International Organizations Reiterate Support for Guatemalan Communities and Institutions Upholding Rule of Law and Respect for Human Rights in the case of the communities of La Puya and El Tambor Mine

[en español abajo]

May 24, 2016

The undersigned human rights and environmental law organizations applaud recent efforts by Guatemalan courts to enforce domestic laws and international norms in relation to the right to consultation and corporate accountability in the case of the El Tambor mine, also known as “Progreso VII Derivada.” We reiterate our support for the Communities in peaceful resistance of La Puya in Guatemala.

Guatemalan courts have granted a provisional injunction, ordering the suspension of the license for gold and silver extraction at the El Tambor mine. The mine is owned by the company Exploraciones Mineras de Guatemala, SA (Exmingua), subsidiary of US company Kappes, Cassiday & Associates. KCA acquired 100% interest in Exmingua from Canadian company Radius Gold in 2012; Radius receives royalty interest and cash payments from the project.

The injunction was granted because Guatemala’s highest court recognized that the State failed its duty to consult the affected communities prior to awarding the license and did not initiate processes to seek the consent of affected Indigenous peoples. The right of Indigenous peoples to consultation is enshrined in ILO Convention 169 and the right to free, prior and informed consent is recognized by Guatemala, a signatory to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The recent rulings have affirmed the concerns expressed by communities in San Pedro Ayampuc and San Jose del Golfo. From the time they learned of the mining concession in 2011, they have raised concerns about the lack of consultation, violation of Indigenous peoples’ rights, and detrimental health and environmental impacts of the mine.

International organizations have closely observed the case since the La Puya movement initiated a non-violent sit-in at the entrance to the mine in 2012 to demand their government comply with constitutionally-required protections for Guatemalan citizens. Their legitimate concerns have been met with repression, public defamation and trumped-up criminal charges. Violence has been committed against human rights defenders with impunity. There still has been no real investigation into the June 2012 shooting of a La Puya activist, nor has there been investigation or redress for the serious injuries sustained by protestors during the violent eviction by the police in May 2014. Questions also remain about the incident on the night of April 29, in which two people were injured at the sit-in in front of the MEM.

We reiterate the importance of investigating these acts of violence, as well as addressing the serious concerns raised by the communities in terms of the environmental impact of mining activities on their water and health. International experts who reviewed the company’s Environmental Impact Assessment found numerous deficiencies and concluded that it did not meet basic international standards.

We also draw attention to the fact that the court injunction has set in motion a series of investigations that reveal evidence of possible illegal activity by Exmingua.

On March 10 of this year, the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) enforced the injunction through corresponding administrative measures by suspending Exmingua’s license for mineral extraction. A MEM inspection in April verified the company continued to operate, and on May 9, police and prosecutors arrested four Exmingua employees on charges of illegal resource extraction. They had in their possession 19 sacks of gold and silver concentrate, worth an estimated US$1.9 million in total. We are concerned that on May 10, charges were dropped against the men for “lack of merit,” released the workers and ordered the sacks of minerals returned to the company, an action that suggests a lack of understanding of the resolutions of Guatemala´s highest courts. However, just days later, police and prosecutors carried out four more raids at a clandestine warehouse and recovered 300 sacks, worth a total of approximately $30 million.

The media has revealed that investigators had traced helicopters contracted by the company – allegedly used to transport minerals from the mine site to a farm in El Progreso — to Juan Carlos Monzón, former Private Secretary to ex Vice President Roxana Baldetti, and to Raúl Osoy Penado, a business man who allegedly served as a front man for Baldetti. All have been embroiled in a series of major corruption scandals that led to the arrest of Baldetti and former President Otto Pérez Molina, among many others in 2015.

A separate legal case has raised serious questions regarding whether the company possessed the necessary municipal construction permits to operate at the site, including the alleged falsification of these permits.

Guatemala has taken important strides to address long-standing challenges of government corruption and impunity. We commend the Guatemalan courts for their recent rulings that uphold rule of law as well as the efforts of the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the Public Prosecutor’s Office for their actions to uphold the right to prior consultation and ensure corporate accountability in this case.

We call on US company KCA and its subsidiary Exmingua to immediately halt all operations and comply with the recent MEM resolution and the provisional court injunction.

We call on the Public Prosecutor’s Office to continue all relevant investigations into alleged criminal acts related to Exmingua, KCA and the El Tambor mine.

