Vice President Biden Visits Guatemala
Joe Biden met with the presidents of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras to discuss in detail the Alliance for Prosperity Plan. Following an initial meeting, Biden and the presidents of the Northern Triangle countries payed a visit to the Ixchel Museum to meet with members of the private sector, where Biden stressed the need for business owners to invest in their own countries.
Biden also urged Guatemala to continue the mandate of the International Commission Against Impunity (CICIG), and met with CICIG Commissioner Velazquez to underscore the importance of the commission’s work. In a response to Biden’s comments, President Pérez Molina rejected the notion of using the extension of the CICIG as a precondition for receiving US funding.
“Smaller than David”: The Struggle of Human Rights Defenders in Guatemala
Human rights groups The Observatory and UDEFEGUA have launched a report and documentary film about the vulnerability of human rights defenders in Guatemala. The report highlights the targeting of land rights defenders via criminalization, threats and physical violence. Continue reading
According to the annual report from the Guatemalan Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (UDEFEGUA), 2014 was the most violent year for human rights advocates in Guatemala, with an average of 2.2 attacks reported daily. Violence against individuals and organizations that promote human rights has been on the rise since 2013, when those opposed to the genocide trial formed what human rights groups have called ¨an alliance to promote impunity, limit freedom of expression and criminalize defenders.¨ The year also saw a sharp rise in physical attacks against defenders, where in past years, verbal or written threats had been more common.
The majority of attacks (82% of the total) were perpetrated against defenders of land and environmental rights — both against individuals and communities, as well as against reporters covering these events. It is also important to note that women activists and defenders of women’s rights have been among the most vulnerable this year. Women were victim to 54% of overall attacks against defenders, including acts of sexual harassment, an increase over previous years.
Despite the rise of violence, the government’s response has been inefficient and insufficient, and levels of impunity in Guatemala remain high. For these reasons, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights — in the case of Florentín Gudiel et al vs. Guatemala — ordered the creation of an institutionalized Protection Program for Human Rights Defenders, which could serve as a future model for the protection of human rights defenders.
UDEFEGUA 2014 Annual Report
2014 was undeniably the most violent year for people and organizations that promote human rights. The wave of violence against them has been increasing since 2013 when opposition to the genocide trial coalesced in an alliance between government actors (including the President’s office), business interests from the agriculture and extractive industries, groups of former members of the military involved in human rights violations, and right-wing extremists. This alliance was strengthened through a series of “pacts of impunity” which included strategies to criminalize public protest and limit freedom of expression. Continue reading
GHRC congratulates the Mesoamerican Women Human Rights Defenders Initiative for being chosen as the 2014 recipient of the Letelier-Moffitt International Award for Human Rights , presented by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS).
Co-founded in 2010 by Just Associates (JASS) Mesoamerica, the Mesoamerican Women Human Rights Defenders Initiative is a collaboration of five organizations, including GHRC partner UDEFEGUA.
The Initiative works to strengthen and protect female human rights activists in Mexico and Central America who are attacked and even killed for their work. It does this by providing women defenders with rapid-response networks, training in human rights, security and self-care, assistance in documenting cases of attacks and publishing in-depth gendered analysis of the violence the women defenders face.
Read more about the Mesoamerican Women Human Rights Defenders Initiative (IM-DEFENSORAS) here.
 The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) created the Letelier-Moffitt International Award for Human Rights to honor the memory of Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier and Ronni Karpen Moffitt, IPS colleagues murdered in Washington D.C. in 1976 by a car bomb denoted by agents of Chile’s dictator Augusto Pinochet. While paying homage to Letelier and Moffitt, the award celebrates “new heroes of the human rights movement from the US and the Americas.”
Last week, GHRC supported organizations participating in two Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) hearings.
Commission members take notes as petitioners present their case on human rights and social protest in Guatemala
The first case presented to the IACHR focused on the criminalization of social protest in Guatemala.* A panel that included community leaders from the country’s indigenous and campesino (peasant farmer) movements, as well as legal experts, detailed a slew of human rights violations that have occurred against protesters attempting to peacefully defend their territories against destructive mining and natural resource extraction projects.
Marlen Car, representing 12 indigenous communities from San Juan Sacatepéquez, denounced harassment of women and the illegal imprisonment of fellow community members who opposed a cement factory in the region. “The message to the business community is that these are our lands,” she stated. “No one is going to take them away because our ancestors left them to us.”
Top: Panel of petitioners; Bottom left: Marlen Car; Bottom right: State representatives