Weekly News Round-Up, March 18-25

Day 1 of Genocide Trial
On March 19, 2013, the historic trial opened against Rios Montt and Rodríguez Sánchez. After almost two hours of delays by the Defense, the trial began. The public prosecutor stated that the objective of military operational plans under Ríos Montt was the destruction of the Mayan Ixil population as part of a counter-insurgency campaign that characterized civilians of this ethnic and linguistic minority as an “internal enemy”. Attorney Edgar Pérez rejected assertions that the act of seeking justice is itself an act of terrorism or an effort to destabilize Guatemalan society. Political pressure on the actors involved has been intense, and just before the trial begain, President Otto Perez Molina’s denied that genocide took place. Perez told reporters: “It is important to state it because I lived it: there was no genocide in Guatemala.” Marcie Mersky, Program Director at the International Center for Transitional Justice, says such comments may influence legal proceedings and are inappropriate.

Lolita Chávez participates in month-long speaking tour in Canada and US
In events in Montreal, Ottowa, Vancouver, BC and Washington, DC, Lolita Chavez spoke about the work of the K’iche’ People’s Council and community resistance to harmful transnational development projects. In an interview with Montreal Gazette, Lolita stated that: “Canadian companies are the main protagonists in this invasion that brings only death and destruction.” A short video interview is available here.

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Weekly News Round Up Feb. 23-Mar.5

Constitutional Court upholds case closure for Efraín Bámaca’s disappearance
The Constitutional Court (CC) has confirmed the closure of the criminal case involving the forced disappearance of Efraín Bámaca. In March 2011, Bámaca’s widow, Jennifer Harbury, brought a criminal complaint against then presidential candidate Pérez Molina for his role in her husband’s disappearance and death. Bámaca (alias Comandante Everardo) disappeared in 1992. According to the military, he committed suicide, but Harbury says that he was actually detained, tortured and killed. In December 2010, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered the Guatemalan government to re-investigate the case of Bámaca’s forced disappearance. Harbury’s lawyer has indicated that he will take action against Pérez Molina for not fulfilling the IACHR’s demands for a re-investigation of the case.

Constitutional Court rejects legal action filed by Toto indigenous leaders
The Constitutional Court (CC) unanimously rejected the legal action filed by the 48 cantones of Totonicapán against the Mining Law. The court’s decision called on Congress to regulate consultation with indigenous communities as established in ILO Convention number 169. The plaintiffs argue that the Mining Law was issued when there was still a right to consultation under the ILO convention and therefore the law is unconstitutional because it does not respect that right. The trial against the soldiers who fired on the group of protesters in Totonicapán last year is still ongoing. One of the defense lawyers for the accused soldiers says that he will ask for an acquittal. He says that his clients were motivated by “an overwhelming fear”, and thus they are innocent.

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Weekly News Roundup

July 6 – July 12

  • FLACSO receives Peace Archives documents. The Center for Documentation at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences received a variety of studies and documents from the Peace Archives Directorate, according to Ruth Del Valle. Del Valle, the coordinator of the Memory, History, and Justice program at FLACSO, explained that the intent is that the research carried out by the Peace Archives will be useful and well-known.
  • Social groups in Santa Rosa reject mining activity. Various representatives from Santa Rosa de Lima, Nueva Santa Rosa y Casillas, Santa Rosa, presented their views against mining in a press conference on July.  The communities are in opposition to the San Rafael mine in the northern part of the department; Enrique Arredondo, mayor of Santa Rosa, said that 98 percent of the community had rejected the mine in a consultation last year.

Indigenous Activist attacked in El Quiché, Guatemala / Activista indígena atacada en El Quiché, Guatemala

GHRC Denounces Attack on Lolita Chavez

Summary

On July 4, Lolita Chavez, indigenous activist and human rights defender, narrowly escaped being lynched as four others were beaten by a violent group of people allied with Estuardo Castro, the mayor of Santa Cruz del Quiché and member of the ruling Patriot Party.

Although she avoided harm this time, GHRC is gravely concerned for Lolita’s ongoing safety and well-being. Likewise we are distressed by the harassment and attacks against other members of the K’iche’ People’s Council.

Background
Lolita Chavez is a indigenous woman known for her warm smile, energetic personality, and her selfless commitment to the rural communities of Guatemala’s Quiché department. As a leader within the K’iche’ People’s Council (Consejo de Pueblos K’iche’s – CPK) Lolita has accompanied 87 communities in their struggles for self-determination and resistance to harmful development projects which could threaten the health of families and cause irreversible damage to the environment.