We call on the Guatemalan government and the Interior Ministry to ensure the safety of those who participate in La Puya and of Guatemalan citizens who engage in peaceful protest.

We urge the US Embassy to support human rights defenders and condemn the use of hate speech and defamation as a tool to impede their work. Further, we call on the Embassy to take all possible measures to ensure US companies respect the law and human rights, in accordance with domestic legislation, court rulings, and guided by the highest international standards for multinational corporations. We urge US Ambassador Todd Robinson to make a public statement to this effect.

Signed:

Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA
Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala
Center for International Environmental Law
Maritimes – Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network
Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada
Rights Action Canada
Rights Action USA
Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America
Latin America Working Group
Oxfam
American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
American Jewish World Service
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas – Institute Justice Team
International Platform against Impunity


Organizaciones internacionales reiteran su apoyo a las comunidades y a  las instituciones que quieren apoyar el estado de derecho y el respeto a los derechos humanos en el caso de las comunidades de la Puya y la mina El Tambor

24 de mayo de 2016

Las organizaciones de derechos humanos y derecho ambiental abajo firmantes aplaudimos los esfuerzos recientes de las cortes guatemaltecas para aplicar la ley nacional y normas internacionales en relación al derecho a la consulta y la responsabilidad corporativa en el caso de la mina El Tambor, también conocido como “Progreso VII Derivada”; y reiteramos nuestro apoyo para las Comunidades en resistencia pacífica de la Puya en Guatemala.

Las cortes guatemaltecas han otorgado un amparo provisional, dejando en suspenso el otorgamiento de la licencia de explotación de oro y plata en la mina El Tambor . El dueño del proyecto es la empresa Exploraciones Mineras de Guatemala, SA (Exmingua), subsidiaria de la empresa estadounidense Kappes, Cassiday & Associates. KCA; la cual adquirió 100% del interés en Exmingua de la empresa canadiense Radius Gold en 2012. Radius sigue recibiendo intereses por regalías y pagos en efectivo del proyecto.

El amparo fue otorgado porque las cortes reconocieron que el Estado no cumplió con su obligación de consultar a la población antes de iniciar el proyecto y no inició ningún proceso para buscar el consentimiento de las poblaciones indígenas afectadas. El derecho de pueblos indígenas a ser consultados está consagrado en el Convenio 169 de la Organización Internacional de Trabajo y el derecho al consentimiento libre, previo e informado es reconocido por Guatemala, país signatario de la Declaración de las Naciones Unidas sobre los derechos de los pueblos indígenas.

Las resoluciones recientes han afirmado las preocupaciones expresadas por las comunidades de los municipios de San Pedro Ayampuc y San José del Golfo.Desde el momento en que supieron de la concesión minera en 2011, han expresado sus preocupaciones sobre la falta de consulta, violaciones de los derechos de pueblos indígenas y los impactos negativos de la mina en el medio ambiente y la salud de las personas.

Organizacionesinternacionales hemos observado de cerca este caso, desde que las comunidades iniciaron un plantón pacífico en la entrada a la mina en 2012 para exigir que su gobierno cumpliera con las garantías de protección para la ciudadanía establecidas en la Constitución guatemalteca. La respuesta a sus preocupaciones legítimas ha sido una combinación de represión, difamación pública y criminalización. Se han cometido actos de violencia en contra de las y los defensores de derechos humanos de estas comunidades que prevalecen impunes. Aun hace falta una investigación real del atentado en contra de una activista en junio de 2012; tampoco ha habido investigación o reparación por las graves heridas sufridas por comunitarios durante el desalojo violento llevado a cabo por la PNC en mayo de 2014. No se ha esclarecido el incidente ocurrido la noche del 29 de abril, en el que dos personas resultaron heridas en el plantón frente al MEM.

Reiteramos la importancia de investigar estos actos de violencia, así como abordar las preocupaciones serias de las comunidades en relación con impactos ambientales, sobre el agua y su salud por la actividad minera. Expertos internacionales quienes analizaron el Estudio de Impacto Ambiental encontraron numerosas deficiencias y concluyeron que no cumple con los estándares internacionales básicos.

Destacamos también el hecho de que el amparo ha puesto en marcha una serie de investigaciones que revelan evidencia de posibles actividades ilegales por parte de Exmingua.

