Guatemala News Update: March 30 – April 10

Hudbay Minerals/CGN Former Head of Security on Trial in Guatemala for Mining-related Violence

The criminal trial against the former security chief of mining company Hudbay Minerals/CGN, Mynor Padilla, began on April 8 in Puerto Barrios, Guatemala. Padilla is charged with the murder of Aldofo Ich Chamán and the wounding of at least ten others who opposed Hudbay/CGN’s nickel mining project in El Estor.

Unfortunately, this is only one example of the violent encounters provoked by extractive projects in Guatemala. Hubday Minerals is already facing lawsuits in Canadian courts for other crimes related to their activities in Guatemala.

Human Rights Defender Assassinated Near Tahoe Resources Mine

On Sunday, April 5, Telesforo Pivaral — a community member from San Rafael Las Flores — was murdered. Pivaral had been a member of the Committee in Defense of Life and Peace of San Rafael Las Flores, and was active in the resistance to the “El Escobal” mining project.

Oxfam’s office in Guatemala and 23 other organizations are joining together to call for the Guatemalan government to investigate the attack. Continue reading

La Puya Celebrates Three Years of Resistance

March 2, 2015 marked the three-year anniversary of the Peaceful Resistance of La Puya. In the words of the men and women who have upheld the movement, the experience has brought a sense of satisfaction and strengthened their belief in peaceful resistance.

In the early morning, at the entrance of the municipality of San Jose del Golfo, people from all across the country began to gather to participate in this year’s celebration. The morning began with a march, headed by young people on stilts and a percussion group that filled the day with music and dance. Men and women, young and elderly, and children, held signs with phrases of celebration and support for the resistance. The march, to the cry of “Yes to Life, No to Mining,” proceeded through the municipality’s streets.

3-anniversary-collageWhen the march reached La Puya, a wooden stage had already been set up for a day-long cultural program, in which various national artists participated. Following each presentation, organizations and community leaders from other towns took the stage to transmit their message of solidarity and acknowledgement to members of the resistance. During one of these brief breaks, GHRC took the opportunity to share a book of over 200 messages of congratulations, solidarity and hope that came from our supporters. We also delivered a banner sent by a University of Oregon delegation that visited La Puya on August 2014.

(Click below to read the messages sent to La Puya from GHRC supporters):

Cover-puyamensajesAna Sandoval, on behalf of the members of La Puya, shared a message of gratitude for the words of encouragement and for international solidarity:

“Thank you for nourishing our conviction to continue the struggle, and for being part of the La Puya Peaceful Resistance. Every time someone stands up against the human rights violations that we endure, it is because he/she also feels that same indignation that keeps us fighting for water, land and life. And not only for human life, but also for all the beings that inhabit the Earth, because this fight is collective.”

After sharing lunch together, a mass was celebrated, honoring the religious devotion and strength which has characterized the resistance movement. The evening culminated with music, filling the atmosphere and participants with the strength and hope showed by all those who joined and participated in this important event.

Footage from the Asociacion Comunicarte of La Puya’s third anniversary can be seen here. In-depth background information on La Puya is available on the GHRC website.

Guatemala News Update: March 9-13

International Women’s Day Celebrated in Guatemala

International Women’s Day was celebrated worldwide on March 8; in Guatemala, the day was marked with festivities, conferences and articles dedicated to women’s rights. Women held a march, and members of the Alliance Against Criminalization held a press release to call for greater protections for women land and human rights defenders.

Guatemalan Vice-president Roxana Baldetti made use of the occasion to address women’s rights at the UN as part of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York. During his recent visit to Guatemala, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy also spoke about gender equality, stating that aid from Spain would prioritize combating gender violence.

Two Reporters Shot Dead, Third Injured in Guatemala

On March 10, 2015, in an attempt to assassinate three journalists in the southern city of Mazatenango, two were killed and one was seriously injured. One of the men killed, Danilo López, had received death threats after reporting on corruption in the region. According to Guatemalan police, one of the suspects has now been captured.

GHRC condemned the attack, and called on the Guatemalan government to thoroughly investigate the incident and bring those responsible to justice. Read a statement from GHRC and partner organization UDEFEGUA here.

Slow Advances in the Genocide Case

A sanction imposed on Judge Yassmin Barrios, for actions she took as judge in the trial of Efraín Ríos Montt in 2013, has been finally been revoked by the Constitutional Court. The initial sanction included temporary suspension from office for one year and a fine of 5,400 Quetzales.

