Guatemala News Update: March 31 – April 4

Say “No!” to U.S. funds for the Guatemalan Army

Upside Down World publicized the call from us at GHRC and our partners at NISGUA for the US government to maintain restrictions on funding to the Guatemalan Army, as Guatemala has not complied with conditions laid out in the 2014 US Appropriations Law.

Click here to sign our petition! Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: March 3-7

Investigation to follow death of Supreme Court Justice César Barrientos Pellecer

Guatemalan Supreme Court Justice César Barrientos Pellecer died last Sunday in Mazatenango bullet wounds to the head. News sources first presented conflicting reports as to whether his death was a suicide or a homicide; however, the National Forensic Science Institute (Inacif) confirmed that Barrientos committed suicide. GHRC expressed profound sadness regarding Barrientos’ death and released a note, written by Barrientos shortly before his death, which exemplified his dedication to justice. Now, the court must choose someone to fill the vacancy left by Barrientos.

Two years of peaceful resistance in La Puya

The communities of San José de Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc (‘La Puya’) celebrated two years of peaceful resistance last Sunday against a mining project by U.S.-owned company Kappes, Cassiday and Associates that would cause severe harm to the environment. Around 1,000 people joined a march on Sunday to commemorate the anniversary. See highlights and photos from the event here. Continue reading

Parting Message from Justice Barrientos Called for Continued Reforms, Commitment to Justice

(Read in English below)

El Magistrado César Barrientos Pellecer se esmeró en alcanzar los más altos estandardes de la justicia y el estado de derecho. Sus esfuerzos valientes a implementar reformas al código procesal penal llevó a numerosas reformas procesales y administrativas, así como a la implementación exitosa de los tribunales de mayor riesgo, en los cuales jueces conocen casos de profunda importancia para la nación. El Magistrado Barrientos nunca vaciló en cuestionar el estatus quo y sus votos razonados defendieron y permitieron mayor respeto para víctimas, protecciones más fuertes para poblaciones vulnerables y para los derechos indígenas y el cumplimiento estricto con las obligaciones del Estado de Guatemala bajo leyes internacionales.

El siguiente mensaje es muy probablemente el último que envió la mañana de su muerte el 2 de marzo de 2014. Ofrece una visión clara y sucinta de lo que debe ser – y puede ser – el proceso penal. Aunque escrito en una voz imparcial, está claro que este breve manifiesto representa su compromiso firme y ferviente con la justicia. Es, en gran parte, un llamado apasionado a dar seguimiento a lo que él inició.

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Guatemala News Update: February 24-March 2

Two years of peaceful resistance in La Puya

The community of La Puya celebrated two years of peaceful resistance yesterday against a mining project by U.S.-owned company Kappes, Cassiday and Associates that would cause severe harm to the environment and affect the health and homes of many in the areas of San José de Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc. Around 1,000 people joined a march to commemorate the anniversary and protest future mining plans. Last week, the contracting company broke their relationship with KCA and pulled the machinery out of the mine permanently. GHRC joined the protesters in solidarity and La Puya presented GHRC with a certificate of appreciation for standing by them in peaceful resistance.

Short-list of candidates for attorney general position to be presented in May; CC hears final arguments regarding the term of Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz

The nominating committee will turn in a list of six candidates for the next attorney general to President Pérez Molina on May 2. Candidates, who must prove their legal and personal accomplishments and that they do not associate with members of organized crime, may apply this Friday through March 7. Paz y Paz has not yet decided whether she will run for reelection.

The Constitutional Court heard final arguments on February 26 from Claudia Paz y Paz on why she should stay in office until December, and from Ricardo Sagastume on why her term should end in May. Supporters from both sides attended the hearing, including representatives from GHRC. Though Paz y Paz supporters had a greater presence, Sagastume said he felt “secure” that the court would rule in his favor. The Court has 15 days to deliver a decision.

Inter-American Development Bank to cooperate with Guatemalan government for Chixoy reparations

After meeting with President Pérez Molina and Minister of Finance María Castro, Luis Alberto Moreno, President of the Inter-American Development Bank, announced that the Bank will cooperate with the Guatemalan government to compensate surviving victims of the 1980s Chixoy Dam project.

Human rights defenders cite slow advances for justice in Guatemala

In honor of the UN’s Commission for Historic Clarification’s report “Memorias del Silencio,” released 15 years ago, human rights organizations expressed that progress has been slow regarding access to justice for the victims of Guatemala’s internal armed conflict.

Central American women speak out against violence

This Guardian piece looks at the obstacles, including threats and harassment, faced by women human rights defenders in Central America, as well efforts by the Mesoamerican Human Rights Defenders’ Initiative (IM-Defensoras) to provide women with security and support. The article highlights Lolita Chavez, a GHRC partner who came to the US to speak last year, who has been targeted on multiple occasions for speaking up for indigenous rights and women’s rights.

High Risk Court declines to hear Rios Montt amnesty application

The High Risk Court declined to analyze Rios Montt’s request for amnesty. The President of the Tribunal explained that the High Risk Court already ruled on this issue in October of 2012 and could not rule on it again. This is the third court to excuse itself from the process. Rios Montt is currently under house arrest and is awaiting his trial in January of 2015, though his application for amnesty must be decided first.

Inter American Press Association asks Guatemala to investigate murder of four journalists

A delegation from the Sociedad Interamericana de Prensa (SIP) visited Guatemala last week to meet with President Pérez Molina and other officials on the status of freedom of the press in the country, as recent events have signaled an increase in violence against journalists. The SIP encouraged the administration to investigate the murder of four journalists last year. 

Later this week, the CC decided to suspend measures against José Rubén Zamora, the president of “El Periódico,” who Vice President Roxana Baldetti accused of falsifying information about corruption in the administration. As a result, Guatemala will establish the “Sistema de Protección a Periodistas” (Journalists’ Protection System) to ensure freedom of the press and safety for journalists. The U.S. Department of State’s annual report on human rights throughout the world also expressed concern for violations regarding press freedom in Guatemala in 2013.

Trial begins for another ex-guerilla leader

In Chimaltenango, the trial began on Thursday for an ex-guerilla leader accused of killing 21 indigenous farm workers in 1988 during the Civil War. The accused, Fermín Solano Barillas, has been in prison since May of last year, and could be sentenced to more than 50 years in prison.

Nine convicted in May 2011 massacre

A Guatemalan court convicted three Mexican and six Guatemalan drug traffickers last Friday in the massacre of Guatemalan farm workers in May of 2011. The sentences given were for 106 to 114 years in prison.