El 10 de marzo del año en curso, el Ministerio de Energía y Minas (MEM) respondió a la resolución legal con las medidas administrativas correspondientes, suspendiendo la licencia de explotación de Exmingua. Una inspección del MEM en abril verificó que la empresa seguía operando.El 9 de mayo, agentes policiales y el Ministerio Público detuvieron a cuatro trabajadores de Exmingua, sindicados del delito de explotación ilegal de recursos naturales. En su vehículo se encontraron 19 costales de concentrado de oro y plata, valorados en total en aproximadamente US$1.9 millones . Nos preocupa que el 10 de mayo se retiraron los cargos contra los hombres por “falta de mérito”, fueron puestos en libertad los trabajadores y los sacos de minerales devueltos a la empresa, una acción que sugiere una falta de conocimiento de la resolución de las máximas cortes del país. Sin embargo, unos días después, policías y agentes fiscales llevaron a cabo cuatro allanamientos de una bodega clandestina e incautaron 300 sacos, valorados en un total de aproximadamente US$30 millones.

Notas de prensa han revelado que investigadores habían vinculado helicópteros contratados por la empresa – supuestamente usados para transportar minerales de la mina a una finca en El Progreso – a Juan Carlos Monzón, ex secretario privado de la ex vice presidenta Roxana Baldetti, y a Raúl Osoy Penado, empresario que supuestamente actuó como testaferro para Baldetti . Todos han sido envueltos en una serie de grandes escándalos de corrupción que resultaron en el arresto de Baldetti y el ex presidente Otto Pérez Molina en 2015, entre muchos otros.

Otro caso legal ha revelado serias dudas sobre si la empresa tenía los permisos municipales necesarios para sus actividades de construcción en el sitio e incluso la presunta falsificación de dichos permisos.

Guatemala ha tomado pasos importantes para abordar los grandes retos de combatir la corrupción estatal y la impunidad. Aplaudimos las resoluciones apegadas a derecho tomadas por las cortes guatemaltecas,así también reconocemos los esfuerzos del Ministerio de Energía y Minas y el Ministerio Público por las acciones recientes para hacer cumplir el derecho a la consulta previa y asegurar que las empresas también cumplan con la ley en este caso.

Hacemos un llamado a la empresa estadounidense KCA y su subsidiaria Exmingua a suspender de inmediato sus operaciones y acatar la resolución reciente del MEM y el amparo provisional.

Hacemos un llamado al Ministerio Público a que continúe con todas las investigaciones pertinentes de supuestos actos criminales en relación a Exmingua, KCA y el proyecto El Tambor.

Hacemos un llamado al Gobierno de Guatemala y al Ministerio de Gobernación, para garantizar la seguridad de las personas en la Puya y cualquier ciudadano que participe en manifestaciones pacíficas.

Instamos a la Embajada de los Estados Unidos a que apoye a las y los defensores de los derechos humanos y condene el uso del discurso de odio y la difamación como una herramienta para impedir su labor. Además, hacemos un llamado a la Embajada a tomar todas las medidas posibles y necesarias para asegurar que empresas estadounidenses respeten la ley y los derechos humanos, de acuerdo con la legislación nacional, resoluciones de las cortes y con los más altos estándares internacionales para empresas multinacionales. Instamos al Embajador Todd Robinson a que haga un pronunciamiento público en tal efecto.

Firmado:

Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA
Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala
Center for International Environmental Law
Maritimes – Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network
Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada
Rights Action Canada
Rights Action USA
Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America
Latin America Working Group
Oxfam
American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
American Jewish World Service
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas – Institute Justice Team
International Platform against Impunity

Guatemala News Update: March 1-25

Assassinations of Human Rights Defenders

Environmental Activist Killed
A prominent environmental activist, Walter Méndez Barrios, was shot and killed March 16th in Guatemala. He had fought against deforestation and hydroelectric projects within Central America, was part of the Petenero Front against Dams – an organization opposing hydroelectric projects in the Usumacinta River- and led the Association of Forest Communities in Petén. His association released a statement saying that Méndez had been receiving death threats for his work.

The assassination came not long after two environmental activists were killed in Honduras – including world-renowned activist Berta Cáceres – leading to increased criticism of US and Central American plans to build more hydroelectric dams without consultation and to the detriment of local communities.