This opposition to “development at any cost” has placed these communities, and in particular the members of the CPK, at great risk. Powerful local, departmental, and national political figures — closely aligned with transnational corporations — have made it perfectly clear that they are not interested in consulting with indigenous communities or entering into real dialogue with local organization and leaders. Guatemalan authorities have instead responded with threats, defamation, intimidation, and violence.

On June 12th of this year José Tavico Tzunun, a member of the CPK who hosted meetings at his home, was assassinated by armed gunmen who broke into his house after midnight. A few days previous to the attack he had received a phone message that threatened: “If you continue to bring people together for meetings, you will pay the consequences…”

On June 26th Lolita, in representation of the CPK, presented a formal accusation against the mayor of Quiché, Estuardo Castro, for “abuse of power, racial discrimination, arrogance and authoritarianism, exclusion and marginalization” in his dealings with the indigenous communities. She also denounced a death threat against another community leader, Gaspar Tipaz Gómez, for his participation in the protests. Lolita added: “We hold the mayor and the municipal government responsible for anything that happens to us or our families.”

The Attack against Lolita

Around 4:15pm on July, 4, Lolita and other women were returning home from a peaceful gathering in Santa Cruz del Quiché to protest Mayor Castro’s blatant disregard for the opinions and proposals of the indigenous communities. When they arrived at the community of Xatinap Quinto La Laguna their bus was intercepted by eight people armed with knives, rocks, machetes, and other sharp objects. The assailants shouted “Mayor Castro is in charge here and we’re here to do the mayor’s justice.” They demanded that Lolita be handed over to them. When the community members refused, the mob threw rocks at the bus and forced three women and a child off the bus.

One woman, age 20, had her arms held behind her back while being beaten with a piece of wood. She also received a knife cut to her right wrist. Another woman, age 40, had her left eye scratched and her blouse torn. The third woman, 52, had her lip split open and her front teeth shattered when struck in the face by a rock. The 11 year-old girl had her left ankle fractured by another thrown rock.

Lolita avoided falling into the hands of the attackers because the bus driver decided to make a break for it and escape. Lolita immediately contacted the police, who took nearly half an hour to arrive on the scene. Once there, the officers instantly sided with the attackers saying that Lolita and the other members of the K’iche’ People’s Council were “delinquents and agitators” and that the authorities were “tired of having to listen to all of their demands.”

The tense situation was only diffused by the arrival of ambulances to attend to the injured women. None of the assailants was detained or arrested. In fact, in a perverse distortion of justice, the attackers claim that they were the victims and have filed charges against Lolita and the others. While absurd, these bogus charges could likely result in arrest warrants for Lolita and others.

Also troubling are reports from El Quiché that Lolita’s name is being disparaged during “official” news broadcasts on the local radio station accusing her of provoking disturbances in the area, an obvious attempt to criminalize her activism.

GHRC’s Concerns

GHRC laments that this incident is just the latest in a series of violent attacks against human rights defenders, particularly those defending the collective rights of indigenous communities to self-determination and the protection of their natural resources and the environment.

GHRC calls on the Guatemalan government to fully guarantee the safety and security of Lolita Chavez and the other members of the Consejo de Pueblos K’iche’.

GHRC calls on the Public Ministry to transfer the case of the murder of José Tavico Tzunun to the Office of the Human Rights Prosecutor, to guarantee that the investigation take into account the relevant human rights elements surrounding his assassination.

GHRC calls on the Interior Ministry to investigate the conduct of the police officers in the aftermath of the attack, in particular their refusal to arrest those responsible for this crime.

GHRC calls on the Mayor of Santa Cruz del Quiché and his municipal government to engage in honest dialogue with the participation of independent observers, to attend to the just demands of the communities and to immediately cease any and all actions designed to provoke division, discord and violence amongst the communities.

GHRC fully supports the rights of the indigenous communities of El Quiché to determine the type of development that best respects their rights and embodies their beliefs and world view. We reject the imposition of any external model that is based on exclusion and exploitation.

Send a postcard to Lolita and the members of the CPK!

GHRC will be delivering postcards with messages of support to these brave activists as they continue with the difficult and often dangerous work of defending indigenous rights and natural resources.

You can send a postcard to the GHRC office before July 27th, and GHRC staff will deliver it to Lolita and the K’iche’ People’s Council in Guatemala.