As the genocide case remains indefinitely delayed, one of the witnesses — Pedro Chávez Brito — has died of an illness. Brito is the second witness to pass away while the case remains in legal limbo, calling attention to the need to restart the process as soon as possible.

Activists Protest the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) in Toronto

Activists partnering with the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN) protested on March 1 outside the world’s largest mining convention in Toronto, Canada. Among the conference’s sponsors is Goldcorp, a company well known for its human rights violations in Guatemala. Demonstrators also infiltrated the conference with fake programs for the “Corporate Social Responsibility” events.

Central American Alliance for Prosperity Has ‘Business’ Focus

The “Alliance for Prosperity” plan was initially launched in cooperation between the governments of the Northern Triangle countries (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) and the US to help unaccompanied minors fleeing from Central America to the US. However, Central American officials have prioritized meeting with business representatives over civil society actors — raising concerns that the funds might be diverted to the private business sector.

Celebrating the Third Anniversary of the “La Puya” Peaceful Resistance Movement

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Members of La Puya celebrate their 2nd anniversary last March (2014)

Nearly three years have passed since residents from San Pedro Ayampuc and San Jose del Golfo first joined together in peaceful opposition to a gold mining operation near their homes. From a single act of civil disobedience emerged the world-renowned environmental justice movement known as “La Puya.”

La Puya began on March 2, 2012, when community members joined together to form a human blockade, preventing mining machinery from entering the site. Despite their dedication to nonviolent resistance, participants in the roadblock endured extreme repression — including threats, arrests, and violence — from both employees of the U.S.-owned mining company and the Guatemalan government. Yet, even after the blockade was violently broken up by riot police last May and machinery was escorted onto the mine site, members of La Puya continue to maintain a 24-hour presence in moral opposition to the project. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: December – January 20

Guatemalan Ex-police Official Sentenced in Spanish Embassy attack

The trial against former police official, Pedro Garcia Arredondo, came to a close on January 19th. Arredondo was found guilty of orchestrating the 1980 attack on the Spanish Embassy in Guatemala City and was sentenced to 40 years in prison. He was sentenced to 50 additional years for the murder of two students after the massacre occurred.

During closing remarks, the prosecution described the fire as an act of state terrorism, while the defense continued to assert that the fire originated from within the embassy, and that the police force did what it “had to do.”

Nobel laureate Rigoberta Menchú, who was a complainant in the case, spoke on Democracy Now about the importance of the verdict. More information about the history of the case is available on our website, along with a short Q&A with GHRC’s Dania Rodríguez, who was present during the sentencing hearing.

Genocide Trial Resumes, Then Is Suspended Again

More than a year and a half after the 2013 genocide trial concluded, the retrial of Guatemala’s former military dictator Efraín Ríos Montt began, only to be abruptly suspended. Both trials have been, from the beginning, filled with legal impediments which have obstructed and delayed them.

As the trial began on January 5th, 2015, Ríos Montt was wheeled into the Guatemala City courtroom on a stretcher — his health used by his defense team as tactic to delay the trial. Though this attempt failed, Montt’s team then questioned the impartiality of Judge Irma Jeannette Valdez Rodas, citing the fact that she had completed a master’s thesis on genocide. This second objection succeeded in delaying the trial, until a new tribunal can be formed.

Despite this interference, Judge Carol Patricia Flores ordered a new medical evaluation of Montt. The Guatemalan National Institute for Forensic Science (INACIF) delivered the medical results on January 14th, confirming that Montt suffers from osteomyelitis, a bone infection. It will be the judge who ultimately decides if Montt should appear in court; the possibility of videoconference communication has also been discussed. In the meantime, the trial is indefinitely suspended.

Civil society excluded from debate about continuation of the CICIG in Guatemala

Amid discussions about whether or not the UN-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) should continue, President Pérez Molina has stated that the work of the CICIG should be analyzed only by government institutions with links to the justice sector. Even though Molina stated in early January that he would solicit input from organizations interested in participating in the analysis, he is now stating that the period of analysis has “reached it’s end.”

The US government has stated that it will continue to provide financial support for the CICIG, as long as political will exists in Guatemala for its continuation.

Poor Guatemalans Are Taking On North American Mining Companies—and Have the Bullet Wounds to Prove It

This in-depth article from The Nation touches on several land rights cases across Guatemala, focusing on the repression and violence that has been used against protesters who oppose extractive projects.

A related article discusses Canada’s mining dilemma, highlighting violations of environmental and indigenous rights committed by mining companies abroad.