Radio Station Director Killed
On March 17th, Mario Roberto Salazar Barahona, the director of EstéreoAzúcar in the department of Jutiapa was killed. According to CERIGUA, Salazar had been inside his car after returning from meetings at another radio station when he was shot. Police believe hit men had been following him, yet the motive for the murder is still unknown. Salazar had worked in the field of journalism for over a decade. UNESCO and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have both condemned the attack. They stated, “we reaffirm the absolute need to develop a comprehensive public policy for protection of defenders of human rights, including journalists to enable them to carry out their work in an environment where their security and integrity are guaranteed.”

Transitional Justice Continue reading

2016 Appropriations Bill Contains Human Rights Restrictions on Funds to Guatemala

On Dec. 18, President Obama signed the 2016 Appropriations Bill into law. Earlier that day, Congress — after much debate — gave final approval to the new budget, which will allocate over $750 million to Central America.

This past year GHRC has been working hard with key leaders in both the House and Senate to ensure that strong human rights conditions be included in the final bill, and we got just that. This is a huge victory for human rights in Guatemala.

The final law stipulates that 50% of the funds will be tied to strong human rights conditions, including the protection of human rights defenders; support for rule of law and judicial independence; the inclusion of civil society groups in plans that will affect them; the investigation of members of the military and police who have committed human rights violations; and the removal of the military from civilian law enforcement.

The new budget also includes additional funding for the UN-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) for its continued efforts to fight corruption in Guatemala. GHRC played a pivotal role not only in advocating for the US Congress to approve funding for CICIG, but also in ensuring that its work would continue when former President Pérez Molina suggested he would not renew CICIG’s mandate.

As strong as these conditions are, the aid package is not perfect. Unfortunately, it also includes conditions related to border security that raise several human rights concerns for migrants and refugees. GHRC plans to play a leading role in 2016 in reporting on these new human rights benchmarks in Guatemala, and looks forward to monitoring these important conditions in the year ahead.

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

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: July 13-24

Rios Montt Sent for Psychiatric Observation, Delaying the Genocide Trial

Tele Sur TV

Yesterday, ex-Dictator Efrain Rios Montt was placed in a psychiatric hospital for observation by the Guatemalan Court overseeing his retrial for genocide. The court said its ruling was to protect Rios Montt’s health, and was also requested by the Public Ministry, after the defense found him incompetent to stand trial. It has been reported that Rios Montt will be in observation for nine days, delaying his retrial once again.

Senate Published Draft Budget

On Thursday, July 9, the Senate passed a foreign assistance budget allocating $675 million for Central America, with $142 million designated specifically for Guatemala. The bill contains important restrictions, conditions and reporting requirements for Guatemala – including restrictions on funds to the Guatemalan Army. Conditioning US funds based on compliance with human rights investigations and accountability is one thing GHRC and our partners advocate for every year as a tool to leverage positive change in Guatemala, and we were pleased to see many of our recommendations including in the Senate Bill.

Victory for La Puya: Guatemalan Court Orders Suspension of Construction Operations at the El Tambor Mine

GHRC applauds the July 15 resolution by a Guatemalan appeals court which ruled in favor of the right of residents to be consulted about projects that affect them and ordered the suspension of construction activities at the mine.

Puya_13

The court found the company was operating illegally, “without permit, authorization or approval from the Municipality of San Pedro Ayampuc…to carry out its mining project” and that the responsibility falls to the Municipal Council to enforce the law. GHRC has called on the US Embassy to encourage the company to comply with the verdict, and suspend all construction activities at its mine site until a community consultation is held.

Further recognition of the work of land rights activists continues with the comprehensive account published by Jeff Abbott of Vice News of the country’s unified effort to end corruption within the current political crisis of Guatemala, and describes the role of indigenous communities in current social movements, including resistance efforts against mining and hydroelectric projects.

Judge Confirms Soldiers will be charged not with extrajudicial execution, but with murder in self-defense, for 2012 killing of indigenous protesters

On October 4, 2012, approximately 15,000 members of the indigenous communities in Totonicapán, Guatemala gathered to block five key transit points on the Pan-American Highway to protest the excessive electricity prices, changes to the professional teacher training requirements, and proposed constitutional reforms. A military contingent of 89 soldiers confronted the protestors. As a result, six protesters were killed, 40 were wounded by the military, and one of the protesters was disappeared during the confrontation. The Totonicapán massacre was the first by the military since the war.