GHRC/USA
3321 12th St. NE
Washington, DC 20017

Don’t write in Spanish? Don’t worry! You can start the postcard with “Estimados miembros del Consejo de Pueblos K’iche’s”. Below are some sample messages that you could send. Feel free to mix and match.

  • _Estoy_____ en solidaridad con Los Pueblos K’iche’s. (Or you can fill in the name of your group to say “_____stands in solidarity with the K’iche’ people”)
  • Respaldamos su lucha por sus derechos y la madre tierra. (We support your struggle for your rights and Mother Earth)
  • Que sigan adelante con la lucha para la dignidad de los pueblos K’iche’s. (Keep up the fight for the dignity of the K’iche’ people)
  • El pueblo de _____ presente en la lucha. (The people of ______ present in the struggle)
  • El pueblo unido jamás será vencido. (The people united will never be defeated)
  • Lamentamos la violencia contra de los miembros del Consejo de Pueblos K’iche’s. (We lament the violence against the members of the K’iche’ People’s Council.)
  • Apoyamos los derechos colectivos de los pueblos indígenas de Guatemala. (We support the collective rights of the indigenous people of Guatemala)

You can also write a letter to the Guatemalan Prosecutors Office and the Presidential Commission for Human Rights urging them to provide protection to the K’iche’ People’s Council and investigate the recent acts of violence.

             ____________________________________________________________________

GHRC Denuncia el ataque a Lolita Chavez               

Resumen

El 4 de julio, Lolita Chávez, activista indígena y defensora de derechos humanos, logró evitar ser linchada, mientras que cuatro personas fueron golpeadas por un grupo violento de personas aliadas con el alcalde de Santa Cruz del Quiché, Estuardo Castro, miembro del Partido Patriota que actualmente ostenta el poder en Guatemala.

Aunque salió ilesa, la Comisión de Derechos Humanos de Guatemala (GHRC por sus siglas en ingles) está bastante preocupada por la seguridad y el bienestar de Lolita. Adicionalmente la Comisión se encuentra muy consternada con el hostigamiento y los constantes ataques en contra de otros miembros del Consejo de Pueblos K’iche’s.

Historia

Lolita Chávez es una mujer indígena conocida por su sonrisa cálida, personalidad energética y su entrega a las comunidades rurales del departamento de El Quiché en Guatemala. Como lideresa dentro del Consejo de Pueblos K’iche’s -CPK- Lolita acompaña a 87 comunidades en su lucha por la autodeterminación y en la resistencia a los megaproyectos dañinos que ponen en riesgo la salud de las familias y causan daños irreversibles al medio ambiente

La oposición al “desarrollo a cualquier costo” ha puesto a estas comunidades, y en particular a los miembros del CPK, en gran riesgo. Autoridades locales, departamentales y nacionales – con fuertes vínculos a empresas transnacionales – han demostrado su falta de interés en consultar con las comunidades indígenas o entrar en un diálogo real con sus organizaciones y líderes. Todo lo contrario: las autoridades guatemaltecas han respondido con amenazas, difamación, intimidación y violencia.

El 12 de junio del presente año, José Tavico Tzunun, un miembro del CPK quien organizaba reuniones en su casa, fue asesinado por hombres armados que entraron a su domicilio pasada la media noche. Días antes del ataque José había recibido un mensaje telefónico en donde lo amenazaban que: “Si seguís reuniendo a la gente, te atenés a las consecuencias…”

El 26 de junio Lolita, en representación del CPK, presentó una acusación formal en contra del alcalde de El Quiché, Estuardo Castro, por “abuso de poder, discriminación racial, prepotencia y autoritarismo, exclusión y marginalización” en su trato con las comunidades indígenas. También denunció una amenaza de muerte hecha a otro líder de la comunidad, Gaspar Tipaz Gómez, por su participación en las protestas. Lolita dijo: “Hacemos responsable al Alcalde y al gobierno municipal de cualquier cosa que nos pase a nosotros o a nuestras familias”.

El ataque a Lolita

Alrededor de las 4:15 de la tarde el 4, Lolita, en compañía de otras mujeres, regresaba a su casa luego de una reunión pacifica en Santa Cruz del Quiché para protestar el flagrante desprecio del Alcalde Castro en relación a las opiniones y propuestas de las comunidades indígenas. Cuando llegaron a la comunidad de Xartinap Quinto La Laguna su bus fue interceptado por un grupo de ocho personas armadas con cuchillos, piedras, machetes y otro tipo de objetos corto punzantes. Los atacantes comenzaron a gritar: “El Alcalde Castro es el que está encargado aquí y vamos a hacer justicia por el Alcalde”. Los atacantes exigieron que las demás personas le entregaran a Lolita. Cuando los comunitarios se rehusaron, el grupo de atacantes comenzó a tirar piedras y obligaron a tres mujeres y a una menor a bajarse del bus.

