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

Guatemala News Update: October 20-24

State of Prevention Extended 15 Days in San Juan Sacatepéquez

On October 21, the government extended the “State of Prevention” imposed upon San Juan Sacatepéquez by another fifteen days. The State of Prevention, which has been in place since September 21, suspends constitutional rights in the wake of a violent clash in the community of Los Pajoques. The conflict resulted from a dispute over the construction of a cement factory and a highway.

On October 24, a group of women from San Juan marched through Guatemala City to demand an end to the State of Prevention. The women presented a complaint regarding alleged abuses with the Human Rights Ombudsman and ended the march in front of the presidential offices to call on the government to end its use of martial law.

SJS-marchThree Linked to Criminal Network Run by Byron Lima Oliva

The ex-Director of the Penitentiary System, Édgar Camargo; the wife of Byron Lima Oliva, Alejandra Reyes Ochoa; and an ex-agent in the National Civil Police, Carlos Cermeño, have been linked to criminal activity headed by Byron Lima Oliva. Charges against them include conspiracy, bribery, and money laundering. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: October 6 – 10

Request to Lift “State of Prevention”

Residents of San Juan Sacatepéquez are requesting that the government lift the “state of prevention.” There is extreme tension between soldiers and civilians; soldiers are intimidating children, and some offer them candy in exchange for the names of their parents or the whereabouts of people the Public Ministry is searching for.

Supreme Court Asked to Take Action on Nominations

Human rights ombudsman Jorge de León Duque has demanded that the Constitutional Court take action in order to resolve the controversy surrounding the recent selection of thirteen judges. Claudia Escobar, a judge from the Fifth Circuit of Appeals, has also renounced the elections. Some minority sections of Congress are asking that the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala investigate, though the organization has yet to receive a formal request.

No Respect for Human Life

Archbishop Óscar Julio Vian Morales claims Guatemala has no respect for human life, speaking in light of recent violent incidents, such as the kidnapping and murder of a ten year-old girl named Dulce Velásquez. To combat rising violence, Vian proposes a better education system and the cultivation of values in children.

Halt in Adoptions May Be Fueling Border Surge

In 2008, Guatemala halted all adoption proceedings. Before this, about 4,000 children a year were adopted by American parents. Some experts are saying that this halt is contributing to the recent surge of migrant children to the United States. Advocates point out that if adoptions had not been halted, many of these children risking their lives en route to the United States could have been legally adopted in the first place. In the United States, these children face detention centers and deportation, while in Guatemala, they face poverty and exploitation by gangs.

Mexican Raids Resume

Mexico has resumed raids against the influx of Central American immigrants crossing its borders in order to reach the United States.

Martial Law Declared Again in Conflict Over Natural Resources

GHRC expresses concern about the declaration of a “State of Prevention” in the municipality of San Juan Sacatepéquez, allegedly in response to acts of violence committed in the community of Los Pajoques on the 19th and 20th of September. Despite the localized nature of the conflict, the administration of President Otto Pérez Molina made the controversial decision to suspend basic constitutional rights, such as freedom of speech and assembly, throughout the entire municipality for the next 15 days.

sjs-collage-eblastLos Pajoques is one of twelve communities in San Juan Sacatepéquez that have been involved in an ongoing resistance movement to the construction of a cement quarry and processing plant, and recently have opposed the construction of a highway that would cut through the community on its way to the quarry. Their opposition is grounded in concerns about the profound impact that the operations of the cement factory could have on the environment, in an area renown for the cultivation of vegetables and flowers.

The violence, which reportedly left 11 dead, was a tragic manifestation of the division, tension and desperation that has existed in San Juan Sacatepéquez since the arrival of the powerful cement company, Cementos Progreso, in 2006. Continue reading