Guatemala News Update: March 16-27

Criminalization of Land Rights Leaders Persists in Huehuetenango

On March 24, two indigenous and land rights leaders from Santa Eulalia — Rigoberto Juárez Mateo and Domingo Baltazar — were detained in Guatemala City. The arrests were related to a community struggle to defend a local radio station which had reported on planned hydroelectric projects as well as corruption of local authorities, and was shut down by municipal authorities in January.

In a separate case, GHRC staff member Dania Rodríguez attended a hearing on March 26 for six leaders from Barillas who have been opposing another hydroelectric dam project in the area — the Hidro Santa Cruz dam. Although the company has retracted many of the original accusations, the leaders remain charged with the crime of kidnapping. The case is set to conclude on April 8.

These events are part of a larger pattern of repression and increasing criminalization of activists by the Pérez Molina administration in order to support large-scale development projects. In this context, two activists have been killed, and GHRC is calling on Guatemala’s Attorney General to initiate an investigation into the deaths. Sign the petition now.

Hearings on Guatemala During IACHR 154th Session

Last week, during the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) 154th session, a hearing was held on the impacts of extractive industries in Latin America. During the hearing, members of the Catholic Church presented emblematic cases of human rights violations resulting from extractive projects in the region. More information on the hearing is available here.

Petitioners from the Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF) and the Myrna Mack Foundation also addressed the IACHR regarding judicial independence in Guatemala. Continue reading

Persecusión Política a Defensores de Derechos Humanos Se Agrava

An update from the Guatemalan Human Rights Protection Unit (UDEFEGUA) on the criminalization of human rights defenders in Guatemala, especially regarding recent actions taken by courts and judges which violate the minimum legal guarantees of the accused.

Comunicado por UDEFEGUA:

La segunda semana de noviembre se tornó en una donde el Sistema de Justicia muestra su participación en la persecución política a defensores y defensoras de derechos humanos.

El día jueves 13 de noviembre, el juez de primera instancia de Villa Nueva decidió enviar a juicio a Oscar Morales, líder de la resistencia en San Rafael Las Flores, por una presunta amenaza realizada al gerente de la empresa minera San Rafael, S.A. subsidiaria de la Tahoe Resources, minera canadiense.  En la audiencia de imputación el juez había mostrado su parcialidad cuando ligó a proceso al defensor sin elementos de investigación.  Ahora al trasladar el proceso vuelve a hacerlo sin que exista elementos de investigación claros, ya que el mismo Ministerio Público había planteado que no podía acusar al defensor.  Fue claro que al trasladar el caso al Tribunal de Sentencia de Villa Nueva para que se procesa al juicio, el juez obedecía intereses privados representados por el abogado del querellante adhesivo.  El día 29 de diciembre está ordenado el inicio del debate oral y público en contra de Oscar Morales.  Continue reading

News Update: October 5-11

Dialogue ends without results

The dialogue between the government and six communities in Northern Huehuetenango did not result in visible progress this week. Among other requests, community members asked for the suspension of three hydroelectric dams; the promotion of a community referendum; and the revocation of 24 arrest warrants against community leaders. The dialogue ended with an agreement to forgo violent protests and draw a road map that will lead to a positive outcome.

Eight arrested for Nacahuil massacre belong to Mara 18

Eight supposed members of the Mara 18 gang were arrested on Tuesday for allegedly carrying out the Nacahuil massacre on September 8. Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz said that the supposed motive of the massacre, which killed 11 people, was the liquor store owners’ refusal to pay extortion money to a group of gang members. She also stated that the attack was ordered from inside a prison. Interior Minister López Bonilla stated that minutes before the massacre, the Civil National Police were tipped off to a potential attack there. Widows of the massacre continue to reject the alleged gang role in Nacahuil and still believe that the Civil National Police were involved in the night’s events.

Continue reading

Urgent action to avoid further violence in Huehuetenango, Guatemala

Urgent! Communities in Huehuetenango are under siege by Guatemalan military and police. The security forces were sent to break up peaceful protests in reaction to the illegal detention of a local resident. Several people have already been injured and we fear that there could be further violence.

Please call the Guatemalan Embassy to express concern about the safety of peaceful protesters in Huehuetenango. Urge the Guatemalan government to avoid further conflict, uphold the rule of law and respect human rights. 
In the US: 202-745-4953. In Canada: 613-233-7188.

Please tweet at the Guatemalan government to ask them to avoid further conflict and ensure the human rights of peaceful protesters. Suggested tweets (with translations to English) are below.

Over the last few years, various municipalities in northern Huehuetenango have protested against planned mega-development projects including the Canbalam Dam in Santa Cruz Barillas. Recently, protests have included roadblocks across the region to pressure the Guatemalan Government to enter into a real, public dialogue with those opposed to the projects
On Sept. 28, Mynor López, who has been active in the resistance movement, was seized by men in civilian clothes, taken to a military helicopter, then handed over to the police. In response to the abduction, protests erupted across northern Huehuetenango, blocking various roads. The government mobilized hundreds of police and soldiers to break up the protests using tear gas launched from army helicopters as well as live rounds fired by security forces. A soldier was killed in the clashes. Despite evidence that his injuries were self-inflicted while attempting to fire a tear gas canister, the government publicly blamed protesters for his death.
In addition, the Interior Minister announced that 40 arrest warrants would be carried out for various acts allegedly committed since 2011. Over the past year and a half, over a dozen community members have been arrested for their resistance to the Canbalam Dam. Several of them were incarcerated for up to eight months before being released because of a lack of evidence against them.
A delegation organized by the International Commission of Jurists visited Mynor in jail and report that he shows evidence of physical violence, even torture.
Community members are now asking the government to respect an agreement reached on September 30 to withdraw security forces and have a real dialogue regarding the proposed hydroelectric dam. Can you stand with them and help prevent further bloodshed?

Suggested Tweets

@ottoperezmolina Decimos no al uso del ejército o un estado de sitio para reprimir a protestas pacificas y legitimas en Huehue  #Guatemala

(We say no to the use of the army or a state of siege to repress legitimate and peaceful protests in Huehue #Guatemala)

@mlopezbonilla Garantice la protección, bienestar y los #derechoshumanos de los ciudadanos en Huehue #Guatemala

(You must guarantee the protection, well-being and #humanrights of citizens in Huehue #Guatemala)

@pncguatemala Insisto que dejen de usar la violencia en Huehue #Guatemala y que se retiren del lugar para evitar más conflictos

(I insist that you stop using violence in Huehue #Guatemala and that you remove yourself from the area to avoid further conflict)

@GuatemalaGob Respeten los #derechoshumanos en Huehue #Guatemala. Cese la violencia contra las manifestaciones pacificas.

(Respect #human rights in Huehue #Guatemala. Stop the violence against peaceful protests)

@PDHGt Pedimos que hagan una visita a Huehue #Guatemala para monitorear la situación y la integridad de los detenidos

(We ask that you visit Huehue #Guatemala to monitor the situation and the well-being of those detained)

@Oacnudh_GT Pedimos que hagan una visita a Huehue #Guatemala para monitorear la situación y la integridad de los detenidos

(We ask that you visit Huehue #Guatemala to monitor the situation and the well-being of those detained)

@usembassyguate We are very concerned about the situation in Huehue #Guatemala and the evidence of #humanrights abuses against protestors

@mlopezbonilla @ottoperezmolina Hay que respetar el acuerdo con las comunidades ayer para evitar más conflicto en Huehue #Guatemala

(You must respect the agreement reached with the communities yesterday to avoid more conflict in Huehue #Guatemala)