Guatemala News Update: November 2-13

Puyasign-machineryUS Congress to Guatemalan President: Halt Illegal Mining Operations at La Puya

This week, GHRC announced that 12 members of the US Congress sent a letter to Guatemalan President Alejandro Maldonado Aguirre to raise concerns about abuses related to the El Tambor gold mine in San Pedro Ayampuc, Guatemala. The letter calls on the President to use his authority to uphold human rights and to ensure that the mine’s owner–the US-based company Kappes, Cassiday & Associates (KCA)–promptly halts its illegal operations.

The congressional letter was mentioned in this Prensa Libre opinion piece (in Spanish); you can also read more in our full press release, and read the congressional letter in its entirety here.

NGOs Demand Palm Oil Industry Stop Abuses in Latin America

GHRC joined a coalition of NGOs in delivering a letter to the world’s biggest palm oil traders, alerting them to the gross violations of human rights occurring in the palm oil sector in Mesoamerica — including the recent murder of Guatemalan environmental activist Rigoberto Lima Choc.

“In Guatemala, community members engaging in legitimate actions to protect their water quality and environment consistently face threats, attacks, and assassinations,” said Kelsey Alford-Jones, “often committed with impunity due to a lack of judicial independence, widespread government corruption, and ineffective oversight of corporate practices.”

Read the press release here.

New Report: State of Fear and Terror Deliberately Created to Force Tahoe Resources’ Mine on Guatemalan Communities

A new report reveals the dramatic extent of the militarized security strategy that Canadian-US mining company Tahoe Resources developed to quash community opposition to its Escobal project in southeastern Guatemala. Read the entire report by Guatemalan investigative journalist Luis Solano here.

CICIG Proposes Tax to Combat Impunity in Guatemala

The International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) has proposed the creation of a temporary tax on “large assets” in order to increase funds for criminal investigations as well as other programs related to combating corruption and impunity in Guatemala. While this is just the beginning of a proposal, the head of CICIG, Iván Velásquez, explained that immediate action must be taken to strengthen the Guatemalan justice system. Continue reading

GHRC Participates in US Congressional Briefing on Migration from Central America

By Julia Nierenberg, GHRC 2015 Fall Intern

This week, outlets such as The New York Times and Al Jazeera America published articles, videos and photos that illuminate and remind the world of the refugee and migrant crisis in the Northern Triangle. In the New York Times piece, Azam Ahmed stated that the images of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers fleeing to Europe reminds him of the smaller, but still significant migrant crisis occurring in Central America, specifically in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

Men, women, and children are fleeing Central America at increasingly rapid rates. Last year was the first year that Mexican child migrants did not outnumber children fleeing from other countries in Central America to the United States; Ahmed recalls that, “From the beginning of October 2013 through July of this year, nearly 80,000 unaccompanied minors from those Central American countries were detained by United States authorities along the Mexican border.”

On September 16, GHRC Executive Director Kelsey Alford-Jones participated in a briefing hosted by Congressman Raul Grijalva on Capitol Hill about this ongoing crisis; Alford-Jones was joined by speakers from U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), Congressional Research Service (CRS), and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Participants in the panel discussion highlighted the need for basic compassion for refugees, just application of the rule of law, and an understanding of the role of the US in contributing to migration from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.

migration-briefing-collage

Left: Congressman Grijalva; Right: GHRC Executive Director Kelsey Alford-Jones

In his remarks, Congressman Grijalva reiterated that “this country [the United States] is a refuge for people fleeing violence and death” and that refugees from Central America “deserve the same equitable treatment that we would give to anyone else.” Continue reading

Congressional Briefing on Migration from Central America: Comments by Kelsey Alford-Jones

The below comments are from the September 16, 2015 congressional briefing titled: “Central America’s Unresolved Crisis”



My Name is Kelsey Alford-Jones, I am the Executive Director of the Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA, an organization that documents and denounces abuses, educates the international community, advocates for just policies and supports communities and activists who face threats and violence.

We have been working in Guatemala for over three decades and have staff on the ground. I also travel frequently to Guatemala.

Last summer GHRC played an active role in the NGO response to the unprecedented number of unaccompanied child migrants from Central America, providing analysis and policy recommendations. One year later, Guatemalans continue to seek refuge in the US and it is clear that many have legitimate need for international protection but are not receiving the proper support from the US government. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: July 27-31

Victory for La Puya: “Communities struggling against mining win major victory in Guatemala”

This Upside Down World article describes the July 15 victory for the environmental movement ‘La Puya’ when Judge Angelica Noemi Tellez Hernandez ruled in favor of the nonviolent community resistance. The judge ordered Kappes, Cassiday & Associates (KCA) to suspend the construction of all infrastructure projects at its El Tambor mine in San Pedro Ayampuc.

GHRC has been supporting communities through a Change.org campaign, calling on KCA to comply with the court sentence. You can also read more about the court ruling on our blog.

Guatemalan Reporters Subjected to Increased Violence

The Association of Guatemalan Reporters (La Asociación de Periodistas de Guatemala) stated that it condemns the increase in aggression against reporters in the year 2015, and denounced the “constant intent to sabotage their informative work.” The CICIG is aware of the the influx in aggression and has expressed concern about this phenomenon.

La Tribuna

Ríos Montt Retrial Halted Once Again

Rios Montt was ordered on Saturday by a Guatemalan court to be transferred to a national hospital for additional psychiatric observation; the decision rejects a prior medical report conducted by Guatemala’s National Forensics Institute (Inacif) that found Ríos Montt senile, and thus unfit for trial. At the last minute, Montt’s scheduled transfer was blocked by a legal maneuver on the part of his defense attorneys, again halting the proceedings of the retrial for genocide and crimes against humanity.

Read more about the latest developments in the case in Spanish. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: October 20-24

State of Prevention Extended 15 Days in San Juan Sacatepéquez

On October 21, the government extended the “State of Prevention” imposed upon San Juan Sacatepéquez by another fifteen days. The State of Prevention, which has been in place since September 21, suspends constitutional rights in the wake of a violent clash in the community of Los Pajoques. The conflict resulted from a dispute over the construction of a cement factory and a highway.

On October 24, a group of women from San Juan marched through Guatemala City to demand an end to the State of Prevention. The women presented a complaint regarding alleged abuses with the Human Rights Ombudsman and ended the march in front of the presidential offices to call on the government to end its use of martial law.

SJS-marchThree Linked to Criminal Network Run by Byron Lima Oliva

The ex-Director of the Penitentiary System, Édgar Camargo; the wife of Byron Lima Oliva, Alejandra Reyes Ochoa; and an ex-agent in the National Civil Police, Carlos Cermeño, have been linked to criminal activity headed by Byron Lima Oliva. Charges against them include conspiracy, bribery, and money laundering. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: August 3-8

Preliminary hearing against Judge Yassmín Barrios begins

The Liga Pro Patria (League for the Nation) presented a preliminary hearing against Judge Yassmín Barrios for the crimes of breach of duties, coercion, and the right of the accused to counsel. The charges are in reference to actions taken by Judge Barrios during the genocide trial.

US and Guatemala officially form Bilateral Working Group

The Pentagon proposed the creation of a Defense Bilateral Working Group between Guatemala and the US. Julio Ligorría, Guatemala’s ambassador to the United States, attributed US interest in this working group to a high level of confidence in the Guatemalan army. The formation of a Bilateral Working Group on Matters of Defense was ratified by Guatemala’s Minister of Defense, General Manuel López Ambrosio, and only five other Latin American countries who are considered strategic military allies to the US (Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Chile, and Peru) have similar working groups. Continue reading