Community Radio Station Raided in Sololá, Guatemala

On Tuesday, December 9, 2014, Stereo Juventud — a community radio with programming in the Kaqchikel language — was raided by the Guatemalan Public Ministry. Two police trucks with about 20 policemen, accompanied by 10 government representatives, arrived at the radio station, cut off its power and seized its equipment. Indigenous authorities joined the community in a march to the courthouse, demanding the return of the equipment.

Intensification of Mexico-Guatemala border security

The Mexican government, encouraged and backed by the Obama administration, has taken actions to stop migration from Central America after a significant flow of underage migrants reached the Mexico-U.S border. The frequent governments raids on the trains on which migrants travel have pushed underage migrants to travel on foot, where they can fall victim to gangs and exploitation, being used as cheap labor, or sexual exploitation.

Daughter of former military dictator Efraín Ríos Montt might run for presidency in Guatemala

The “Partido Liberador Progresista” (PLP) has invited ex-congresswoman Zury Ríos, the daughter of Efraín Ríos Montt, to become the political party’s candidate for presidency in the upcoming 2015 presidential campaign. The party’s inclusion in the campaign depends on her acceptance, which has not been confirmed.

American woman accused of illegal trafficking of minors

Nancy Susan Bailey, founder of the Seeds of Love orphanage in Guatemala, was apprehended on December 17, 2014 in El Salvador, and turned over to Guatemalan authorities via Interpol. Bailey is accused of human trafficking; in Guatemala’s International Commission Against Impunity 2010 report, 3,342 irregular adoptions were noted, mostly to US couples.

 

 

Guatemala News Update: December 1-5

Families Evicted from the Polochic Valley Call for Housing and Relocation

In March of 2011, 769 families were violently evicted from their homes in the Polochic Valley to make way for the sugar cane company Chabil Utzaj. This week, representatives from The Committee for Campesino Unity (CUC) presented a letter to President Otto Pérez Molina asking that the government honor its promise to relocate all the families. In addition, several international organizations have also been pressuring the government to fulfill its prior agreement to compensate the evicted families.

So far, only 140 families have been given land. The other 629 are still waiting without access to basic public services, food, and other necessities.

One day after receiving the letter, the government announced that it will buy two more plots of land to distribute to 250 more families in March of 2015. The remaining 379 families are slated to receive land sometime later in 2015.

Rodríguez Under House Arrest

Guatemala’s High Risk Court has accepted the petition of José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez — one of the co-defendants in the genocide trial — to be placed under house arrest instead of in pretrial detention, due to health concerns. He was also granted bail of Q 500,000.

A separate motion to send Ríos Montt to prison as he awaits trial was rejected; he will remain under house arrest. The trial is set to resume in early January, 2015. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: November 10-14

Law Ratified to Implement Chixoy Dam Reparations Plan

On November 8, Guatemala’s president, Otto Perez Molina, apologized on behalf of the Guatemalan government for the human rights violations that 33 indigenous Maya Achi communities suffered because of the construction of the Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam. Many were forced to relocate against their will, losing their land and livelihoods and 444 men, women and children from affected communities were massacred.

President Perez Molina signed into law Decree #378-2014, an agreement to provide $153.8 million in reparations to those affected by the Chixoy Dam. Starting in 2015, the money will be distributed among the 33 communities over the next fifteen years. In addition, some of the money will go toward community development projects in the Chixoy Dam affected area.

Third Day of Campesino Protests in Guatemala

On Thursday, November 13, for the third day in a row, campesino organizations blocked highways and roads in the north, west, and east of the country to call on the Guatemalan Congress to repeal certain laws that affect them negatively and approve others that would support farmers.

A related article describes protests outside of the Congress by a group demanding to be heard about its request for a rural development law.

On November 14, Daniel Pascual, leader of the Committee for Campesino Unity (CUC), denounced the death of Vásquez Cruz, a resident who was involved in the protests. Cruz died from injuries received when security forces attempted to end the road blockade in Sanarate, El Progreso.

Miriam Pixtún Visits Midwest as Part of GHRC Fall Speaker’s Tour

As part of GHRC’s Fall Speaker’s Tour, Miriam Pixtún visited the Midwest to discuss the roots and goals of the “La Puya” nonviolent resistance movement and to describe the Guatemalan government’s overwhelming lack of respect for indigenous rights. As an active member of the movement, Miriam shared her experiences at La Puya, and also spoke about government corruption, racism sexism in Guatemalan society. She also met with indigenous groups to compare experiences with environmental resistance movements in the US and Guatemala. Continue reading

A Conversation with Human Rights Defender Teresa Muñoz

You are invited you to join us for a conversation with Teresa Muñoz, who has been impacted by abuses linked to Tahoe Resources’ mine in Guatemala.