A una de las mujeres, una joven de 20 años, la tomaron de los brazos por detrás mientras le golpearon continuamente con un palo. También recibió una cortada con un cuchillo en su muñeca derecha. Otra de las mujeres, una señora de 40 años, fue aruñada en su ojo izquierdo a la vez que le rompió la blusa que llevaba puesta. A la tercera mujer, una señora de 52 años, le rompieron el labio y le fracturaron los dientes cuando le lanzaron una piedra a su cara. La pequeña de 11 años quedó con un tobillo fracturado luego de ser atacada con otra roca.

Lolita logró evitar el ataque gracias a que el conductor del bus decidió escapar de la zona y huyó con el bus. Inmediatamente Lolita contactó a la policía, la cual se demoró casi media hora en llegar a la escena del crimen. Una vez ahí, los uniformados inmediatamente se aliaron con los atacantes en las acusaciones que establecían que Lolita y los otros miembros del Consejo de Pueblos K’iche’s eran “delincuentes provocadores”. Los oficiales afirmaron además: “les hemos aguantado tanto a ustedes por que tienen mucha demandas”.

La tensa situación solo se calmó con la llegada de las ambulancias solicitadas para atender a las mujeres que habían sido heridas. Ninguno de los asaltantes fue detenido o arrestado por la policía. De hecho, en una distorsión perversa de la justicia, los atacantes argumentaron que ellos fueron las víctimas y que iban a presentar cargos contra Lolita y los otros miembros del Consejo. Aun cuando los cargos son absurdos, estos podrían terminar en órdenes de captura contra Lolita y sus acompañantes.
Igual de preocupante son informes desde El Quiché que establecen que Lolita está siendo difamada durante programas “oficiales” de radio, en donde es acusada de provocar disturbios en el área. Lo anterior es un obvio intento de criminalizar su activismo.

Las preocupaciones de La Comisión de Derechos Humanos de Guatemala (GHRC)

GHRC lamenta que este incidente sea tan solo el último en una serie de ataques contra defensores de derechos humanos, en particular en contra de aquellos que defienden los derechos colectivos de las comunidades indígenas a la autodeterminación y la protección de sus recursos naturales y el medio ambiente

GHRC hace un llamado al gobierno de Guatemala para que garantice la seguridad de Lolita Chávez y los demás miembros del Consejo de Pueblos K’iche’.

GHRC hace un llamado al Ministerio Público para que transfiera el caso del asesinato de José Tabico Tunan a la oficina de la Fiscalía de Derechos Humanos, con el fin de garantizar que en la investigación sean tomados en cuenta los elementos relevantes de derechos humanos que rodean el asesinato.

GHRC hace un llamado al Ministerio de Gobernación para que investigue la conducta de los oficiales de la policía involucrados en la respuesta al ataque, en particular a aquellos que se rehusaron a arrestar a los responsables del crimen.

GHRC hace un llamado al Alcalde de Santa Cruz del Quiché y a su gobierno municipal a que entren en un diálogo honesto, con la participación de observadores independientes, para atender a las demandas justas de las comunidades indígenas, y que cese de manera inmediata cualquier acción encaminada a provocar división, discordia y violencia entre las comunidades.

GHRC apoya plenamente los derechos de las comunidades indígenas de El Quiché para determinar el tipo de desarrollo que mejor les respete sus derechos y que represente sus creencias y su cosmovisión. Rechazamos la imposición de cualquier modelo ajeno basado en la exclusión y la explotación.

Envíe un mensaje de apoyo a Lolita y las otras victimas

GHRC entregará postales con mensajes de apoyo a estas activistas valientes mientras que ellas continuen su trabajo dificil y muchas veces peligroso de defender los derechos de los pueblos indígenas y los recursos naturales

Se puede enviar un postal a la oficina de GHRC en EEUU antes del 27 de July y la personal de GHRC lo entrgará a Lolita y el Consejo de Pueblos K’iche’s en Guatemala.

GHRC/USA
3321 12th St. NE
Washington, DC 20017

Tambien se puede escribir una carta al Ministerio Publico y la Comisión Presidencial para los Derechos Humanos instando que provean protección al Consejo de Pueblos K’iche’s y investiguen los actos recientes de violencia.