Guatemala News Update February 1-7

Attorney General Paz y Paz ordered to step down in May

Guatemala’s Constitutional Court provisionally ruled that Attorney General Paz y Paz will end her term in May of this year instead of December.  International bodies, and Paz y Paz herself, argued against the decision. They claim that the decision was because those who have been affected by “crusader” Paz y Paz’s quest for justice while in office want her removed. The court ordered Congress to convene the commission to find Paz y Paz’s successor, but despite support from the Patriot Party there were not enough votes in favor of doing so.

Photo: mimundo.org

Photo: mimundo.org

Guatemalan government to respond to conditions in the U.S. Appropriations Act

Government officials are preparing a response to the conditions imposed on the Pérez Molina administration in the U.S. Appropriations Act. Pérez Molina has rejected the conditions, and blamed them on Appropriations Committee Staffer, Tim Rieser. Meanwhile, Vice President Roxana Baldetti stated that it wouldn’t be possible to compensate the communities affected by the Chixoy Dam because the government doesn’t have the resources to do so. Continue reading

Holiday News Round-Up

Happy New Year everyone! We hope you all had a wonderful holiday and are looking forward to an exciting new year. The GHRC news briefs are starting up again with the following summary covering some of the more significant and important stories from the previous week, bringing us all up to speed on current events in Guatemala.

National News

  • Rubén Herrera, a Guatemalan notary and lawyer, has been appointed by Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz as the new Special Attorney against Impunity (FECI), which is responsible for expediting cases of high impact and advancing the fight against impunity in Guatemala.
  • According to statistics released by the National Institute of Forensic Science (Inacif), Guatemala suffered an average of 17 violent deaths per day in 2011, with a total of 6,187 assassinations.  Even though these numbers represent a 7.4% reduction in violent deaths from 2010, those that occurred in 2011 were performed with more brutality and cruelty.  The Minister of the Interior has indicated that over 60% of assassinations in Guatemala are related to drug cartels, gangs and organized crime groups.  The PNC reports different statistics, with 5,618 homicides in 2011 and an average of 15.5 per day.  Central American Politics also covers the release of the homicide rates.

International News

  • HablaGuate blog has published an interview with Jean-Marie Simon, author of the book, Guatemala: Eternal Spring, Eternal Tyranny, recently republished in Spanish. Listen here.

Weekly News Round-Up

Weekly Round-Up: 12/11 – 12/16

National News

  • President-elect Pérez Molina met with Mexican President Felipe Calderón yesterday to discuss their collaboration on a variety of issues.  In a press conference following the meeting, Pérez Molina reported that they had discussed several issues, including the creation of a civil intelligence platform to share information regarding the organized crime and narco-trafficking and a possible ‘consular pass’ that would allow Guatemalan immigrants to travel through Mexico without a visa.
  • Fifty more names have been added to the list of those accused of violent actsduring their supposed involvement with the leftist guerilla movement of Guatemala’s armed conflict.  Theodore Michael Plocharski, a Guatemalan citizen responsible for the accusations, is claiming that the accused were involved in the kidnapping, torture and assassination of eight diplomats.  The list includes human rights defenders and social activists Sandra Torres Casanova, Orlando Blanco and Marielos Monzón.
  • In an interview with ElPeriodico, Theodore Plocharski comments on his motives for accusing over 50 people with links to the assassination of diplomatsand association with the leftist guerilla movements during the armed conflict.  Plocharski said he wants the truth to be heard and justice to be served and argued that it is time the Attorney General investigates crimes committed by the guerrillas as well as the military.  He also commented that he is not necessarily proposing legal action against the individuals on the list, but rather against the guerilla entities—ORPA, EGP, PGT and FAR.

    Michael Plocharski, denunciante. (Foto Prensa Libre: Erick Avila)

International News

Weekly News Round-Up

National News

International News

Weekly News Round-Up

National News

  • Transparency International reports Guatemala’s score has fallen from 3.2 to 2.7 out of 10 for public’s perception of transparency within government for 2011.  The country is now ranked 120 out of 182 countries, only above Nicaragua, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic within Latin America.
  • The U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala, Arnold Chacon, commented Tuesday that the U.S. would guarantee the safety and security of Alfonso Portillo through the extradition process, but reminded Guatemalan authorities that his transfer is their responsibility.  Chacon also hailed the recent successful captures of narco-traffickers by Guatemalan authorities, mentioning U.S. involvement in the operations and his support for the continuation of such activities.  The new ambassador commented that it would be ideal to approve the implementation of a C4I system in Guatemala to prevent the flow of narco-trafficking.  Chacon met with Otto Perez Molina Wednesday.
  • Yuri Melini, environmental activist and director Center of Legal, Environmental and Social Action (CALAS), announced that, during this past presidential term, human rights violations against environmentalists increased by 12%.  A report released by CALAS documents 96 total cases of attacks, threats, assassinations, injuries, defamation, illegal detention and unlawful searches.  Melini argued that actions against environmentalists frequently go unreported or underreported.
  • The Public Prosecutor’s office announced the creation of an agency to investigate crimes committed by “non-state armed groups” during the armed conflict as part of the Special Cases Unit for Human Rights.
  • Groups such as the Association of Military Widows (Asomilgua) continue to carryout out public attacks against Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz, demanding investigation of 36 supposed guerilla members, which include her aunt, Laura Paz y Paz, and her deceased father, Enrique Paz y Paz.  The supposed guerrilla members are being accused as the intellectual authors and directors of more than 45 acts of violence committed between 1978 and 1982.
  • Through a poignant case-study of the San Jose Calderas community in Guatemala, Plaza Publica analyzes the factors pushing and pulling migrants to the United States, the failures of the Guatemalan government to provide adequate support, and how the migrant flow has impacted the local economy.
  • 800 families from 14 different communities remain displaced in the Polochic Valley after the violent evictions carried out by the sugar cane company Chabil Utzaj last year.  Communities whose land was taken and crops destroyed have now reached a level of starvation and desperation. Now community members find themselves insulted and infuriated by the State’s meager food distribution which comes 6 months after the Inter-American Court of Human Rights called for measures to ensure food, health, housing, and security for the 800 families.  The food delivered by the State is barely enough to last 2-3 days for the average family.  The community believes that if such trends are a signal of a return to the violent, abusive past, they will not hesitate to take up arms to defend themselves and their land.

International News

Crisis Group releases report on narcotrafficking and violence in Guatemala

The International Crisis Group, ‘an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to preventing and resolving deadly conflict,’ recently released an extensive report documenting the recent influx of drug-trafficking and violence into Guatemala, highlighting state corruption, strategic geographic location and internal economic and social inequities as major factors contributing to the violence.  The report also includes an overview of the increased presence of the Los Zetas drug cartel and an evaluation of the state and judicial institutional systems, providing concrete recommendations for the incoming president. Check out the full report and executive summary. 

Following last month’s release, Kimberly Abbott (Communications Director for North America at the International Crisis Group) published an interview with Mark Schneider, Senior Vice President and Special Adviser on Latin America about the economic, geopolitical and institutional factors contributing to the increase in violence in Guatemala.  Schneider makes some recommendations for the incoming president, including support of Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz, the work of Helen Mack and national police reform, and the International Commission Against Impunity (CICIG). Listen to the podcast, which provides a succinct and helpful explanation of why the violence has been increasing and what should be done about it.