After years of delays, a judge, Carol Patricia Flores has confirmed that the nine soldiers involved will be charged of murder in self-defense (“en estado de emocion violenta), rather than for extrajudicial execution. Flores herself faces allegations put forward by the CICIG and Public Ministry of illicit enrichment and money laundering. The Supreme Court will soon decide if Flores should face criminal investigation.

Criminal Charges Filed against former Minister of Energy and Mines

On July 12, 2015, the Guatemalan Center for Environmental and Social Legal Action (CALAS) filed criminal charges against former Minister of Energy and Mines (MEM), Erick Archila, and former Mines Director at MEM, Fernando Castellanos. Archila and Castellanos are accused of violating the Constitution and for breach of duty, as they granted Tahoe Resources an exploitation license without adequate consideration of more than 250 community complaints against the project. CALAS called on the CICIG to fully investigate the Escobal licensing process, citing Archila’s possible involvement in influence trafficking and illicit enrichment.

UN Report Concludes that Criminal Organizations Fund 25% of the Country’s Politics

A recent report conducted by the UN’s CICIG demonstrated that a quarter of the money supplied for the cost of Guatemalan politics comes from criminal organizations, primarily drug traffickers. The report released on Thursday also stated that dishonest money and corruption financially fuel the political system of the country. “Corruption is the unifying element of the Guatemalan political system based on an amalgam of interests that include politicians, officials, public entities, businessmen, non-governmental organizations and criminal groups,” said CICIG Commissioner Ivan Velasquez.

In fact, on July 15, the Vice Presidential candidate for the Lider Party, currently leading polls, was accused of corruption, specifically of illicit association and influence trafficking. Authorities allege that Edgar Barquin was a part of a criminal network led by businessman Francisco Morales to create ghost companies in order to channel over $120 million to China, the US, Colombia, and others countries. 

Meanwhile, Guatemala’s electoral court ruled that Zury Rios Sosa, the daughter of former dictator Efrain Rios Montt, could not run for president, a decision quickly overruled by the Supreme Court. Former president Portillo, 2000-2004, was also denied his candidacy for congress. Portillo recently returned to Guatemala after serving a 70-month sentence in US prison for laundering money from the Taiwanese government during his administration.

Public attention is more focused on the multitude of corruption scandals than on the upcoming elections; the OAS, however, has announced it will send a mission to monitor the process.

“Supreme Court on the Side of the Guatemalan People”

The Guatemalan Supreme Court has ruled to allow a congressional probe into corruption allegations against President Perez Molina to continue. If his immunity is withdrawn, he could face charges before his term ends in January 2014.

Guatemala News Update: July 6-10

Ríos Montt. Photo by James Rodríguez

Ríos Montt. Photo by James Rodríguez

Ex-ruler Ríos Montt found unfit for trial

Attorneys for Efraín Ríos Montt have requested that the genocide case against him be dismissed after an investigation by Guatemala’s National Forensic Science Institute (INACIF) deemed Montt unfit to stand trial. INACIF released a statement on July 7 declaring that the 89-year-old would not be able to respond accurately to questioning due to his mentally incapacitated state.

Following years of delays, Ríos Montt was convicted of genocide and war crimes in May 2013. The case was celebrated throughout Guatemala and Latin America as the first case in which a former dictator was convicted of genocide in a domestic court. The decision was rescinded 10 days later by the Constitutional Court due to a questionable legal technicality. The retrial was set for January of this year, but additional delay tactics further derailed the case. A hearing is scheduled for July 23, 2015 to determine whether the trial will move forward, although it seems unlikely that the case will proceed.

CICIG Captures Former Minister of Energy and Mines and Former Private Secretary for President Pérez Molina

On July 9, the CICIG announced the arrests of several more public officials on corruption charges including  another individual close to President Pérez Molina — Gustavo Martinez. Martinez is the president’s son-in-law and former private secretary, and has been arrested for alleged influence trafficking. According to the CICIG’s website, Martinez had inserted meetings with various companies into President Pérez Molina’s schedule in exchange for bribes. Former Vice Minister of Energy and Mines, Edwin Ramon Rodas Solares, was also arrested. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: June 22-26

Discovery of Suspected Congressional Corruption Network

Guatemala- AFP

Photo – AFP

Authorities opened an investigation on Thursday of a suspected network of ghost employees in Congress. Congressman Pedro Muadi has been linked to the alleged creation of 15 contracts of “ghost employees,” which are individuals recorded on a payroll system but who don’t actually work for that company or organization. It is believed that Congressman Muadi created these faulty contracts for security staff for a private company he owns. The CICIG requested the Supreme Court to carry out a pretrial investigation to remove Muadi’s immunity.