Monday, November 17, 2014
5:30 – 7:00 pm
Oxfam America
1100 15
th Street NW, Suite 600
Washington, DC 20005

 Featuring: Teresa Muñoz, Guatemalan farmer; Angela J. Bunch, Extractive Industries Program Officer, Oxfam America; Kathryn Johnson from the Guatemala Human Rights Commission; and Lindolfo Carballo from Casa Maryland.

With support from Oxfam America, Guatemalan Human Rights Commission, Casa Maryland, Sisters of Mercy, the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, and The Franciscan Action Network.

To RSVP or join this conversation online, please contact:
Scott A. Sellwood on ssellwood@oxfamamerica.org or +1 (202) 777-2918


Teresa Muñoz is part of the local movement that defends the rights to life and a healthy environment from the threats posed by Tahoe Resources’ mine in Guatemala. As reprisal for her peaceful activism, she was wrongfully accused of several crimes and had to go into hiding for seven months until the charges were dropped. Besides being a committed environmental activist and a community leader in Jalapa, she is an active member of her local parish and cares for her disabled sister. Teresa is a passionate farmer who loves her small farm, and whose livelihood depends on selling the milk and cheese she produces from her two cows.

On May 2, 2013, the government declared a “State of Siege” in several municipalities that were opposed to a proposed expansion of the mining project. Army troops arrived in numbers neither Teresa nor the community had ever seen in their territory. They were looking for her. She didn’t know exactly why. The only thing she knew is that she had to flee into the mountains, into the forest she knew so well. She walked for around 70 km (43 miles) until she reached Guatemala City. She stayed in hiding for seven months.

Human rights defenders like Teresa have been criminalized and persecuted in Guatemala. It is a risky place to speak up. “If you tell the truth about the injustices that the government and the mining companies commit … it has its consequences,” she says. “Many leaders have lost their lives because they spoke the truth. And I know that at any moment it could happen to me, too.”

Take Action: Tell Nevada-based Companies to Respect Human Rights Abroad

Event and Action with Miriam Pixtún Monroy and Teresa Muñoz
Thursday, November 13, 12:30 – 1:00 PM
201 W Liberty St., Reno

At our public event in Reno, we will hear from Miriam Pixtún Monroy, a Maya Kaqchikel woman from San José Nacahuil, San Pedro Ayampuc in Guatemala and Teresa Muñoz, an anti-mining activist from Jalapa, Guatemala.

We will also present a letter to the Nevada Mining Association alerting them to human rights abuses in Guatemala at mines owned by Kappes, Cassiday & Associates. We will demand that the Nevada Mining Association take action on this member company to expel Kappes, Cassiday & Associates from the Association as long as these abuses continue. Furthermore, we will urge the Association to require its members to uphold the highest human rights standards, and to deny any future membership to companies that violate human rights, like Nevada-based Tahoe Resources.


For those who can’t be present in Reno, please join us by:

1. Sending an email to the Nevada Mining Association

2. Tweeting at the Nevada Mining Association during our delivery of the letter on Thursday, November 13th.

Sample tweet:  @nevadamining: Deny membership to any company that does not uphold #humanrights

3. Leaving a message for the president of the Nevada Mining Association on Thursday, November 13th (tomorrow!) at 775-829-2121.

Sample SHORT script: Hi, my name is ________ and I’m calling from [state]. I’m calling to let Mr. Tim Crowley know that I support residents of Nevada in calling for you to revoke the membership of Kappes, Cassiday & Associates. All US companies should uphold the highest human rights and environmental standards, and the Nevada Mining Association should deny membership to those who don’t, like KCA.

Sample LONG script
:
Hi, my name is ________ and I’m calling from [state]. I’m calling to leave a message for Mr. Tim Crowley.

I’ve been shocked to hear that US companies, including members of the Nevada Mining Association, have continued their operations in Guatemala despite ongoing human rights violations.

If the Association wants to live up to its claim to be “a worldwide leader in mining and mining practices” it should deny membership to any company that does not uphold the highest human rights and environmental standards. I join with residents of Nevada in calling for you to revoke the membership of Kappes, Cassiday & Associates and deny any future membership to Tahoe Resources. Continue reading

Five Years Later: Celebrating the Life of Adolfo Ich Chamán

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GHRC stands in solidarity with families and community members gathering today in El Estor, Guatemala to commemorate the five-year anniversary of the assassination of Adolfo Ich Chamán. On September 27 of 2009, Adolfo was murdered by private security forces working for … Continue reading