43+ US Cities Protest Over Missing Mexican Students from Ayotzinapa

Yesterday, as part of the #USTired2 movement, rallies were held in over 43 US cities for the 43 missing students from Guerrero, Mexico. The students went missing in late September after a clash with police and, while their whereabouts remain unknown, are believed to have been disappeared and murdered.

In DC, GHRC and partners gathered to raise awareness of the role of the US in funding and supporting the Drug War in Mexico and to call for an end to the US-Mexico partnership known as the Merida Initiative (also critically referred to as “Plan Mexico,” in reference to Plan Columbia).

protest-43missing-collageAfter meeting in Columbia Heights, protesters in DC marched to Dupont Circle to join other groups demonstrating against police brutality in the US as part of the DC Ferguson movement. Shutting down the Circle, protesters shouted “No justice, no peace,” and drew connections between impunity for repressive and criminal state actions in Mexico with impunity for police violence in the US.

The protests were covered in Fox News Latino and Univision, among other outlets.

Information via Rights Action suggests viewing this interview with Dawn Paley, author of “Drug War Capitalism,” and this three-minute summary of ‘battle for a different Mexico.’

Concerns Over Incitement to Violence Across Guatemala

(Translation of a press release issued by the Human Rights Convergence. The original Spanish version is available below).

END THIS PROVOCATION AND TERROR

Faced with various events that suggest premeditated incitement of social conflict, the Human Rights Convergence states:

1. Over the last week, a number of acts have occurred that illustrate a pattern of incitement to violence with the intention of sparking conflict, in order to then justify repressive action. The following stand out:

• On Wednesday the 17th, during a day of protests organized by movements in defense of territory, a group of masked people tried to convince the community members located at the crossroads of Cubilhuitz-Salaquín to burn down government buildings. When the community members refused, the masked group threw rocks at the office building, provoking the arrival of the National Civilian Police (PNC), who attacked the community.

• On Thursday the 18th, while the National Civilian Police pressured protestors at a point along the highway in Camotán, Chiquimula to end the protest, supposed members of security forces shot at protestors and injured various members of the police. This provoked a reaction by the PNC against the community, to the point that community reporter Norma Sansir was arrested and unjustly charged, along with a lay employee of Nuevo Día, Carlos Juárez, and three other community members, including one person arrested on their own property. Police also launched tear gas inside schools.

• Community leaders from San Juan Sacatepéquez describe how on the afternoon of Friday the 19th, in the hamlet of Los Pajoques, a group of about 15 armed men, employees of the cement company that is attempting to build a factory in the area, arrived and shot into the air. They injured one person in the community who died upon arrival at Roosevelt Hospital. Another person passed away from bullet wounds later that afternoon. The community pursued the armed men and managed to hold four of them prisoner. The rest fled the area after having injured various people, including those who passed away. The community demanded the presence of the PNC, which never arrived on the scene  despite — according to declarations from the head of the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office (PDH) — assurances by the Chief of Police that he himself would arrive. The community members tried to hand over the four people they had detained (those accused of having shot, injured and killed two in the community) to the police.

Nevertheless, hours passed and the PNC never arrived in the community. With the absence of the responsible state authorities, the conflict intensified to such an extreme that unidentified groups set fire to houses and vehicles. Finally, in an equally reputable act, those who had been holding the four suspects prisoner executed them, raising the death toll to six.

2. It is notable that in each case, and particularly in that of San Juan Sacatepéquez on Friday night and early Saturday, the state authorities – absent from the scene of the conflict and without conducting investigations – blame organizations defending their rights to land and territory. This comes without any detailed investigation of the pattern of provocative acts described above.

Continue reading

GHRC Target of Hate for Commemorating Victims of Genocide

On Saturday, we at GHRC had the pleasure of taking part in a powerful art installation in Washington, DC. After three years of preparation, the organization One Million Bones blanketed a section of the National Mall with bones made of various materials to bring attention to genocide committed around the world. The organizers of One Million Bones had extended a special invitation to GHRC and the Guatemala community to take part and commemorate Guatemala’s genocide victims.

GHRC staff, interns and volunteers, joined thousands of others in laying out the bones. Our group took the opportunity to read the names of the victims in the Ixil Triangle included in the charges against former generals Ríos Montt and Rodríguez Sánchez.

onemillionbonesWe posted a photo of the event on our Facebook page on Saturday afternoon, and were shocked to see the response. Our wall was covered by an energetic debate about genocide in Guatemala. It was heartwarming to see all the comments in support of justice for victims, but sad to see that there were also many comments full of hate, anger, and denial of the crimes committed against Guatemala’s indigenous people.

Unfortunately, many of the people who posted on our wall are the same people who have been spreading the same messages of hate and denial in the Guatemalan media and organizing protests in support of those who committed atrocities.

The courageous genocide survivors, along with their lawyers, the judges, and the organizations who support justice, have been victim to this type of attack constantly since the Ríos Montt trial began. The messages in the media in Guatemala are not just slander. They are threats of violence. For example, Ricardo Méndez Ruiz, founder of the Foundation Against Terrorism, who posted on our wall, said in an interview with Guatemalan TV station Guatevision that the civil society leaders pushing for justice could be assassinated. In his post on GHRC’s facebook page, he called us a “terrorist organization.”

We don’t want to hide this debate going on in Guatemalan society, but we adamantly condemn the use of defamation, threats and messages of hate. We would love to see our page covered with messages of support for justice and for the victims and survivors of genocide. Can you add your voice

Continue reading

GHRC Expresses Concern for those in San Antonio Las Trojes 1

(español abajo)

The Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA (GHRC) expresses its concern regarding the tense situation facing community members of San Antonio Las Trojes 1, San Juan Sacatepéquez.

The crisis originated on January 23, 2013 when heavy machinery arrived at the community, escorted by fifty workers from the Cementos Progreso cement factory, armed with machetes. The community was informed that drilling was to begin on a large well for potable water. This project had been proposed by an illegitimate “community development council”, approved by mayor Fernando Bracamonte, and promoted by the cement company.

Local leaders, however, had repeatedly rejected the project because of a lack of prior consultation with the families of the area, and for the division it would further provoke within the community, a population already split between the minority who support the cement factory and the overwhelming majority who oppose it.

The situation worsened on January 24, when a visiting verification commission headed by Daniel Pascual of the Campesino Unity Committee (CUC), along with international accompaniers and independent journalists were threatened and assaulted by armed supporters of the cement company. That night individuals wearing ski masks blocked the entrance to the community of Las Trojes, preventing local leaders from returning to their homes and families. Continue reading