New York Times Op-Ed: “America’s Second Chance in Guatemala”

An Op-Ed by Anita Isaacs was featured in this week’s New York Times, in which Isaacs argues for more direct involvement by the US in Guatemala’s anti-corruption movement. Isaacs claims that the US has “turned its back” on hundreds of thousands of Guatemalans who have come together to demand the resignation of President Pérez Molina. She also argues that US officials, including Ambassador Todd Robinson, are manipulating the weakened political situation in Guatemala to pursue their own agenda. Isaacs expresses deep skepticism of Pérez Molina’s willingness to follow through on his commitments to carry out anti-corruption efforts. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: June 15-19

AFP Photo/Johan Ordonez

AFP Photo/Johan Ordonez

Guatemalan court brakes effort to strip president’s immunity

Guatemala’s Constitutional Court has ruled to act on a petition from President Pérez Molina which questions the legitimacy of the congressional panel that is currently investigating allegations against the president and, subsequently, choosing whether or not to remove his immunity from prosecution.

Last Friday, a Congressional hearing was held to elect the five-member commission; those voted into the commission were Baudilio Hichos López, Hugo Fernando García Gudiel and Juan Armando Chuy Chanchavac of the LIDER Party, Independent Congressman Mario Santiago Linares, and Hugo Morán Tobar of the CREO Party.

President Pérez Molina had been ordered to appear before Congress this Thursday to be questioned about his role in the corruption scandal. Instead of appearing to testify, the president sent in a written defense in which he claims that the Supreme Court should not have passed along his case to Congress. The President referred to the decision to remove his immunity as a “purely political, or spurious, or illegitimate situation.”

Also on Thursday, the head of the congressional commission investigating the president, Baudilio Hichos López, resigned after the CICIG linked him to the country’s social security scandal. Congressman Baudilio Hichos may now be stripped of the same legal immunity granted to him as an elected official that he seeks to remove from President Pérez Molina. The head of the CICIG as well as a top prosecutor in Guatemala suspect that Hichos was involved in a questionable real estate rental contract involving the social security agency. Read more about Baudilio Hichos’s resignation here.

Mexico Deporting Migrants from Central America in Record Numbers

After initiating its Southern Border Plan, under pressure from the US, Mexico has increased border protection along its southern boundary. According to the National Immigration Institute, Mexico deported 79% more Central Americans from January to April than it did during the same time period in 2014. Following the influx of nearly 50,000 unaccompanied minors from Central America into the US during 2014, the United States has increased bilateral efforts with Mexico to reduce the migration of Central Americans through Mexico. Human rights groups, including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, have expressed concerns about Mexico’s heavy-handed approach to curtail the wave of migration. Continue reading

One Year After Violent Eviction, La Puya Under Threat Again

Members of La Puya commemorate the May 23, 2014 eviction

Members of La Puya commemorate the May 23, 2014 eviction

On May 23, members of La Puya – a peaceful resistance movement to the El Tambor gold mine owned by US company Kappes, Cassiday & Associates (KCA) – joined together to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the day that police violently broke up the blockade that the movement had maintained for over two years. Last year’s violent removal of protesters resulted in at least 27 injuries and the entry of mining equipment into the site; however, community members have maintained a presence at the mine and continue to stand in opposition to the project.

As part of the commemoration event, community members highlighted four important points:

  1. Members of La Puya call for an investigation into the serious human rights violations committed by police on the 23 of May 2014, and demand that criminal charges be filed against those deemed responsible for these abuses.
  2. Community members want to raise awareness about the fact that the mining company EXMINGUA (KCA’s subsidiary in Guatemala) operates in San Pedro Ayampuc without the required municipal construction license.
  3. Community members have again requested the renewal of dialogue with the government at the highest level, in order to jointly find an intelligent solution to the environmental issues facing residents.
  4. Members of La Puya ask that the media does not spread false rumors or misinform the public.

Continue reading