirmed that they support the investigation of the two assassinated journalists, which could be tied to organizations that are already being investigated.

Note: The number of murders of journalists varies is reported at 7, while other sources report numbers as high as 11.

Guatemala News: October 29 – November 4

The OIM recommends a gender perspective to Guatemalan migration analysis

The OIM (International Organization for Migration) has recommended an inclusion of studying of women perspective in regards to migration. Women are exposed to risks such as sexual abuse, kidnapping, extortion, amongst many others. It is important to understand the effects this has to reduce the levels and prevent dangers traditionally faced by migrant women. Jorge Peraza, Head of the Mission, urged governments to implement accompanying measures and integration in favor of returnees, if they are to be deported to their home countries.

All clear for territorial referendum with Belize

Guatemala celebrates the clearing for a referendum on its’ territorial dispute with Belize. In 2008, the two countries agreed to submit their dispute to the International Court of Justice in the Hague, but without the populations endorsement of the pact in referendums, it was not possible to implement an accord.

Last week, the Guatemalan congress ratified the revision for a protocol allowing non-simultaneous plebiscites, which had been signed by both parties in 2015. The government will now be able to educate the public on the issue, and decide on a date to hold the referendum.

Guatemala News: October 22 – October 28

Murder of local mayor and his daughter in border town links corruption with drug trafficking

Guatemalan mayor Carlos Darinel Aguirre and his 12-year-old daughter were assassinated on the 25th of October, highlighting his former alleged links to a drug trafficking group. This link characterizes the relationships between elites and criminal groups in Guatemala. Aguirre had previously been tied to drug trafficking group Huistas, a group that continues to yield great power in the Northern Huehuetetango region.16-10-27-Carlos-Aguirre-2

Ex-minister Pavel Centeno shoots prosecutors, commits suicide

The former Minister of Finance took his own life after a shoot-out against an agent of the National Civil Police (PNC) and a public prosecutor. He was due to be arrested in relation to money laundering, and was one of several cases that had taken part in a laundering scheme.