Guatemala News Update: April 13-17

Families Displaced from Polochic Valley Denounce Poor Living Conditions

At a press conference on Friday, April 17, representatives of 14 communities comprising approximately 629 families evicted in 2011 from the Polochic Valley denounced their current living conditions, which have led to issues such as malnutrition and starvation. The Committee for Campesino Unity (CUC) also stated that it will deliver a preliminary Red Cross report to President Pérez Molina on the critical health situation of the families.

Community members are calling on the Guatemalan government to 1) promptly attend to the malnourished children; 2) hold a high-level meeting with community members to discuss the situation, and; 3) fulfill its obligation to grant land to all evicted families.

Top Guatemalan Officials Arrested in Crime Ring Takedown

In a joint effort by the Guatemalan Public Prosecutor’s office and the UN International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), 20 officials were arrested on Thursday, April 16, including the current and former heads of Guatemala’s tax collection agency. The officials are being accused of being part of a tax fraud and contraband ring.

A warrant was also issued for Juan Carlos Monzón, the secretary for Guatemalan Vice President Roxana Baldetti, who is accused of being one of the operation’s ringleaders and is currently out of the country.

The arrests come amidst an important debate about whether or not the CICIG’s mandate, which is set to expire in September 2015, will be renewed. Although a diverse group of Guatemalan and international organizations have advocated for its continuation, President Pérez Molina has suggested that he will not extend the Commission’s mandate. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: October 13-17

Process for the Election of Judges in Guatemala in Question

At least 80 actions have been filed with the Constitutional Court related to the process of selecting the magistrates for Guatemala’s Supreme Court and appeals courts.

The United Nations, the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office and several national and international organizations have requested that the Constitutional Court (CC) order a repeat of the process from the very beginning, alleging that there were various violations of the law which governs the process. The CC also ordered that until it is able to rule on the actions, the appointment of the new magistrates is suspended, and the existing magistrates will remain in their positions.

In addition, one judge who was appointed to a court of appeals, Claudia Escobar, resigned in protest claiming that she had been pressured by a member of Congress, Gudy Rivera, to rule in favor of Vice President Roxana Baldetti and the ruling Patriot Party in exchange for the appointment to the court. In response, the CICIG requested the Rivera’s immunity from prosecution be removed.

In a separate process, two lawyers have been charged with abuse of power with the Third Appeals Court Judge, Erick Gustavo Santiago de Leon. The Public Prosecutors Office alleges that the attorneys offered Santiago de Leon Q16 million to reduce a fine for a company from Q93 million to Q3 million. Meanwhile, the magistrate was reelected to the appeals court. Continue reading

GHRC Congratulates FAMDEGUA on 22 Years of Searching for Truth, Justice, and Memory

On the 22nd anniversary of its founding, GHRC would like to recognize the important and brave work carried out by the women and men of the Asociación Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos de Guatemala (The Relatives of the Disappeared and Detained in Guatemala), also known by its Spanish acronym, FAMDEGUA.

Members and supporters of FAMDEGUA attend a mass at the Metropolitan Cathedral to commemorate the organization's 22-year anniversary.

Members and supporters of FAMDEGUA attend a mass at the Metropolitan Cathedral to commemorate the organization’s 22-year anniversary.

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We won’t let threats stop our work!

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The attack on GHRC a couple of weeks ago was a sharp reminder of what a dangerous time this is for human rights defenders in Guatemala. The messages of hate and violence posted on our Facebook page were echos of the slander and threats which our partners have suffered for months and even years.

Can you make a donation today to help us continue our work to protect human rights defenders?

In response to the attack, we received over 100 posts on our wall on Facebook expressing support for our work and for the survivors of genocide in Guatemala. These words, as well as numerous emails and phone calls, were an inspiring reminder of the strong and resilient network of activists we rely on. The messages we received were so heartwarming that I wanted to share some of them with you.

  “We stand in solidarity with the people of Guatemala, the brave judges and witnesses at the genocide trial and the dedicated human rights advocates at GHRC. God bless you and may your (and our) dream of human rights for all prevail!”

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